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.
"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.