PANTHERS 55, WILDCATS 0
The scoreboard at Babylon High School never flickered. During the fourth quarter of a blowout, the home team will sometimes elect to turn off the scoreboard, saving the losing team some of the indignity of a brutal loss.
There was no such luck for Shoreham-Wading River Saturday night as the ever-widening score remained in bright lights, a constant reminder of a game the Wildcats would rather soon forget.
Hoping to make a push into the upper-echelon of Division IV, the Wildcats instead took a step backward with a 55-0 shellacking against the undefeated Panthers (7-0). The Wildcats fell to 5-2 and will need a win next week in the regular season finale to have a chance at a top-four seed and home playoff game.
The Panthers scored early and often, in nearly every way possible. Through the air. Rushing. Interception return. Punt return. Kickoff return.
“The last thing I expected was 55-0,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. “It’s hard to swallow.”
It was the first trip to Babylon for Shoreham since the first round of the playoffs last year. That game ended with the Wildcats losing 27-2.
A year later and off to a strong 5-1 start, the Wildcats thought they had closed some of the gap between them and the top teams in the division. But as Saturday’s game showed, there’s still work to be done.
Babylon’s defense, which has now given up just 8.9 points per game, swallowed up the Wildcats’ rushing attack. Short gains on first down and penalties often pushed the Wildcats into long third downs, which made it difficult to spring wide receiver Isreal Squires in the passing game. And when they did try and throw, Squires was often facing double coverage.
“They’re a big, physical team,” Millheiser said. “We like to run it a lot and we like to be physical. Unfortunately tonight we couldn’t get the push up front and we couldn’t get plays from our key guys to get that ground attack going.”
Babylon led 28-0 before Shoreham picked up a first down on offense. The Wildcats turned the ball over four times. Babylon coughed it up three times without suffering any consequences.
The game got a bit out of hand in the second half as the officials began throwing flags on nearly every play. The game came to a crawl as the penalties were sorted through after each play.
At one point in the fourth quarter the referee called over both head coaches to have them remind their players to keep their cool on the field.
“You speak to your players, calm them down,” Millheiser said. “Emotions play a role in a game like that.”
Babylon’s two-headed monster of quarterback Nick Santorelli and halfback Eric Schweitzer did almost all the damage on offense. Santorelli threw for two touchdowns, both to Schweitzer for 16 and 6 yards. Schweitzer also rushed for a 10-yard touchdown.
The two combined for 169 yards on the ground.
Joey Mankiewicz also scored two second-half touchdowns, including a 48-yard run for the final score.
“We knew they wanted to try to run the football on us,” Millheiser said. “We knew the quarterback was going to run a lot. I think we did a pretty good job of that in the first half. But we gave up a couple big plays. I told them before the game when you make a mistake the other team is going to capitalize on it.”
A costly penalty on Shoreham late in the first quarter propelled Babylon. On a fourth down punt that pinned Babylon deep in its own territory, the Wildcats were flagged for 12 men on the field. Babylon elected to have Shoreham re-kick.
Jake Carlock fielded the punt, faked a handoff to Schweitzer coming around for a possible reverse, juked two defenders and darted up field for a 63-yard touchdown return. That made it 14-0.
Shoreham fumbled on the first play of its next possession and soon after it was 21-0. Shoreham’s next play from scrimmage ended with Carlock picking off a Danny Hughes pass and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers had three touchdowns in 2:20 to blow the game open.
Luke Zappia returned the opening kickoff of the second half 67 yards for a touchdown that made it 35-0.
Millheiser said they spent time preparing for Babylon’s special teams during the week.
“They turned out to be more than I hoped they’d be,” he said. “I thought we had done enough during the week to control it.”
Babylon kicker Alex Malhas set a school record late in the third quarter when he connected on his 23rd straight extra point. He added one more after that.
Originally scheduled for Friday night, the game was pushed back to Saturday after heavy rains fell throughout the day Friday. It wasn’t convenient for Millheiser, who was supposed to attend a wedding Saturday night.
“I might be able to catch the end,” Millheiser said as he left the field.
The Wildcats host The Stony Brook School (5-2) next Saturday on homecoming.