In Suffolk County boys lacrosse, the road to a Class C championship runs squarely through Babylon. With previous champions like Shoreham-Wading River, Mount Sinai and John Glenn bumped up to Class B, it has been the Panthers feasting on the remaining competition.
The Panthers won their third straight county title by defeating Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Wednesday afternoon, 12-4, at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.
It was the second straight trip to the county finals for the Tuckers and it was an all-too-similar result. After splitting two games in the regular season, the Tuckers came in confident this year’s game would end differently, but the Panthers controlled play throughout.
“We were kind of tentative,” said Tuckers coach John Amato. “Maybe the big crowd slowed us down a bit. We weren’t getting the edge. We didn’t step up to the occasion, unfortunately.”
The Tuckers have seen their fair share of Babylon over the past two seasons. Including the playoffs, the Panthers (14-4) have now posted a 5-1 record against Mattituck (12-5).
“They really play well together, offense and defense,” said Tim Schmidt, one of 12 seniors for Mattituck.
Babylon senior Brian Boehm scored four goals, senior Bodie Pitagno scored three and junior Teddy Allen added two. Senior Nick Antolini had two goals and two assists.
The Panthers advance into Saturday’s Class Long Island Championship game against Cold Spring Harbor, also rematch of last year. Cold Spring Harbor is ranked No. 2 in the state for Class C.
After posting double-digit goals in their last four games, Mattituck’s offense could never get on track against the Panthers. The four goals were the fewest in a game for Mattituck since a 7-3 non-league loss to Glastonbury April 16.
“We hit a lot of posts today which we don’t normally do,” Schmidt said.
The Tuckers scored the first goal of the game when senior Jeff Hauser bounced in a short shot two minutes into the game. The lead was short lived. The Panthers scored the next four goals, including three straight from Pitagno to make it 4-1.
The Tuckers never led after the opening minutes.
Having played in the championship game last year, the Tuckers were more comfortable at the start this year, Amato said.
“But when it came game time, we tensed back up,” Amato said.
The Tuckers had the advantage on the face-offs behind senior Dylan Marlborough, but even those extra possessions weren’t enough to generate scoring chances for Mattituck. Frustration began to set in as shots either went wide, hit a post or were stopped by Babylon goalkeeper Brendan Watt, who’s a freshman.
As the Panthers took an 8-3 lead into the second half, it made mounting a comeback that much more challenging for Mattituck once the Panthers began to take a deliberate pace with the ball.
“I feel like we were pushing too much and we gave the ball away a lot,” said Schmidt, who was a three-year varsity player.”
Amato said it will be sad to see the seniors who were so crucial to the program’s growth now graduate.
“They were our first youth team to come through the ranks,” he said. “They started North Fork lacrosse. We’re very proud of them.”
Photo Caption: Mattituck senior Dylan Marlborough eyes the ball on a face-off. (Credit: Garret Meade)