10/02/13 5:00pm
10/02/2013 5:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | McGann-Mercy sophomore KJ Santacroce intercepts a pass Saturday against Wyandanch.

In the wake of a disappointing loss Saturday, McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski issued his players a challenge. As the Monarchs fell to 0-3 — the prospects of a return playoff appearance fading farther away — Doroski knows it would be easy for the commitment level to begin slipping.

“It’s real easy this time of the year to say ‘Hey coach, I got to go to extra help, I’m not going to be at practice,’ or ‘Hey coach, my mom needs help at home,’ ” Doroski said. “Those are the things that start to creep in when your season isn’t going well.”

Doroski’s challenge to his players: “Don’t be that guy.”

The Monarchs lost 28-20 to Wyandanch Saturday on homecoming, a tough defeat for a team that reached the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs last year. The Warriors, winless in their first two games, were the lowest-seeded team in the division coming into this year.

The road doesn’t get any easier for Mercy. Games against two of the perennial powers of the division are next: John Glenn Saturday and Mount Sinai Oct. 12. Both games are at home.

“We’ll keep coming to work and trying to get better every day,” Doroski said. “I told the guys, you got the better half of the season left and it doesn’t get any easier. We’re going to see what kind of character our kids are made up of in the next couple weeks.”

Whereas last year things always seemed to break the Monarchs’ way, things have taken a turn for the worse this year. Penalties and turnovers have piled up and the Monarchs haven’t found another threat offensively in addition to running back Reggie Archer. He scored all three touchdowns for Mercy against the Warriors and tallied 123 yards on 22 carries.

Doroski said quarterback KJ Santacroce did a good job throwing the ball, but the receiving corps hasn’t been able to come up with big plays. Junior Andrew Glasgow was a bright spot with four receptions for 42 yards, Doroski said. Glasgow also had six tackles and a sack on defense.

Mercy went ahead 20-14 early in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Monarchs tried an onside kick to catch the Warriors by surprise. The Warriors pounced on it and converted the short field into a touchdown to tie the game. On Mercy’s next possession, the Monarchs fumbled, giving the ball back to Wyandanch around the 30-yard line. The Warriors punched it in to take the lead and the score remained that way over the final quarter.

Doroski said a bright spot on defense was Patrick Rossi, who led the team with eight tackles and a sack.

joew@timesreview.com

09/11/13 5:00pm
09/11/2013 5:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | McGann-Mercy junior Reggie Archer returns in the backfield for the Monarchs after a 1,000-yard rushing season a year ago.

As the final countdown toward opening day ticks closer, Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski is still trying to get a feel for what this year’s team identity will look like.

After their most successful season in two decades last year, the Monarchs return several key players while also mixing in some new faces. No longer the underdog, it’ll be a different vibe for Mercy this year.

“This is a different group,” Doroski said. “They’re a little quieter. I don’t have those ‘rah-rah,’ energy-type guys.”

In preparation for Thursday afternoon’s Division IV season opener at Shoreham-Wading River, the Monarchs competed in a five-way scrimmage last week in East Hampton and a game scrimmage against Bayport-Blue Point. Results were understandably mixed. Turnovers and penalties piled up, but the players came out and competed physically, Doroski said.

Offensively the Monarchs return 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Archer, a junior who will be featured prominently once again in the running game. Doroski said Archer has bulked up some from last year after putting in a lot of work in the offseason.

“I always give him a hard time because I think he looks slow, but he separates himself in practices and scrimmages and he has a little breakaway speed,” Doroski said.

Senior Paul Annunziata returns in the backfield and will receive some carries along with Archer. Doroski said Annunziata is a good change-of-pace runner who has looked strong in scrimmages.

Senior Luis Cintron will start at fullback and will try to clear some of the paths for the other backs.

At quarterback the Monarchs are handing the ball to a sophomore in KJ Santacroce. Asaiah Wilson, who started as a junior last year, transferred out of Mercy, opening the door for Santacroce.

Doroski said Santacroce gives the offense a different feel from last year, when Wilson was more of a threat with his legs.

“He throws the ball real well and I think that will add something to our offense that we didn’t have last year on a consistent basis, which was short passing game and our play-action stuff,” Doroski said.

Santacroce is listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, and Doroski said he looks “more like a junior or senior.” As a freshman last year Santacroce led the junior varsity team to a 4-4 record.

“He’s going to come up [to varsity] and slide right in,” Doroski said.

At receiver the Monarchs feature junior Leo Ellis, sophomore Marco Sciarra, who’s listed at 6-1, junior Ian Rogers and senior Jimmy Haynal.

Doroski said Ellis has the best hands as a receiver that the team has had in a few years. Sciarra came up as a freshman last year and has good speed, Doroski said.

Haynal, who played soccer last year, will likely miss the first week as he recovers from a concussion, Doroski said.

On the offensive line the Monarchs return seniors Pat Marelli and Colin Ratsey. Senior Patrick Rossi, who played linebacker last year, will move up to the tackle position. Juniors Andrew Glasgow and Kenny Berman will round out the line.

Nearly every starter on offense will be asked to play on defense as well.

“We still play ironman football,” Doroski said.

Marelli, last year’s leading tackler with 76, will anchor the defense at inside linebacker. Archer, a defensive back last year, will move to an outside linebacker. Cintron will also play an outside linebacker and Rossi will be an inside linebacker.

Ratsey and Glasgow will start at defensive end.

In the secondary the Monarchs have a number of different players who can slide in depending on the matchups, Doroski said.

As the No. 6 seed in Division IV this year, the Monarchs will face a challenging schedule that includes games against Shoreham, Mount Sinai and Babylon.

“We’re excited, the kids are excited, the coaching staff is excited,” Doroski said. “We want to continue to move forward with our program. This year presents a challenge just because of the success we had last year and where we got seeded.”

joew@timesreview.com

08/29/13 12:15pm
08/29/2013 12:15 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Jackie Spinella may become the first girl to try out for Bishop McGann-Mercy's football team, according to coach Jeff Doroski.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Jackie Spinella may become the first girl to try out for Bishop McGann-Mercy’s football team, according to coach Jeff Doroski.

Jackie Spinella seemed a little uncomfortable by all the attention. Asked if she felt like a trailblazer, she laughed. “I don’t know, I guess,” she said.

The truth is, it’s much simpler to Spinella than breaking a gender barrier. The Riverhead girl just wants to try playing football. Nothing more, nothing less.

Spinella, an incoming senior at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School, said she enjoys watching the sport as a spectator on television or in the stands. Now, however, see is seeing football from a perspective that few girls ever do: as a player.

Spinella is trying out for the McGann-Mercy football team as an offensive lineman. She is the first girl in the school’s history to come out for football, according to coach Jeff Doroski, who played for the Monarchs himself in the 1990s.

“I kind of wanted to get the experience, so why not?” she said. “I don’t see a reason why a girl can’t” play football.

Spinella, who has a background in basketball, softball, and track and field, first approached Doroski this past winter about coming out for the team. Doroski said he asked her if she was sure, she said she was, and he told her she would need clearance from her parents, the athletic director, Section XI, the school doctor and undergo physical tests. Players heard talk in the spring that Spinella was going to come out for the team. When they saw her in the weight room, working out with them, they knew it was more than talk.

By the first preseason practice, Spinella was alongside the other players, ready to sweat through two-a-day practices and prove her courage, not only of the physical kind. She also had to have the courage to be the only girl in training camp, a one-girl team within a team. On top of that, her previous football experience was nil.

That can be scary for anyone.

“I’m nervous every day,” Spinella chuckled one morning last week after participating in the team’s sixth practice in four days. “Every day I try and tell myself: ‘Just pull yourself together and work at it. You can do it, you can make it.’ ”

Doroski said that knowing the type of person that Spinella is, he knew from the start that this wasn’t a gimmick or a publicity stunt. His players soon discovered that as well, watching her do every drill they did.

“She’s hitting as hard as us,” said Colin Ratsey, a senior lineman. He added: “She’ll get knocked down. She’s just like any other guy. She gets right back up, no problems. She’s got to prove herself out on the field, and she did, definitely, so far.”

Doroski has continually offered his encouragement. He said Spinella does not receive special treatment and is viewed as just another one of the players.

“She’s been very committed, and she stepped up to the challenge,” he said. “She hasn’t asked out of any drill. She hasn’t asked out of any conditioning. She’s done everything the guys have done.”

“I think our guys have just accepted her as being a part of the team,” he continued. “… She’s earned the respect by what she’s done.”

Pat Rossi, a senior who plays middle linebacker and guard, said his teammates have been supportive of Spinella.

“We encourage her, but at the same time, we don’t give her any special treatment,” he said. “She’s out there, she’s with us, she’s doing all the same things we’re doing. She’s one of us.”

Little boys are taught at a young age not to hit a girl. That is an inclination the boys on the team have had to overcome during drills. Rossi said players may have been reticent about hitting Spinella too hard in the first days of practice, but after a while they tend to forget that she is a girl. Football is a fast-moving game, with helmets, pads and uniform numbers flashing by in an instant, with little or no time to determine who is hitting who.

Last Thursday morning the linemen went through one-on-one contact drills. “I got knocked down a few times,” Spinella said. “It’s going to happen a lot.”

Spinella, who is the school’s Student Organization president, has naturally drawn curiosity from friends, who ask her what practice is like. She tells them it’s hard.

“I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, because I think it’s really hard,” she said. She added: “It’s a different experience. I never dealt with something like this before. It’s really different.”

Doroski said Spinella has done a “great job” on the field. “This would be tough for anybody,” he said. “To come in and do what she has done up to this point, I give her a lot of credit.

“My thing to her is I said: ‘Stick with it. It’s hard. This is really the toughest part of football. You got to get through these next two weeks. You made it this far, you might as well keep it going.’ ”

The mental part of the game is no breeze, either, especially for a newcomer who has to learn a new language with football terms like inside zones, boots and waggles. Even so, Doroski said Spinella is ahead of some other players in her understanding of schemes and Xs and Os.

When the prospect was raised of her being in uniform for the team’s season opener on Sept. 12 at Shoreham-Wading River, Spinella’s eyes lit up.

“Being there, just like in itself, I think that [would be] awesome,” she said. “Even if I’m not playing, I think supporting the team is awesome in itself.”

If things continue the way they have been going, it sounds as if there is a good chance that Spinella will be wearing a helmet and pads that day.

“She’s going to wear a uniform,” Doroski said. “She’ll be part of our program. You know, obviously, I’m not going to put her on the field just to put her on the field. I’m not going to use it as a gimmick. She’s going to have to earn the right to go out there and play just like the rest of our guys, and if we have opportunities, and she earns the right, and we can get her in some situations, sure, I’m going to do that.”

When the school year starts, it seems likely that Spinella will become the talk of the school, the girl who plays football. With that may come a mini-celebrity status, but it is not something she is looking for.

“I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal,” she said. “I think maybe it will be something for a week or two and then it will die down, hopefully.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

08/21/13 7:00pm
08/21/2013 7:00 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Colin Ratsey (6-foot-4, 273 pounds) is Bishop McGann-Mercy's largest player and a big piece of the Monarchs' line.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Colin Ratsey (6-foot-4, 273 pounds) is Bishop McGann-Mercy’s largest player and a big piece of the Monarchs’ line.

One doesn’t have to think too hard to imagine what football coach Jeff Doroski must have been thinking when he saw the hulking figure of Colin Ratsey walking through the hallways of Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School several years ago. And one need not imagine what Doroski’s response was when he learned that Ratsey was a golfer, of all things.

Doroski recalled: “I was like, ‘Golf? What are you doing? Golf?’ ”

Then Doroski went on to convince Ratsey that he has the rest of his life to play golf, but only a few more years to play football for McGann-Mercy. He got his recruit.

Years later, that recruiting pitch seems more important than ever now that Ratsey assumes valuable places on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Monarchs. At 6-feet-4, 273 pounds, the senior is the biggest player on the team, and big things are being asked of him this year.
He is also a big piece of the puzzle. It is considered vital that Ratsey, who aside from senior Pat Marelli, is the team’s only returning lineman, does well this year.

“Has to,” said Doroski.

McGann-Mercy lost some good linemen from last year’s playoff team in Ray Ellis, Chris Motlenski and Jack Strnad. That means a new line with a revamped role for Ratsey.

“Everybody knows he can do it, but he has to show it now,” said Marelli.

Ratsey started all but one game last year for the Monarchs, playing guard and defensive tackle. It’s up in the air where exactly he will play on the lines this year. Marelli will play center and middle linebacker. “With the zone blocking scheme, it’s pretty much the same no matter where you are in those five positions up front,” said Doroski.

And it sounds as if it doesn’t make much of a difference to Ratsey, either. “Wherever they need me, I’ll block, and wherever they need me on defense, you know, I’ll get through the line and do the best I can,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have a great season.”

That is what the Monarchs are counting on. It goes without saying that backs and receivers get most of the attention and acclaim, but linemen may have more to do with wins and losses than anyone else on the field.

“We’re excited about what he’s capable of doing for us this year,” Doroski said. “He’s got good feet. He can move around pretty good. He’s not one of those slow, lumbering big guys. He can move around pretty good for a big guy. This has the potential to be a very good year for him, and if it is, it’s going to make us that much better.”

So far, outside linebacker/fullback Luis Cintron likes what he has seen from Ratsey. “He’s looking great,” said Cintron.

Ratsey, who lives in Greenport, has attended Catholic schools his whole life. He had played four years for the Peconic Panthers youth football program and is familiar with the current players on the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island team. “I know the whole team,” he said. “They always smack talk, but I’m not worried about it.”

Ratsey has twice played against the Porters. The thought has undoubtedly crossed his mind that under different circumstances he could very well be on the other side of the line wearing different colors. This year the teams aren’t scheduled to play each other, but Ratsey looks forward to meeting his hometown buddies in a scrimmage.

Ironically, a former McGann-Mercy linemen, senior Owen Finnigan, has joined the Porters this summer.

Thanks to that fateful hallway meeting with Doroski, Ratsey’s athletic course changed as he embraced football.

“Right away I loved it,” he said. “Now it’s my passion.”

Golf will have to wait.

bliepa@timesreview.com

08/20/13 12:15am
08/20/2013 12:15 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Pat Marelli recorded a team-=leading 76 tackles (eight for a loss) last season.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Pat Marelli recorded a team-leading 76 tackles (eight for a loss) last season for Bishop McGann-Mercy.

Bishop McGann-Mercy has been a perennial underdog. But can a football team remain an underdog after winning a playoff game, reaching the Suffolk County Division IV semifinals and turning in its best season in decades? Has that underdog tag been shed?

Those questions remain to be answered, but, if nothing else, coach Jeff Doroski has noticed an attitudinal change in his team.

“We have a great respect for the teams that we’re going to compete against, but we’re not going to back down from anybody,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to compete, and we’re going to put our best foot forward every game.”

It sounds like something one would hear from a confident team, and if the Monarchs gained a measure of confidence from what they did last year, it would be understandable.

Seeded 12th in a preseason coaches poll before last season, McGann-Mercy bucked the odds, posted its first playoff win since 1991 (a last-second thriller over Hampton Bays), ending up with a 7-3 record. It was their highest single-season win total since 1978.

“I feel like when I’m older I’m going to exaggerate it to like we won the states or something,” said Pat Marelli, the senior center/middle linebacker who had a team-leading 76 tackles (eight for a loss) to go with a sack in 2012. “It was awesome to be a part of that.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Luis Cintron said a tougher schedule puts greater pressure on Bishop McGann-Mercy, but it's nothing the Monarchs can't handle.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Luis Cintron said a tougher schedule puts greater pressure on Bishop McGann-Mercy, but it’s nothing the Monarchs can’t handle.

Reggie Archer, an all-county junior who ran for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns, said, “In a way, I guess you could say we surprised ourselves a little bit, but we always believed in ourselves.”

McGann-Mercy’s reward for that is a No. 6 seed this year in the 14-team division. Along with that ranking comes a considerably tougher schedule that includes games against the top four seeds: defending Long Island champion Babylon, Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River and Elwood/John Glenn. As if that isn’t enough, “the other four games that we have aren’t easy, gimme games,” said Doroski, referring to dates with Center Moriches, Wyandanch, East Hampton/Bridgehampton and Southampton.

“It’s a tough schedule,” Doroski said. “We know we have our work cut out for us, but we’re excited about that. We want to have the opportunity to prove last year wasn’t a fluke.”

Doroski said he told his players it’s as if they have been moved up from the kids’ table to the grown-ups’ dinner table. But, far from shying away, the Monarchs say they welcome the challenge and understand the task that lays before them.

“They know the level of difficulty that it’s going to be,” said Luis Cintron, a senior who plays outside linebacker and fullback. He said, “There’s a lot of pressure,” but quickly asserted that it’s nothing the team can’t handle.

Aside from the schedule, there are other issues to be faced, like dealing with the loss of 11 graduated players, six of whom were two-way starters. Furthermore, in McGann-Mercy’s first two preseason practices on Monday, senior quarterback Asaiah Wilson, who had joined the team as a transfer from Longwood last year, wasn’t present. Doroski said he still didn’t know if Wilson, a major contributor to the team’s fortunes, would be rejoining the team or not, leaving things in a strange limbo.

Meanwhile, the Monarchs have no choice but to operate as if Wilson will not be on the team. “If he’s not here, obviously we’ll miss the production, but we’re prepared to move forward,” said Doroski.

In the meantime, the ball is being placed in the hands of sophomore quarterback K. J. Santacroce.

Paul Annunziata, a cornerback/running back, and linemen Colin Ratsey and Andrew Glasgow are also being counted on for production.

The Monarchs have what Doroski said is a first, a girl trying out for the team. Jackie Spinella, a senior, plays the offensive line.

“It’s a bunch of hard workers, I can tell you right now,” Cintron said. “We’re on a mission this year.”

Doroski said he told his departing seniors after last season that what they achieved can never be taken away from them. “That’s something they’ll have with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Referring to his current players, the coach said: “My question to them, moving forward, is, what’s going to be your legacy? What memory are you going to make in Mercy football?”

More questions to be answered in the coming months.

bliepa@timesreview.com

02/03/13 5:00pm
02/03/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Riverhead News-Review People of the Year (clockwise from top): Civic person Georgete Keller, Educator Jeff Doroski, Overall POY Denise Lucas, Business person Rich Stabile and Public servant Ed Romaine.

The Riverhead News-Review held its annual People of the Year reception this week, honoring those who were selected in our first issue of the new year.

You can read more about our 2012 People of the Year by clicking on the links below:

Person of the Year: Denise Lucas

Public Servant of the Year: Ed Romaine

Educator of the Year: Jeff Doroski

Business Person of the Year: Rich Stabile

Civic Person of the Year: Georgette Keller

01/04/13 9:00am
01/04/2013 9:00 AM
McGann-Mercy High School, Riverhead, Mercy football, Jeff Doroski

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | McGann-Mercy football coache and teacher Jeff Doroski.

During the pregame huddle before an early season game this fall, McGann-Mercy football coach Jeff Doroski gathered his players to deliver a message. Before him stood a group of players expected to finish near the bottom of Division IV — an all-too-familar destination for the Monarchs.

We’ve been down for a long time, Mr. Doroski told his team. No one believes Mercy is a team that can contend.

And Mr. Doroski posed a question to his team: Why not us?

Believe in your teammates, he said. Believe in your coaches. Trust the hard work you’ve put in.

“You get chills when you hear him speak sometimes,” said Phil Reed, an assistant coach at Mercy. “You feel like you want to put on a uniform and go out and play for him. I don’t know how he does it, but he just comes up with these things.”

Under Doroski’s leadership, in only his second season as Mercy’s head coach, the Monarchs surged to their most memorable fall in three decades, posting seven wins, advancing to the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs and captivating the close-knit Riverhead school.

For his efforts in turning Mercy’s football program around, while also working as a well-respected health and physical education teacher and volunteering his time at a bevy of school functions, the News-Review selected Mr. Doroski as its 2012 Educator of the Year.

McGann-Mercy is a second home for Mr. Doroski. His parents both attended Mercy. So did his wife. As a high school student, he was the featured running back for the Monarchs. After graduating in 1992 he owned the single-season and career rushing records.

It was back when Mr. Doroski carried the ball for Mercy that the Monarchs last had a season comparable to this year. When the Monarchs won an epic 22-21 playoff game over Hampton Bays in November, it was the first postseason win for the program since 1991. The seven wins matched their best season since 1978.

“He’s a big part of continuing the tradition of excellence at Mercy because he’s been through it,” said athletic director John Lonardo. “He’s very aware of that and that’s something he really brings to the kids and reinforces to the kids about what McGann-Mercy stands for and the tradition of McGann-Mercy.”

In addition to coaching the varsity football team, Mr. Doroski, 38, also coaches the junior varsity baseball team in the spring. When it comes to baseball, he is a bit of a legend. In 2003 he coached the varsity team to a state championship, the only state title for any team in Mercy history.

No matter the time of year, Mr. Doroski, who lives in Riverhead, can be spotted at Mercy long after the school day has ended. In the winter he works the scoreboard during basketball games. He also monitors the weight room.

“Jeff has an outstanding rapport with the students,” Mr. Lonardo said. “He’s extremely liked. He communicates very well with the kids. He’s extremely motivational. The kids not only enjoy his classes, but they enjoy playing for him.”

When Mr. Doroski became the varsity football head coach, numbers were dwindling in the program. Former athletic director Paula Nickerson said in 2011 that it was a “miracle” the program survived during some of the leanest years.

Mr. Doroski helped rejuvenate interest in football and this past season the Monarchs had the kind of depth that allowed them to not only stay competitive, but excel.

“You could see from day one when he took over the program that the kids responded to him,” Phil Reed said. “The way he wanted to set the program up and it’s grown from leaps and bounds from when he started.”

As a teacher in a small school, Mr. Doroski gets an opportunity to work with many of his athletes in the classroom as well. Asaiah Wilson, the football team’s junior quarterback, had Mr. Doroski as a health teacher last year and as a gym teacher this year.

Mr. Wilson said Mr. Doroski’s demeanor as a coach and teacher is very similar.

“He wants us to work hard,” he said. “If we got a 99, he wants us to ask why we didn’t get 100.”

The quarterback position was something Wilson had little experience in before this season. He had played in PAL leagues during his youth, but never anything close to being a varsity quarterback.

Mr. Doroski was instrumental in helping him learn the position and encourage him along the way, even when things were tough, Mr. Wilson said.

“He guided me through everything,” he said. “Reading defenses, switching plays at the line, he guided me through all that. Sometimes I would get down on myself and he’ll pick my head up.”

Patience is one of Mr. Doroski’s greatest strengths, according to Mr. Reed.

“He’s not an excitable guy,” said the assistant coach, who also coaches varsity boys basketball at Southold. “He can be loud when he wants to be but when it comes to the games he has nice level confidence about himself in order to make the right decision.”

After the Monarchs improved 5-0 in October, Mr. Doroski was selected for the New York Jets’ High School Coach of the Week award.

“He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve been able to work with and I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Mr. Reed said. “He’s just a wonderful person to be around.”

joew@timesreview.com

11/17/12 5:17pm
11/17/2012 5:17 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Reggie Archer, right, runs into Babylon’s Andrew Watson.

SUFFOLK COUNTY DIVISION IV SEMIFINAL | PANTHERS 49, MONARCHS 12

When it comes to Suffolk County Division IV football, Babylon is the benchmark. With some exceptions mixed in here and there, it has been that way for a long time.

The record speaks for itself. Over the course of its proud history, Babylon has won four Long Island championships and eight county crowns. The Panthers have played in 18 county finals in 20 years. Appearances in county finals this time of the year have become the norm for Babylon.

“We want to do it for the people who wore the jersey before us,” Babylon quarterback Nick Santorelli said. “Every year in, year out, we hold ourselves to that high standard. There’s no other Babylon. We’re Babylon. That’s who we are.”

Undefeated Babylon was a winner once again on Saturday, this time at the expense of Bishop McGann-Mercy. Santorelli threw for two touchdowns and ran for another two as top-seeded Babylon rolled to a 49-12 win in a Division IV semifinal on its home field. The Panthers (10-0) will play No. 2 Mount Sinai (9-1) in the county final next weekend at Stony Brook University.

The defeat brought an end to McGann-Mercy’s most successful season in decades. No. 5 McGann-Mercy (7-3), which was seeded 12th in a preseason coaches poll, was coming off a thrilling first-round upset of Hampton Bays. McGann-Mercy’s first playoff win since 1991 gave the Monarchs seven wins on the season, their highest total since 1978.

“We’re excited about what we did this year,” said Jeff Doroski, who is in his second year as McGann-Mercy’s head coach. “I’m going to tell these guys and continue to tell them they’ve done great things for Mercy football. They put us back on the map. They generated a buzz and excitement among our school community. … I really couldn’t be more proud of this group.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy wideout Christian Reyes said: “This season’s been great. It’s a total turnaround from the last couple of years. This is, I think, our best season ever.”

As one might have expected, heavily favored Babylon took a lot of the suspense out of the game early, surging to a 22-0 lead in the opening 7 minutes 24 seconds and holding a commanding 42-6 advantage by halftime.

“We came out pumped up, and we just beat them right from the start,” said Babylon running back/linebacker Eric Schweitzer.

The game’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a Babylon touchdown. Santorelli lofted a pass down the left side that Schweitzer collected for a 65-yard connection 17 seconds into the game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Pat Marelli of Bishop McGann-Mercy stops Babylon ball carrier Ryan McSweeney. Marelli made seven solo tackles and assisted on two others.

Santorelli completed all three of his passes, two for touchdowns. The other touchdown pass was a 31-yarder to Jake Carlock.

Luke Zappia ran for another two Babylon touchdowns, and Schweitzer produced one himself. Schweitzer had 112 yards from 12 carries.

Babylon’s defense was dominant, holding McGann-Mercy to only one first down and 91 yards of offense. The Monarchs went 0 for 8 on third-down conversion attempts and 0 for 3 on fourth downs.

The first McGann-Mercy touchdown, with 4:19 left in the first quarter, came on a strange play. Tom Kent of McGann-Mercy received Alex Malhas’ kickoff and carried the ball forward before fumbling. Reyes collected the bouncing ball around the McGann-Mercy 40-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown.

McGann-Mercy’s second touchdown came with 6:58 left in the third quarter. Reggie Archer broke through the middle and tore 66 yards for the score.

The McGann-Mercy defense was led by Jack Strnad (seven solo tackles, three assisted) and Pat Marelli (seven solo tackles, two assisted).

McGann-Mercy might be the surprise team of Division IV this year, but Babylon wasn’t about to overlook the Monarchs.

“We don’t really care about their name, who they are or where they’re from,” Santorelli said. “We just play like it’s any other game. We play like it’s Sinai, like it’s Glenn. We just went out there and gave it everything we got. We didn’t take them lightly at all.”

Babylon overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat Mount Sinai, 22-16, during the regular season. The Panthers are two wins away from becoming the first Babylon team to go undefeated in a season since the 2002 team went 11-0.

“I told these kids they could be immortal,” said Rick Punzone, whose 10-year record as Babylon’s coach is 85-19 (.817). “You know, you’re 12 and 0, who knows? You could go down as one of the best teams in Babylon history.”

What was the best thing to come out of this season for the Monarchs?

Doroski answered, “The best thing is the memories that these guys will have for the rest of their life.”

bliepa@timesreview.com