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Division IV

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The defensive end's big stop, catches lead Panthers

By Bill Landon

Miller Place’s Panthers made a stand.

The football team’s defense rose to the occasion when the Suffolk County championship title was on the line in a 25-25 game with just under two minutes left to play.

As No. 1-seeded Babylon barreled toward the end zone at Stony Brook University Nov. 16, No. 2 Miller Place’s defense forced a turnover on fourth-and-8 at their 34-yard line, and Anthony Seymour scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to put the Division IV game away, 33-25. The win clinched Miller Place’s first football title since the championships began in 1992.

At the heart of it all was 5-foot, 3-inch senior Anthony Filippetti, who made the stop to force the turnover and followed it up by getting behind the secondary for a 27-yard reception to the Babylon 6 to set up the final score. The catch came after Seymour was sacked for a 7-yard loss.

To cap the championship-winning drive, Seymour faked a handoff to Tyler Ammirato heading over right tackle, and bolted off left tackle for a 3-yard rush into the end zone that snapped a 25-all tie with 21 seconds left.

“After we stopped them on downs I looked at Anthony [Seymour] and said, ‘If we don’t get in the end zone I’m never talking to you again,’” Ammirato said jokingly. “But he did, and we got the win. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

The county title-winning drive started with 1:45 left. Ammirato, a Seymour-to-Tom Nealis connection and Filippetti helped the Panthers drive 66 yards in seven plays.

“With our playmaker — Nealis — it’s comforting to know that you have a kid like that,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “It makes you feel that you’re never really out of it. He’s been doing that all year long.”

Filippetti scored the first Miller Place touchdown of the evening on a 54-yard 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 capped the first with another touchdown, but the point-after attempt failed, making the lead 13-7 heading into the second.

Seymour and Nealis were at it again to open the second, with Nealis catching a 34-yard pass from his field general. The teams were tied again when the Panthers’ point-after attempt also went wayward.

Nealis hauled in a 54-yard pass and run soon after, being forced out at the 2-yard line to set up Ammirato’s first of two touchdowns. The kicks failed on both and the scores were separated by a Babylon touchdown.

“In the beginning of the game we ran the ball trying to establish the ground game to eat up the clock,” Murphy said. “We needed that a little bit trying to get Tyler [Ammirato] going.”

Matt McNulty charged the Babylon holder after its final score and pulled off the block, which shifted momentum back Miller Place’s way.

“It was just a big moment — I had to pick up my teammates, I just had to do what I could,” the defensive end said. “I was hyped — I wanted that ball back and a chance to make a play and that’s what happened. We knew that the toughest defense was going to win today and making a stop like that in a championship game is what it’s all about.”

Miller Place (10-1) will meet Seaford (9-2) Nov. 24 at noon at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in its first appearance in the Long Island Class IV championship game.

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Tyler Ammirato rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in Miller Place's first Suffolk County semifinal win in seven seasons. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was an accomplishment seven years in the making.

Miller Place’s football team had its postseason cut short in a semifinal appearance each of the last six seasons, but Friday night was different.

Anthony Seymour completed two of six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 72 yards on seven carries during Miller Place’s win. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite frigid temperatures and howling winds, two Miller Place interceptions and two Tyler Ammirato touchdowns drove the scoring in a 28-0 shutout of No. 3 Shoreham-Wading River in the Division IV semifinals Nov. 11.

Ammirato, a senior running back, showed how anxious he was to get back on the field after missing several games to injury. Rushing for 130 yards on 18 carries, he scored both first-half touchdowns, the second set up by an Alex Herbst interception at the Wildcats 40-yard line. He broke free for touchdown carries of 55 and 30 yards, and with kicker Cameron Hammer scoring on the extra-point kicks following each of the runs, the Panthers were up 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.

“It’s the best feeling for us as a program — we’ve been to the semifinals six years in a row and to break through is a dream come true for everyone out here,” Ammirato said of the win. “On Sunday we’ll watch film to prepare for Babylon. We lost to them the first time so we’ll watch that film to see what we did wrong, we’ll watch a couple of other games of them and we’ll just keep rolling.”

No. 2-seeded Miller Place will face No. 1 Babylon in the county final at Stony Brook University Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for this program — nobody realizes that this has been our swan song and to finally break through is a tribute to the kids because they believe in themselves,” said Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’re finally healthy with Tyler [Ammirato] coming back — that’s a big piece of the puzzle for a kid who last year scored 30 touchdowns.”

Miller Place head football coach Greg Murphy smiles as he embraces coaches following the Panthers’ semifinal victory. Photo by Bill Landon

But Murphy’s “tough group of kids” had other athletes rising to the occasion.

After a scoreless third, junior linebacker Rob Morales also came up with an interception after stepping in front of a screen pass. He covered 35 yards before scampering into the end zone. He also had 13 tackles.

“When the plays come you’ve just gotta make them,” Morales said. “I saw the ball, I caught it and I ran. This is big this school has never won a Long Island championship and this is a big stepping stone towards that goal.”

Shoreham-Wading River, three-time Long Island champion, had its season cut short when Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour threw deep to the right side of the end zone to Tom Nealis who never broke stride for a 25-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

“They left me one-on-one with the cornerback and I knew they were going to come to me with a fade, and I was open, just beat ‘em,” Nealis said. “I’ve been coming to these games since I was 5 years old and to know that broke this streak, and to do it beating Shoreham-Wading River for a second time this season, it feels great.”

Miller Place's Tyler Ammirato lunges into the end zone. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

You can’t catch Tyler Ammirato, or block Kevin Gersbeck.

The Miller Place seniors raced toward victory for their team, touching the end zone five times in a 42-12 victory over Port Jefferson in the Division IV qualifying round Nov. 4.

The No. 3-seeded Panthers will travel to No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River Nov. 11 for a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup.

Miller Place's Kevin Gersbeck jets down the left sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Kevin Gersbeck jets down the left sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought our kids prepared well all week,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said of the days leading up to the seeding-round match. “They did exactly what we thought they were going to do; they performed well.”

After just 12 minutes, Miller Place had a four-score advantage over the Royals.

First, Gersbeck, a wide receiver, returned the ball 72 yards on the opening kickoff for the early score, and Ammirato, a running back, tacked on the second when he broke outside and ran 15 yards with five minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Senior wide receiver and defensive back Eric Cisneros did what he’s done all season, and split the uprights both times to help his team to a 14-0 lead.

Port Jefferson’s running backs tested Miller Place’s defensive line, but time and time again found nothing.

Miller Place junior quarterback Anthony Seymour bowled his way up the middle with 2:44 left on a quarterback keeper for the third touchdown of the game, and the Royals were forced to punt the ball away on their next possession. Gersbeck struck again when he shed two tacklers and bolted down the left sideline. Cisneros, who was perfect on the evening, put Miller Place out front 28-0.

“They’re a tough team — they always put their heart out there,” Gersbeck said of Port Jefferson. “Our hard work and our preparation — we were focused in practice all week so that was a big part of our win.”

Port Jefferson's Brian Mark makes a leaping catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Brian Mark makes a leaping catch. Photo by Bill Landon

The Panthers’ offensive attack featured several players under center. On the next possession, Ammirato took the snap on a keeper, and grounded out 14 yards for the first touchdown of the second quarter.

“They came out and punched us in the face on defense a little bit, but we knew that was coming,” Ammirato said. “They played tough, but I think we wore them down a little bit. We definitely got our job done.”

Again, the Royals struggled for traction and went three and out.

“They’re a very good football team over there, they have excellent athletes — they have some size and they’re coached very well, so I’m not surprised that they came out ready to play,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “I don’t think we played our best game. We played better as the game went on, but after that first quarter, it made it tough to come back.”

Cisneros set up the next score after a catch and run where he was forced out at the 1-yard line, and again, it was Ammirato who finished it, giving the team a 42-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

“Looking at Port Jeff on film, I thought they had some good kids — decent size — but with their lack of numbers, I thought we could wear them down through attrition with the kids we have,” Murphy said. “We took advantage of that first half and we played Miller Place football.”

Forced to go to the air, Port Jefferson junior quarterback Jack Collins started to thread the needle, finding receivers over the middle to move the chains for the Royals. It was their first sustained drive of the game, but Miller Place senior linebacker Shane White put an end to it when he stepped in front of an intended receiver and intercepted the pass.

Miller Place's Anthony Filippetti intercepts the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place’s Anthony Filippetti intercepts the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Murphy had rested his starters to open the second half, and although the Royals were on the move again, the drive was halted when junior safety Anthony Filippetti caught a floater for the Panthers’ second interception of the game. He returned the ball 32 yards.

Miller Place sophomore quarterback Tom Nealis handed the ball off to his running backs to keep the play inbounds while taking time off the clock, but Port Jefferson averted a shutout with just over eight minutes left to play when Collins took matters into his own hands and bulled his way up the middle on short yardage. Port Jefferson failed to complete the 2-point conversion when Miller Place sophomore defensive back Jon Scarlatos stuffed the runner, but with seconds left in the game, Collins threw a strike to senior tight end Brian Mark who scored a 32-yard touchdown as time ran out.

Ammirato said despite the margin of victory, his team still has work to do.

“We’ll study film, practice hard, and go over our game plan every day [for next week],” he said leading up to the game against Shoreham-Wading River. “Our defense has struggled a little all year, but we’ve finally turned that around.”

The Panthers lost to the Wildcats, 27-14, Oct. 14, so Miller Place is looking to improve from its one of just two division losses this season.

“We’ve even been preparing for Shoreham this week in practice, and we’ve been looking for redemption against them since we lost,” Gersbeck said. “It’s going to be a big game.”

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The Shoreham-Wading River football team poses for a group photo in celebration of it's second consecutive Suffolk County championship with a 24-14 win over Elwood-John Glenn on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Since November 2013, all the Shoreham-Wading River football team has known is how to win football games, and although the Wildcats had their hands full with No. 2 Elwood-John Glenn, the team was able to grind out a win, 24-14, for the Suffolk County Division IV title Thursday night at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.

“When you work hard this is what you get — a county championship,” Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella said. “It’s been a battle throughout the season. We’ll watch film and practice late to prepare for the Long Island championship the same way we did for this game.”

Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats' 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats’ 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Amid rain and harsh winds, Elwood-John Glenn lined up in punt formation after a three-and-out, and snapped the ball to the punt protector, who was unable to handle the wet ball, and the Wildcats pounced on it, recovering the fumble at the nine-yard line. Two plays later, Cutinella punched in for the touchdown, and with the extra point good, helped put his team out front 7-0 at the 8:42 mark of the first quarter.

With the Knights unable to answer, the Wildcats were on the move again. On the first play from scrimmage, senior running back Chris Rosati drove the ball down to the nine-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the stanza. Two plays later, Rosati pounded his way into the end zone for the score, and with senior kicker Daniel Mahoney’s extra-point attempt successful, the Wildcats edged ahead 14-0.

On Elwood-John Glenn’s ensuing possession, Chris Forsberg almost went the distance as he broke free of tacklers and covered 81 yards. Shihan Rudyk finished it as he punched it in from three yards out to put the Knights on the scoreboard. With the point-after attempt good, Elwood-John Glenn trailed 14-7 with 7:37 left in the half.

The Knights struck again soon after, when quarterback Wayne White found Kyle Tiernan for a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 heading into the break.

The rain intensified and the wind picked up in the second half, leaving both teams struggling for traction in the third quarter.

After an injury timeout, Shoreham-Wading River senior Jason Curran took over under center, but it was Mahoney who helped his team score next, as he attempted a 33-yard field goal attempt in the fourth. The senior made it look easy, as he split the uprights to put his team out front, 17-14. According to the kicker, it wasn’t as easy at it looked.

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River's 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River’s 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was like kicking a rock,” he said, adding that he was exhilarated to see the ball go between the posts. “It felt like my leg was 10 pounds heavier and the ball was 10 pounds heavier.”

With five minutes left on the clock, the Wildcats added insurance points when Curran handed off to Rosati, who did what he’s done all season, grinding up the middle for the touchdown. With Mahoney perfect on the evening, Shoreham-Wading River put the game away 24-14.

“We put in the right kids in the right spots,” Shoreham-Wading River assistant coach Hans Wiederkehr said. “We were able to make plays at the right time.”

The Wildcats advance to the Long Island Championship, where the team will take on Locust Valley on Friday at Hofstra University. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

“We’ve got a lot of homework to do because we’ve never seen them before,” Wiederkehr said. “But we’re going to get right back to what got us here — practicing hard watching film.”

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By Bill Landon

Although Mother Nature smiled on Port Jefferson Saturday morning during the school’s homecoming day parade, the same could not be said for the football game that followed two hours later. Despite the cold and drizzling rain as gusts of wind spoiled the kicking game for both teams, the Royals (2-2) were able to still show Wyandanch what they’re made of, reigning over the visiting team, 34-8, for a sweet homecoming victory.

Port Jefferson struck first in the Division IV matchup when senior fullback Garret Hiz punched into the end zone for a touchdown eight minutes into the game. Although the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, the Royals found themselves with an early lead.

“We came out and gave it everything,” Hiz said. “It was rainy, cold and the field was a mess. It was hard to run out there, but we held our own and we got the win.”

In a game riddled with turnovers, Port Jefferson was on the move again thanks to a fumble recovery by junior outside linebacker John Knapp, which set up the next score. After a long run by Hiz to the 3-yard line, senior quarterback Nick Caltagirone finished the drive. The quarterback also helped score on the 2-point conversion attempt, to help the Royals extend their lead to 14-0 with five minutes left in the half.

Caltagirone and sophomore Jack Collins shared the quarterback duties all afternoon, and like Hiz, Collins was also happy with his team’s performance.

“I thought we played well — our backs just powered through their defense,” Collins said. “The ball was tough to handle, there’s a lot of mud out there and the grass is a lot slipperier than turf.”

Wyandanch coughed the ball up again, and this time, it was the junior linebacker Brian Mark on the recovery as the wind gusted and the rain intensified.

The possession did not lead to another score, but Royals opened the second half looking to put the game away.

Caltagirone got the call on the opening drive, and capped it off by diving into the end zone to make it a three-score game. With a failed conversion attempt, Port Jefferson settled for a 20-0 lead.

The senior quarterback said his team had several miscues, but grew stronger as the game wore on.

“Honestly, I thought we played a little bit sloppy, but overall we kicked it in, especially in the second half,” Caltagirone said. “The conditions were rough, it was a dogfight, it was slick — everybody’s slipping all over the place — but other than that, it was a good game.”

Wyandanch couldn’t get any traction, and turned the ball over yet again. This time, junior linebacker Eddie Park recovered the ball to set up the Royals’ next score.

In the closing minute of the third, with the ball at midfield, Port Jefferson senior running back Michael DiCalogero went to work. When the handoff up the middle went nowhere, DiCalogero bounced it outside and went the distance down the right sideline as he scampered into the end zone. The Royals lost traction, and again failed to convert on the two-point play, as they surged ahead 26-0.

“We wanted to play a clean game — as clean of a game with the elements you have here — but the conditions are definitely more suited for our style of play,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “We came out in the second half looking to finish the game, so I was proud of the guys for playing hard the whole game and not letting up.”

Two minutes into the final quarter, the Warriors scored when Christian Flowers bulled his way up the middle, broke free from tacklers and found the end zone. Flowers finished it with two more points, as his team trailed 26-8.

With five minutes left, Caltagirone found the end zone for his third touchdown of the afternoon.

Cosci said it has been a frustrating start to the season, after opening with a win to drop two big losses, 23-8 and 34-6, and he looked for Caltagirone to have the kind of game he did.

“This is the first time we’ve seen him play the way he’s capable of playing, and he can carry a team when he plays like that,” Cosci said.

DiCalogero put the icing on the homecoming cake with the two-point conversion, to put the 34-8 victory into the record books.

The Royals will have their hands full on Saturday when they host undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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