Next Saturday will be time for Miller Place to get serious against Bellport. This weekend was for setting records and preventing other marks from being broken.
In the Panthers' 42-7 win at Bellport Saturday afternoon, Brett Osman became the first 1,000-yard rusher of head coach Ron Petrie's 12-year tenure, and senior linebacker Alex Greenidge set the school record for career tackles with 324. Greenidge's total is three more than Class of '87 alum Dennis Cappella, who played at the University of Minnesota.
Miller Place also thwarted Bellport running back Nate Chavious' attempt to become the first player in Long Island history with five straight 200-yard rushing games. Chavious finished with 157 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown to close the scoring, on 23 carries.
"We were strong up front," said defensive lineman Mason Rodriguez, who had seven tackles and two sacks. "And just watched out for those counters."
The Panthers (7-1) can expect to see plenty more counters next week, as these teams will be matched again in the first round of the playoffs. Second-seeded Miller Place will play host to No. 7 Bellport (4-4) in the Suffolk III quarterfinals.
Stopping Adin Greenfield will be a point of emphasis at Bellport's practices this week. He ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and returned the second half kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 28-0 lead.
"The blocking was great and the offensive line did a terrific job today," Greenfield said. "It was a huge win going into the playoffs because we need to come out strong."
Greenfield took his own advice about coming out strong, bursting up the middle untouched for a 50-yard touchdown on the Panthers' third play from scrimmage. After forcing another three-and-out, Miller Place went on a 12-play drive that took 5:56, capped Jake Buonaiuto's first of two rushing touchdowns.
The Panthers' next drive was even more impressive. It went 98 yards on 10 plays in 4:25, with the scoring play an Austin Yezarski 18-yard catch from Ryan Gray just inside the right sideline that made it 21-0 with 3:21 left in the half. Gray completed 5-of-8 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Yezarski caught four passes for 78 yards; Gray's other completion was a 47-yarder to Cody McPartland.
"This week was the big week to make sure we got some swagger back," Petrie said. "And to playing with physicality. We just went back to basics and looked at what we do well and focused on that."
Where Miller Place generally excels is the inside-outside rushing attack of Osman and Greenfield. Osman, who finished the regular season with 1,007 yards, ran for 106 and a touchdown on 16 carries, mostly between the tackles, while Greenfield did his work around the ends and in space on returns.
The Panthers also shine defensively. Rodriguez and Ryan McNally, who also had a sack, plugged up Chavious' running lanes, while defensive back Corey Markowitz ball hawked in the secondary, with an interception and a fumble recovery.
"Our defense has a lot of pride," Petrie said. "They're disappointed they gave up the shutout at the end."
It would have been the Panthers' fifth shutout of the regular season -- one of the few records they couldn't set Saturday.