Undefeated Babylon repeats as recipient of Rutgers Trophy
It's hard to argue with perfection. The Babylon football team hasn't lost a game in two years. The Panthers finished their second straight undefeated season with a heart-thumping, 27-26 win over Roosevelt to capture the Long Island Class IV championship at Hofstra on Friday.
The win extended Babylon's streak to 24 -- the longest on Long Island -- and helped it become the first team to produce back-to-back 12-0 seasons. For their efforts, the Panthers were honored with the 67th annual Rutgers Trophy Monday night at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association at the Hyatt Wind Watch in Hauppauge.
Babylon totaled 113 points, including 38 out of a possible 48 first-place votes, to outpoint Sachem North, the Long Island Class I champion, with 95 points, and third-place Riverhead with 45 points. "It's a testament to the work ethic of all the kids in our program, who grow up in our community believing at a young age that they too can be champions," said Babylon's Rick Punzone, whose winning percentage of .839 is the highest of any Suffolk football coach. "Our players and coaching staff have a lot of pride in our tradition."
Punzone has led the Panthers to a 99-19 record in his 11 years, including five appearances in the LIC, where he guided them to four wins. The Panthers are the first team to win the Rutgers Trophy in back-to-back seasons since the Floyd Colonials earned the coveted award from 2005-2007.
"Our goal from the first day of practice was to win the LIC again," said quarterback Nick Santorelli, who engineered 24 straight wins for the Panthers and is looking forward to his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. "We knew we had a lot of experience and a ton of talent coming back from last year's championship team, but we took nothing for granted."