For a team, a school and a community, the Bayport-Blue Point football program took a step forward on Friday night.
The Phantoms, the preseason top seed in Suffolk Division IV, were still feeling the sting from a last-second defeat to Mount Sinai last weekend when their community was hit by a pair of tragedies. Christopher Coluccio, a 14-year-old freshman at the school, was struck and killed by a LIRR train, and Gabrielle Petito, the 2017 graduate whose disappearance became a national story, was found dead in Wyoming.
"We came out and played today for the two kids from our town who lost their lives," junior quarterback Brady Clark said after the visiting Phantoms defeated a solid Babylon squad, 41-6. "There is sadness in our town and this was a way we felt we could show love and support."
The way that Bayport-Blue Point dominated may at least have provided a couple hours of distraction for students, families and faculty that made the drive.
Clark was the centerpiece for most of it. He was 11-for-15 passing for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns, a 66-yarder to tight end Derek Varley and a 36-yarder to JJ Aiello. Clark also rushed for a 3-yard touchdown. From the safety position, he made a huge fourth-down stop on Panthers quarterback Joe Young (119 rushing yards) to turn the ball over on downs. His TD pass to JJ Aiello came on the next snap to make the Phantoms' lead 34-6.
JJ Aiello had a 2-yard touchdown run and kicked five extra points, Jameson Smith had an 80-yard touchdown run and Danny Aiello rushed for a 3-yard touchdown for the Phantoms (2-1).
Leading 20-6 at the half, BBP broke it open when Babylon (1-2) fumbled the second-half kickoff and Calvin Dickinson recovered. Three plays later, Danny Aiello scored his touchdown.
"After that tough loss and everything, they’ve had a fire under them," BBP coach Mike Zafonte said.
As fine a performer as Clark is, he wasn’t handed the starting role until this season. After a pair of years quarterbacking the JV, he was elevated to the varsity team last season as a sophomore but converted to a linebacker.
"He waited his turn, but has really developed to earn the starting job," Zafonte said.
"With Brady playing like he does and all the options he can throw to, I see us as the last team standing," said Varley, who had three receptions for 114 yards. "We made mistakes last week. We’ve cleaned them up. We’re going to show we’re the real No. 1."
The Phantoms did nothing with the game’s opening possession, but then scored on their next three before halftime. An 87-yard drive was capped by JJ Aiello’s rushing touchdown, a 62-yard drive by Varley’s 66-yard TD reception and a 65-yard drive capped by Clark’s rushing touchdown.
"That’s what firing on all cylinders looks like," JJ Aiello said. "When we won our first game we thought we might win every one. Last week got us back to practicing hard. That’s how it’s going to be every day from now on."