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