It’s hard to win a Long Island title. It’s even harder to do while undefeated. It’s unheard of to accomplish both of those feats in back-to-back seasons, but don’t tell Bayport-Blue Point that.
The Phantoms defended their first Long Island title with another undefeated run in 2023, defeating Seaford, 42-20, on Nov. 25 in the Class IV championship.
“When you go and start this, you never think you’re going 23-0 with two LICs,” Bayport-Blue Point coach Mike Zafonte said. “I really think it’s a credit to our approach. One week at a time, one practice at a time, being the best we can be on any particular day, and just working in the moment.”
Bayport-Blue Point is a collection of hard-working parts. Some, like running back/defensive back Dan Aiello or quarterback/defensive back Maclin Keyser, are more well known. But Zafonte and his star players said it is the unsung heroes within the coaching staff who are driving forces behind Bayport-Blue Point’s success.
Take varsity assistant Tom Druckenmiller. He organized Hudl statistics and drew up drills based on Zafonte’s team needs throughout the season. Keyser and Aiello have both known him for years from their time playing Suffolk PAL.
“After our last game, he was crying, we were both crying tears of joy together,” Aiello said. “When he said, ‘We did it, kid,’ just knowing that he’s been by my side all these years, just being able to finish this journey together … it was truly amazing.”
“[Druckenmiller] is one of those guys that, you’re not going to see his name in the paper or you might not even know exactly what he does,” Zafonte said. “But he does so much preparation for us, from making the scout books on Hudl to putting hours in on film … having guys like that on the staff is really something special.”
How about offensive and defensive line coach Chris Varley? Aiello finished his senior season with 1,783 yards and 26 touchdowns. He ran for 245 yards and three scores in the LI final. “We’ve been with him for about 12, 13 years now [from PAL],” Aiello said. “We are able to trust him, and when you can trust a coach it’s really helpful. So being able to take every single one of his tips and put it into our game-style definitely helps with our blocking.”
There’s also defensive coordinator Mike Gentile, who Zafonte called a “game-changer.” Gentile joined in 2022 and has yet to be part of a loss. He instituted new defensive drills in practice that the players responded to well. The defense allowed just over 10 points per game this season.
Between the defense and a thriving offense that scored no fewer than 35 points in all four playoff games, Keyser and his senior teammates set the championship mold for BBP football.
“There’s a new standard in Division IV,” Keyser said. “That just feels awesome, leaving that legacy behind. Not many seniors leave on top, so I think it’s huge for us. For the kids who are younger than us, it just sets the bar of how great you have to be to be a Phantom and play on this team.”
Zafonte agrees. His message to his seniors: "Thank you," the coach said. “Football teams tend to go as the senior class goes … You can’t do what we did without having a strong senior leadership group, and we had that.”
Road to the Long Island Championship
Suffolk IV quarterfinal: Beat Port Jefferson, 35-7
Suffolk IV semifinal: Beat Mount Sinai, 35-7
Suffolk IV final: Beat Shoreham-Wading River, 49-14
Long Island final: Beat Seaford, 42-20