Herzog covers high school sports as a writer and columnist. His primary area of coverage is football,
Friday was Spirit Day in Greenport and it seemed like the entire waterfront town on the East End of the North Fork had its game face on.
"Everywhere you looked downtown, the kids had their faces painted purple and gold. It was nice to see," said Greenport resident Pat Gagen, who was talking a little local football at one of the town's gathering spots, Skipper's, owned for 35 years by former Porters player and JV coach Bob Heaney. "It was like Halloween."
And though it was trick rather than treat when Center Moriches spoiled the party with a 16-3 victory over Greenport/ Southold on Friday night, nothing could spoil the Porters' wonderful turnaround in 2013.
The football team, which one fan said should really be called "North Fork High" because it includes players from high schools in Greenport, Southold and Mattituck, came into Friday night's game at 5-0 for the first time since 1975 and has not won six games in a season since 1977. The Porters were 1-7 in 2011, 0-8 last season and entered this season on a 13-game losing streak. No wonder there was an ear-splitting, electric atmosphere for the homecoming game played under a full harvest moon.
"Unbelievable! What a great thing for this community," said Greenport AD Jimmy Caliendo, who was suitably attired in school colors. He wore a gold blazer and bold purple print tie. Caliendo was gaudy but hardly unique. In fact, he blended in with the theme of the night.
Cheerleaders and spectators had their faces painted in various shades of purple and gold. Balloons of those colors hung from railings in the jammed bleachers. The overflow crowd that lined the fences along Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field featured varied and creative outfits -- including purple Zubaz-style sweatpants, all-purple suits worn by school officials and some boys in the homecoming parade, and stylish purple or gold dresses worn by the homecoming queens. Fans carried signs -- "Porter Pride;" "Let's Go Porters;" "Porter Power" -- and noisily waved or hoisted them throughout the game.
"This is all so amazing. All of a sudden we're on TV and in the papers," said Joan Dinizio, the athletic department secretary, enthusiastic school historian, wife of town council candidate Jim Dinizio and brother of Heaney. Joan did the research and Bob did the lettering for a large framed photo of beloved coach Dorrie Jackson that hangs in the Skipper's bar with a year-by-year, opponent-by-opponent tally of Greenport's record during the glory years (1951-78 when Jackson won a then Suffolk-record 150 games). "This was a football town back in the '60s and '70s and it's nice to see that again," Dinizio said.
The man who helped make Greenport a basketball town soon after Jackson retired during his 32-year coaching tenure, Al Edwards, attended Friday night's game. He used to be part of the sideline chain gang at Porters' home games but is fully retired now, though still a devoted fan. "I'm real happy for Coach [Jack] Martilotta. He's put his time in and it's well deserved," Edwards said. "Everybody is real excited about this year's team. Our fans are dedicated."
Earlier Friday, things were bubbling during a pep rally at Greenport High School, a stately relic of a building that is still a K-12 facility. "We allowed the students to come to school with their faces painted and they were encouraged to wear the school colors," said Caliendo, in his first year as the Greenport AD. "So you had the kindergarten kids and the teachers with their faces painted and wearing school colors . . . This football team has given the community something to root for."
Maybe it was more Friday Night Lite than Friday Night Lights, but in Greenport these days, there is a purple-and-gold rush going on. Football is back on the map.