A year ago, the Bayport-Blue Point football team did something special, capturing the school’s first Long Island Class IV championship.
With that achievement secured and the imminent graduation of the leaders of that championship team, few thought the Phantoms could duplicate their first perfect season.
Halfback Danny Aiello proved them wrong.
Aiello took on a leadership role and guided the Phantoms to a second consecutive Long Island Class IV title on Saturday. He rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries as Bayport-Blue Point defeated Seaford, 42-20, at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.
“After last year, I thought people wrote us off, but we’re still here,” Aiello said. “We worked so hard for this. This is the outcome that we deserve.”
After a heartbreaking last-minute loss to Shoreham-Wading River in the 2021 Suffolk Division IV final, the Phantoms have reeled off 23 straight victories, the longest current winning streak in Suffolk.
“That fueled the success for everything,” coach Michael Zafonte said of the 2021 loss. “To fall off the mountain and then come back was amazing last year. And then people asked us how we were going to do it without Brady Clark or J.J. Aiello. We figured it out and we’re going to do it again next year.”
The Phantoms (12-0) opened the scoring when quarterback Maclin Keyser capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Michael Luce with 5:16 left in the first quarter. Brendan Waters added the extra-point kick to make it 7-0.
The Vikings (10-2), who were looking for their first Long Island Championships win since 2017, were stopped by an aggressive Phantoms defensive front and came up empty on their second drive.
Bayport took over at its own 18-yard line, and on the first play from scrimmage, Aiello cut around left end and took off down the sideline for an 82-yard touchdown run to give the Phantoms a 14-0 lead with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
“I’d love to take credit for that, but it all starts with my five linemen,” Aiello said. “Our line coach Chris Varley and all of our coaches put in an incredible amount of effort into every practice to make sure we can come out here and be the best we can be.”
Bayport-Blue Point extended the lead when it opened the third quarter with a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Running back Brady Smith’s 32-yard reception from Keyser set up Aiello’s 3-yard rushing score to put BBP up 21-0.
Seaford’s Brian Falk responded with a 70-yard run to set up first-and-goal at the Bayport 6. He sealed the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and got Seaford within 21-6 with 7:17 left in the third quarter.
Bayport-Blue Point scored on its next two consecutive drives to put it out of reach. Keyser capped a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a perfect 31-yard strike to Luce in the corner of the end zone.
Luce’s interception at the Bayport 42 set up the next score, another 3-yard run from Aiello that gave the Phantoms a 35-6 lead.
“Luce makes it easy for me to pass the ball, and I think our ability to succeed in both running and passing was huge,” Keyser said. “We just have so many studs on this team that buy in to our mentality.”
Zafonte was especially happy with the defensive performance.
“The defense held their ground and got them out early so we could score on them and shut them down,” he said. “It’s great to be able to have a defense you can rely on.”
Keyser, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, stepped into some pretty big shoes this season. The graduated Clark had earned the Hansen Award as Suffolk’s best player in 2022.
“I didn’t have to throw all year, so to do it in this game is just a credit to his special abilities,” Zafonte said. “He’s had an absurd performance and has truly stepped up along with everyone on this team.”