For much of the game, the Babylon spread made use of quarterback Nick Santorelli's running and throwing to build a one-touchdown lead in a tight, tense game. But when it really mattered most, when the game had to be salted away with a clock-killing drive, it was back to Old Faithful -- the I formation.
Running back Eric Schweitzer made sure Babylon dotted its I and crossed its T (as in touchdown), carrying seven times for 35 yards and punctuating the drive with a 10-yard touchdown with 40 seconds left that iced the Panthers' 21-7 victory over Mount Sinai Monday night in the Suffolk IV final at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.
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"That's Eric for you. He's fueled by adversity," Santorelli said after Babylon improved to 11-0 and won its first county title since 2008. The Panthers will face Roosevelt for the Long Island Class IV crown Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Stony Brook.
The adversity for Schweitzer was an arm injury that limited him to a handful of carries early, while Santorelli (98 yards rushing, 128 yards passing) ran for one touchdown and threw for another as Babylon took a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
The tiebreaking touchdown was a beauty, as Santorelli connected with Jake Carlock on a 10-yard slant that Carlock turned into a 53-yard scoring play with a cutback that got him into the open field. He ultimately used a bruising downfield block by Ray Wardell to score with 10:40 left in the third quarter.
The Babylon defense, led by defensive back Carlock (5 1/2 tackles and an interception in the closing seconds) and defensive end Tyler Christiansen (11 tackles) took over from there, limiting the Donadio twins, Mark and Mike, of Mount Sinai (9-2) to a total of 85 yards rushing.
But things got a little dicey in the fourth quarter when Sal Maresca picked off Santorelli to snuff out a promising Panthers drive that included a 14-yard completion to Carlock. But it was once again the defense to the rescue as Babylon forced a punt and Santorelli and Co. took over with 7:35 left.
"I heard everyone on the bench say I was about to break one," said Schweitzer, who said that after a limited role in the first half, his arm felt fine. He showed that by gaining all but two of his 37 yards rushing on the clinching drive, including a 12-yard spinning run through the middle that made prophets of his teammates.
"I was feeling it," Schweitzer said, and he proved it by getting 3 tough yards for a key first down on a third-and-3. "After that, I knew it was over."
Just to prove the point, he busted through the Mustangs' gritty defense for a 10-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left.
"We went back to our roots with the I and we went back to Eric," Babylon coach Rick Punzone said. "But I was most proud of our defense. The front five was phenomenal. We took away their trap and [their] sweep."
Christiansen, John Dertinger, Jeann Cruz, Joe Cosby and Brian Loskamp turned into a Fab Five up front and now Babylon has a chance to complete a perfect season Saturday. "I think we have the best defense on Long Island," Carlock said of a unit that has allowed only 95 points in 11 games. "We're out to uphold our reputation."
And not let anyone cross their D.