This was unfamiliar territory for the Bayport-Blue Point football team. The Phantoms hadn’t trailed in a game through the first eight weeks of the season.
That changed when rugged Miller Place marched into town and smacked the Phantoms right in the mouth on the Panthers first possession in the semifinal round of the Suffolk Division IV playoffs.
A well-muscled, ground-n-pound display of power netted a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive for a seven-point Miller Place lead.
It was gut check time for the boys from Bayport.
“We were going to find out a lot about our guys right there in the opening quarter,” said Bayport coach Mike Zafonte. “Miller Place came in hot, and we responded in a huge way. I’m proud of our team because we handled the moment so well.”
Bayport scored on its next five possessions as senior quarterback Brady Clark threw for three touchdowns in a 35-7 win.. The Phantoms (9-0) advanced to the Suffolk IV final for the second year in a row. They will meet Glenn (7-2) at Stony Brook University on Friday at 4 p.m.
“We were going to face adversity at some point in the season,” said Clark, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 151 yards and rushed seven times for 57 yards. “We’d never trailed in a game this season, but it was still early. We were confident.”
Bayport responded with an eight-play 70-yard drive capped by Macklin Keyser's 13-yard touchdown run. Sean Anglin kicked the point-after and the score was tied at 7 with 9:12 left in the half.
Keyser raced around the left end and followed a big block from Ryan Bachmore for the score.
“We like to get out in front and give our guys some room to run,” Bachmore said. “We love watching game films and seeing how we impacted the game.”
The offensive line of tackles Robert Galian and Jesse Munno, center Jerimiah Lee and guards Bachmore and Dylan Spano pushed the physical Miller Place line around all game.
On the Phantoms' next possession, Clark lofted a 24-yard pass to JJ Aiello in the end zone for a 14-7 lead with 3:43 left in the half.
“It was a perfect throw,” Aiello said. “He put it in a spot where only I could catch the ball.”
Clark wasn’t done. The Phantoms defense led by Jack Hawkins, Sean Druckenmiller and PJ Shanahan forced a three-and-out and a short Miller Place punt. With 2:13 left, Clark went to work and engineered a 57-yard drive capped by a 15-yard scoring strike to tight end Derek Varley for a 21-7 halftime lead.
“Clark is such a leader,” Zafonte said. “He makes big-time throws. He’s so legit.”
Clark found JJ Aiello on a slant across the face of the defense for a 32-yard touchdown on the Phantoms' first possession of the second half to make it 28-7. Junior Dan Aiello, who rushed 14 times for 141 yards, added a 50-yard third- quarter touchdown run.
“We are a group of unselfish players,” Zafonte said. “We beat a really good team today.”