Kevin "The Bear" Smith helps Babylon claw its way to title

Babylon Rick Punzone yells from the sideline in

Babylon Rick Punzone yells from the sideline in the second quarter against Roosevelt in the Long Island Class IV football championship at LaValle Stadium. (Dec. 1, 2012) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

The laws of nature may disapprove, but around Babylon, the Bear is the Panthers' best friend.

"Bear" -- as in the "46'' defensive alignment the Chicago Bears used to wreak havoc on offenses in the 1980s.

The formation, in only four weeks, became one of the staples of Babylon football and helped the Panthers beat Roosevelt, 48-18, Saturday and earn their first Long Island title since 2008.

"My job is to contain, seal the edge and make the tackles when I can," defensive end Kevin Smith said. "But really, the mind-set is to destroy whoever is across from me on the line."

Teammates have aptly nicknamed Smith "The Bear." The 6-3, 220-pound interior lineman shifted to end and became an outside anchor when Babylon debuted its new-look scheme as a complement to its standard 4-3.

The extra defenders near the line have allowed Babylon to stifle the running game, coach Rick Punzone said. Sure, with fewer bodies in the secondary, it can make them susceptible to big passing plays, "but we switch it up against teams that run the spread."

Assistant coach Kevin Delaney first pitched the idea, Punzone said. "He came to us and said, 'You've got to try this!' The kids were so quick to pick it up. It gives us some other options and it's worked out great."

Just what opposing offenses needed: another wrinkle from a Panthers defense that held teams to 9.4 points per game.

"And a lot of those points came in the second halves of games when we were up and the starters were out," the coach said. "We pride ourselves on defense."

It's a little odd hearing that, considering, as linebacker Andrew Watson said, "We're known for our fast-paced, high-octane offense." One that scored at least 35 points seven times this year, including yesterday.

"We kind of just do our thing off the radar," said defensive end Jeann Cruz, who had seven tackles and an interception, "but we do have the best defense on Long Island."

That's subjective, but what can't be argued is that it gave the Rough Riders fits. Roosevelt's offense was held in check, and one of its touchdowns came with 1:36 remaining in the game.

Johnnie Akins was held to 83 yards on 19 carries, in large part because of the stacked box. Justin Terry threw for 103 yards and two touchdowns, but Cruz and Jake Carlock each had a second-half interception.

"Whenever [Roosevelt] would start to get any kind of momentum," defensive end Tyler Christiansen said, "someone on defense would step up."

Even Eric Schweitzer, the headliner with six touchdowns, made eight tackles at linebacker.

Simply put, that Bear is ferocious.

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