With his good hands, easy stride and field awareness, Stephen Loudon (85 at left) is a human eraser in the Babylon secondary. “He covers up for a lot of mistakes,” Panthers coach Rick Punzone said of his senior safety.
But for all Loudon’s skills — he’s also a terrific wide receiver who caught eight touchdown passes last season — there’s one mistake he can’t erase: Babylon’s shocking first-round playoff loss to Bayport-Blue Point that ended a run of 13 consecutive appearances in the Suffolk County championship game.
“After breaking a streak like that, it’s definitely a motivation,” Loudon said at Wednesday’s evening practice. “There was no worse feeling than losing that game.”
The 26-19 defeat has not been forgotten by No. 2-seeded Babylon. “A big disappointment,” returning All-County center/linebacker Nick Brennan said. “The bar is set very high here. We’re big on the Babylon tradition. That loss will push us to work even harder to get back to the Suffolk championship game and hopefully the Long Island championship.”
To do that, Babylon will have to find a way to get Loudon more touches on offense. In the Panthers’ run-oriented attack, Loudon caught only 19 passes for 240 yards last season. “He will touch the ball,” Punzone said. Look for some creative wrinkles.
Babylon must also rebuild its offensive line, where Brennan is the only returning starter. “It’s different people in different spots, but I still feel comfortable,” said Brennan, a county champion wrestler who bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times — the best of any player at the Suffolk spring combine. “I’ve got a really good feeling about this team.”
So does Loudon, who already has committed to play lacrosse at Brown University and acknowledged this is his last year of organized football. “There’s no other feeling I’d rather have to end my high school career than to win it all,” said Loudon, a sophomore on Babylon’s 2008 L.I. championship team. “I’ve worn my ring around to show the younger players. They look at it as something they want. We’ve still got a lot of tough kids. It’s still Babylon.”
Which is why a 7-2 season in 2009 is not considered good enough.