Babylon caps impressive football season with numerous accolades
Eric Schweitzer has just won the Class IV title, tying the record for touchdowns in a Long Island championship game with six. The residual adrenaline has made him breathless long after the final play, and the thousands of spectators leaving Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium now know his name.
He acknowledges that it's the biggest game of his career, but the first words out of the Babylon running back's mouth are of gratitude -- for his coach, for his quarterback and, specifically, for his offensive line. He gladly names them one by one, "and most importantly, my sophomore, Joe Cosby."
Two days later . . .
Coach Rick Punzone has just been named Suffolk Coach of the Year, and when he gets to the stage to accept his hardware, he credits the Babylon parents and applauds them. He names his coaches, thanks his players and encourages the audience to applaud them, too.
Finally, he mentions his wife, Marissa, who hasn't missed a game in more than 20 years and who, he said, told him to stop throwing the ball so much against LIC opponent Roosevelt. He stands back from the stage and claps.
His joy there is exceeded only moments later when he realizes that Babylon has just won the Rutgers Trophy for most outstanding season.
"Everybody has been working out since January to get us ," Schweitzer said. "It worked out. It's paid off. It's a great feeling and there's no feeling like it. I gotta give credit to the line."
The old cliche says there is no I in team, but Babylon has needed no such reminder. The offensive line had been in the weight room since last January, Punzone said, and though the Panthers threw the ball more this year than in the previous 10 years combined, they gave up no sacks.
Their new spread offense was a departure from tradition and something of a leap of faith, offensive lineman John Dertinger said. The Panthers effectively used that, along with their old-school I-formation, and relied on junior quarterback Nick Santorelli to call some of the shots. He's the first signal-caller in Punzone's 10 years allowed to change plays on the fly, the coach said.
In short, all those modifications didn't leave much room for ego.
"It's hard to stray from tradition, but you just gotta do what you gotta do," Dertinger said. The O-line, he said, worked tirelessly to make Schweitzer, wide receiver Jake Carlock and Santorelli look as unstoppable as possible.
"I'm very proud of ,'' he said. "I'm very proud to be their captain."
Babylon outscored opponents 465-113 in its 12-0 season, shutting out teams three times. Its closest game was a three-point win over defending champion Glenn on Sept. 14. The Panthers scored 55 points twice this year.
Their offensive leaders now are well-known names: Schweitzer, who finished with 110 carries for 767 yards and 20 touchdowns; Carlock, who had 31 catches for 598 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Santorelli, who went 76-for-130 for 1,153 yards and also had 905 rushing yards.
Santorelli had a pretty good LIC, by the way, with a rushing touchdown and a team-high 134 yards. After the game, his praise, too, was for others.
"This is the greatest feeling I've had in my life," he said. Schweitzer "makes it a lot easier. Every week, he makes plays . . . He must be fun to watch."