PANTHERS 38, PORTERS 0
After the debacle was over and the damage was done, Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta went about the business of trying to restore flagging spirits. He reminded his players that the sun was going to rise the following morning. It was not the end of the world.
What it was, though, was as unusual a blowout as one will see in high school football.
Traditionally known as a power-running team operating out of the power I, Babylon has undergone a rather dramatic change. Like many other teams — including Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island — Babylon has turned to the spread offense. With athletes like Jake Carlock, Eric Schweitzer and Ray Wardell, it made sense.
“We’re playing to our strength,” Babylon coach Rick Punzone said. “We got to get these kids the ball in space. That’s what’s going to put us over the top.”
Oh, and by the way, Babylon’s defense isn’t too bad, either.
The Panthers showed that when they’re on defense, they not only have the ability to stop the opposing team from scoring, but can score points themselves. Babylon’s defense was responsible for three touchdowns Friday night when the Panthers burst out for 38 points in the opening 8 minutes 30 seconds in a 38-0 romp over Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island.
Fans at Babylon High School saw an interception return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, a safety off a bad snap, a touchdown pass, another interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown, all within that 8:30 span to break the Suffolk County Division IV game open early.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Martilotta said. “Everything that could have gone wrong in the first quarter did.”
Punzone, who is in his 10th year as Babylon’s coach, said he cannot recall the Panthers having scored that many points in a single quarter before.
It was something Carlock had never seen before. “I don’t remember scoring that much that fast,” he said.
Babylon took starters out of the game during the first quarter. All of the Panthers played, and most of Babylon’s second- and third-string players played two or three quarters, said Punzone.
Carlock said he played only about five minutes before being pulled from the game. He could appreciate what he saw from his teammates on the field as he became a spectator. “We had fun out there,” he said. “We played great.”
Another oddity was the sight of some fans, already assured of the result, leaving Coach Walt Williams Field while the first half was still being played.
Surely, the Porters themselves had seen enough by the time the first quarter finally came to an end. Three Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island turnovers helped fuel the stunning first quarter (the Porters had five turnovers for the game). Babylon (3-0), justifying its No. 3 seeding in the division, held a 17-0 lead before its offense had a chance to snap the ball for the first time.
Carlock already had two touchdowns to his credit by the time 2:51 had elapsed. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, the junior picked off a pass and dashed 25 yards to the end zone. Then, after the Babylon defense held the Porters (0-3) to a three-and-out series, Carlock took a punt back 59 yards for another score.
Things went from bad to worse for the Porters. Their next possession ended when a fourth-down snap flew over punter Matt Drinkwater’s head and through the end zone for a safety.
Before the quarter ended, Alec Zamet tacked on two touchdowns himself. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nick Santorelli and, three plays from scrimmage later, he returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.
Babylon’s defense came through with more points just two plays from scrimmage after that. Joey Mankiewicz collected a fumble and ran it back 24 yards for the score.
“We heard they were a hard-hitting team and we knew what to expect, but we didn’t expect this,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island middle linebacker Connor Andersen said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening, but at that point you can’t put your head down. You got to keep pushing, hit as hard as you can.”
Babylon surely could have added to its scoreboard total, but held off. The Panthers had the ball at the Porters’ 5-yard line in the game’s dying moments. Instead of trying to score, Santorelli took two knees in a sportsmanlike gesture to end the game.
The Porters managed a meager 26 yards of offense — all on the ground. The only first down they earned came late in the third quarter.
It didn’t help that the Porters were missing two players, lineman Tevin Parrish and running back/linebacker Ray Thilberg, to injuries.
On a positive note, the Porters’ defense, led by Sal Loverde’s game-leading 10 tackles, allowed a modest 166 yards.
“It’s hard to stand here after you get mashed in the first quarter like that and say that we’re improving, but the defense looks good,” Martilotta said. “The line played well, I thought. You make that many turnovers in the first quarter, it’s very difficult to come back from” that.
On a humbling night for the Porters, at least one of them could take a degree of consolation in how the players handled themselves under adversity.
“We got a good bunch of kids,” Andersen said. “We weren’t yelling at each other. We kept our heads up and walked off the field with our heads high. I’m proud of our team for that.”