For Miller Place, the bitter aftertaste finally is gone.
The host Panthers rinsed away the feelings of last year’s blowout loss to Shoreham-Wading River in the county semifinals by defeating the three-time defending Long Island champions, 21-14, Saturday in a Suffolk IV thriller.
“They’re the class of the division. It was our first taste of them last year,” Miller Place coach Greg Murphy said, referencing a 49-6 loss. “We didn’t play it up, but I think it was on their minds. This was a big deal.”
The game-winning score, with six minutes remaining, came on a fourth-and-5 play from the Wildcats’ 5. Anthony Seymour (8-for-15, 114 yards) sent Tom Nealis over the middle on a slant, and the 6-4, 200-pound receiver made the catch in the end zone.
“Our quarterback made the throw with [Xavier] Arline all over Nealis,” Murphy said of SWR’s quarterback/defensive back who had a 48-yard TD run on Saturday. “A really good catch and a really good throw. Tom’s a big part of the game plan and we wanted to get him the ball when it counted. He’s only a junior. His ceiling is tremendous and he can dominate his position.”
SWR, which had a 12-game winning streak snapped , has dominated its division like few Long Island teams ever have, winning the last three LICs. No team has ever won four straight since the LIC began in 1992.
The Panthers erased a 14-0 deficit on touchdown runs of 14 and 8 yards by Sebastian Cannon, setting the stage for the Seymour-to-Nealis hookup that put a new slant on the division race. Both teams are now 5-1, with SWR hosting Babylon (6-0) Friday night. Miller Place hosts Mt. Sinai also on Friday night, hoping to create a three-way tie.
“Any time you can knock off a defending champ, it’s a feather in your cap,” Murphy said.