Leave it to the smallest player on the field to make the biggest play. When you’re Miller Place senior Anthony Filippetti, height really doesn’t measure heart.
After a 36-yard reception, the 5-3 defensive back tackled Frank Vano at the 2-yard line as time expired in the Suffolk Division IV championship game Thursday night at Stony Brook University. That sealed Miller Place’s 33-25 win over Babylon and secured the Panthers’ first Suffolk football title since the Long Island Championships began in 1992.
“His size doesn’t matter. He brings the energy and makes big plays all the time,” said Miller Place linebacker Joe Munno, who had 12 tackles. “He had a great game.”
Filippetti also keyed the Panthers’ winning touchdown drive. After Babylon linebacker Sean Baudille sacked quarterback Anthony Seymour for a 7-yard loss, Filippetti got behind the secondary for a 27-yard reception to the Babylon 6.
Two plays later, Seymour faked a handoff to Tyler Ammirato heading over right tackle and bolted off left tackle for a 3-yard touchdown that snapped a 25-25 tie with 21 seconds left.
“They were crashing hard on the end and we went on a misdirection counter,” Miller Place coach Greg Murphy said. “Anthony just kept it and followed his block. It was a drive to remember.”
Seymour hit a leaping Tom Nealis on a fade in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion pass.
The frenetic county title-winning drive started with 1:45 left. The Panthers drove 66 yards in seven plays.
Miller Place (10-1) will meet Seaford (9-2) next Friday at noon at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium in its first appearance in the Long Island Class IV championship game.
The winning drive came on the heels of a huge defensive stand. Miller Place stopped Babylon at its 34 on a fourth-and-8 play. GeJuan Booker caught a pass in the flat and was quickly tackled by defensive end Alex Herbst. “Herbst had a huge game,” Murphy said. “That was such a big play and gave us the momentum and the ball with a chance to win it. And our offense responded.”
Babylon made a bold statement on its opening drive. The Panthers drove 70 yards in six plays, capped by Justin Vega’s 48-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown. John Guerrero’s kick made it 7-0.
But Filippetti broke a 54-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage and Cameron Hammer’s kick tied it at 7 with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
Babylon quarterback Joe Rende capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run for a 13-7 lead with 2:26 left in the first quarter. A 34-yard run by Booker keyed the march. But Seymour fired a 34-yard touchdown pass to Nealis to tie it at 13 on the first play of the second quarter.
Miller Place forged its first lead on the next possession. On a third-and-10 play, Seymour hit Nealis for 54 yards on a crossing pattern to the 3. Three plays later, Ammirato scored on a 3-yard run for a 19-13 lead with 4:24 left in the half.
Babylon then went 63 yards in 10 plays and Rende scored on a 3-yard run to tie it at 19 with 40 seconds left in the half.
Ammirato scored his second touchdown for a 25-19 lead in the third quarter before Vega caught a 3-yard pass from Rende to tie it at 25.
“The game was everything we thought it would be,” Murphy said. “And it feels great to get the win.”