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Tyler Ammirato

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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.”

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Miller Place's Jack Walsh celebrates a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Not even halfway through the season, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team already has the same amount of wins that it ended with last year, turning its program worst record in 2016 into the best start in team history this year.

On April 10, in a battle of undefeated teams, the Panthers produced their seventh straight win, a 10-8 edging of Mount Sinai, to remain perfect at 7-0, with a 5-0 streak in Division II. Last season, Miller Place finished with a 7-9 overall record.

Miller Place’s Anthony Beck moves the ball into Mount Sinai’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew they were going to come prepared for us and play tough, so we stuck to our game plan and made them try to beat us,” Miller Place senior midfielder Anthony Beck said. “It feels good to come out and take the battle of undefeated teams, and take the win from a crosstown rival.”

Miller Place junior attack Anthony Seymour put the Panthers on the board less than a minute into the game with a quick shot to the top left corner, and Beck followed him up with a shot straight up the middle after the ball was rotated around the cage while Miller Place looked for an opening.

“We pushed the ball really well, we possessed for the most part and we played as a team,” Beck said. “We didn’t try to do too much and we stuck together.”

The Panthers continued to pounce with a balanced attack, as next to light up the scoreboard was junior attack Patrick Doyen off a pass from Seymour.

Miller Place forced several turnovers, and Mount Sinai called for two timeouts in the first to try and shift the tempo. With 3:35 on the clock, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Jason Shlonsky rocketed a rebound past an unprepared Matt Leen for the Mustangs’ first point.

Beck added another unassisted goal for a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first 12 minutes.

Miller Place’s Jack Walsh and Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky fight for a loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been unbelievable how we’ve came together since the first day of practice,” Beck said. “This is a group we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been playing really well together.”

Miller Place senior attack Jack Walsh scored next, laying out across the front of the net and scoring while in mid air. Head coach Keith Lizzi said with the loss of senior midfielder Kevin Gersbeck to injury, he told his team everyone needs to up their game to fill the hole, and they’re doing it.

“Jack stepped up — and he’s been doing that all year — he’s one of the top scorers in the county,” Lizzi said. “And Anthony Beck has just been so consistent between the faceoffs, defense and offense. He’s our No. 1 utility guy out on the field.”

Mount Sinai seniors Nicholas Cesario and Nicholas Rose closed the gap, before Beck, grabbing possession off the faceoff, re-extended the margin with his hat trick goal, bringing the score to 6-3 at the halftime break.

“It felt good to dominate the faceoff ‘x,’ get my team some extra possessions and score some goals,” he said. “We’re undefeated right now, we’re taking it one game at a time and we hope to keep it that way.”

Miller Place had a slower second half. They were outscored by Mount Sinai 5-4, but always remained a few goals ahead. Leen, the senior goalkeeper who finished with 12 saves, helped preserve the lead and Walsh also chipped in with two goals and two assists.

“It’s my last year, so I’m trying to get out and do as much as I can,” Walsh said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but we’re all best friends, so there’s a lot of chemistry here.”

Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky races ahead of a swam of Miller Place defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai wasn’t without its shining stars in its hard-fought comeback effort. Shlonsky finished with three goals, senior midfielder Robert DeMeo added two goals and two assists, and junior attack Joe Pirreca finished as the assist leader, scoring once and aiding in three others.

Lizzi said although it hasn’t been easy to complete, an already total turnaround from last year, the main motivation has been the Panthers desire for revenge from last year. They’ve already beaten some of those teams this year, like Comsewogue, Sayville and Elwood-John Glenn.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time, and although the pressure continues to build, this is a group that’s handled it,” he said, adding that with seven Division I college commits and three-year starters the experience has paid back dividends.

Harborfields is next on the schedule, and revenge is on tap after Miller Place lost to the Tornadoes in double overtime last year. The Panthers will travel April 12 to compete in the 11 a.m. matchup.

“Certain games you have circled on the calendar, and this year, that’s one of them,” Lizzi said. “We won a lot of tight games this year that we lost last year, so these kids are playing with a little chip on their shoulder — with something to prove.”

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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By Bill Landon

It was a catfight between undefeated teams.

The battle of Panthers teams wasn’t decided until the final 40 seconds of the game, and despite Miller Place junior running back Tyler Ammirato leading the way for his football team during its homecoming matchup Oct. 1 against Babylon — scoring all four touchdowns for his team — anything can happen on the gridiron. With 40 seconds left on the clock, a Miller Place fourth-down pass was broken up, Babylon gained possession and took two knees to seal the deal, 29-25.

In his first start at quarterback, junior Anthony Seymour looked like he had been at the helm all season long. He took over under center to replace injured senior Christian McPartland, who broke his arm during the Panthers’ 54-0 blanking of McGann-Mercy Sept. 23.

Ammirato took charge with the ground-and-pound offense, and struck first when he punched through Babylon’s defensive line and bounced outside, traveling 41 yards for the touchdown. With the extra-point kick by senior Eric Cisneros good, the Panthers found themselves ahead 7-0 two minutes in.

Miller Place followed the touchdown by squandering several opportunities to score, like when on a bad snap, Babylon coughed up the ball and junior defensive lineman Joe Panico recovered the ball on the 31-yard line. Or on its’ next possession, when Miller Place was forced to punt and the Babylon punt returner called for a fair catch but bobbled the ball and the Panthers recovered on the Babylon 26-yard line.

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it. We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on.”

—Greg Murphy

“We left some plays on the field, so we’re going to learn from it,” Miller Place’s first-year head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’ll look at film and we’ll get better, and we’ll move on. Our backup quarterback was tested today, and Anthony [Seymour] stepped it up and he played well today.”

Babylon marched down the field on its next possession. And as the team continued to move the chains, timeout was called with five seconds left in the first half, with the ball at Miller Place’s 3-yard line. Looking to even the score, Babylon plowed up the middle on a handoff, but junior defensive end Alex Herbst plugged the hole to send Babylon into the halftime break scoreless.

As a result of a sustained drive six minutes into the third quarter, Babylon found the end zone on a 5-yard pass to even the score 7-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ammirato went coast to coast on a 75-yard kickoff return to put his team out front 13-7 with 6:05 left on the clock. The point-after attempt failed.

Although neither team scored for the remainder of the stanza, Babylon showed why it hasn’t lost a game this season, They marched down the field again to open the final quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run to give the team its first lead of the game, 14-13.

Miller Place found itself in a fourth-and-1 position, and went for it. To no surprise, Ammirato got the call, bounced outside and jetted into the end zone untouched. Although a 2-point conversion attempt failed, Miller Place was back in front, 19-14.

“[Tyler Ammirato] is a warrior — he’s the heart and soul of this team,” Murphy said. “This was a hard-hitting game, and we knew it would be. Babylon’s a good team with numerous Long Island championships — they’ve been there, they have the swag; so we knew we had to play a perfect game.”

“We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

—Tyler Ammirato

With 7:54 left in regulation Babylon grabbed a 36-yard screen pass for the score. With a successful 2-point conversion, Babylon retook the lead, 22-19.

Miller Place leaned on its premier running back, and Ammirato took the team to the Babylon 8-yard line on a handoff with just over four minutes left in the contest. Ammirato finished the job by punching into the end zone on a 3-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the afternoon. The team lined up for the two-point play, but were stopped again.The Panthers lead 25-22.

On the following possession, Babylon pounded the ball up the center of the field when the quarterback connected with his running back on a swing pass, and the receiver found an opening down the sideline following the 62-yard pass completion, and scored with three minutes left. With the extra-point kick, Babylon regained the advantage,29-25.

The clock was working against Miller Place, so when Seymour spotted senior wide receiver Kevin Gersbeck sprinting down the right sideline, he made sure to hit his mark. Seymour hit Gersbeck in stride, and the Panthers were in business at the 28-yard line with 1:16 left.

Four plays later, on fourth down with 40 seconds left in regulation, Seymour attempted to pass the ball over the middle to Cisneros, but Babylon’s defense broke up the play.

“They were a very tough team, but we knew that coming in,” Ammirato said. “We played well in key moments — we flustered a little bit [in others], but we’ll be back.”

Babylon took over on down, and took two knees to hold on and win the game.

“I think not being able to transition coming out of halftime ate up the majority of the clock, and that was a big difference,” Murphy said. “[Babylon] put one in coming out of the half, but our kids responded well. It was just a great high school football game.”

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Panthers pick off passes, make big offensive moves to annihilate Eagles, 53-14

By Bill Landon

The Panthers pounced early, and often.

On Saturday afternoon, the Miller Place football team outscored Rocky Point 53-14 in their homecoming game. After the pregame parade of floats, the marching band, fire trucks, cheerleaders and the crowning of the king & queen, the Panthers went to work.

Miller Place moved the chains four minutes in and appeared to stall on a 4th-and-19, but a call from the playbook was to go for it, and they did. Miller Place senior quarterback Stephen Farrell faked a handoff and rolled to his right, he was able to see a clear path to senior wide receiver Thomas Bell, who found the end zone for the score.

“We practice that play a lot and it was too far for a field goal, so we might as well take a shot with a play that we practice all week,” Farrell said. “And when it’s run the right way, it looks good.”

With the point after good, the Panthers took an early lead, 7-0.

Rocky Point fumbled the ball on its next possession, and Miller Place sophomore running back Tyler Ammirato, on a long run, put the Panthers in scoring position. Two plays later, Ammirato finished what he started by powering into the end zone for the Panthers second score. With the extra-point kick successful, the team took a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rocky Point fielded the ball on the 1-yard line, and stepped back into its own end zone and took a knee, downing the ball in the Eagles’ own end zone and handing the Panthers two points on a safety.

With 1:36 left in the opening quarter, Miller Place senior running back Kemonte Mosely made something out of nothing when he stalled up the middle and bounced outside, running eight yards to the end zone. With junior Eric Romero-Cisneros’ kick good, the Panthers took a 23-0 advantage into the second quarter.

“Coaches told us to come out here and play our hearts out,” Mosely said. “It’s homecoming, and the last time for our seniors to come out here and make it big. Rocky Point’s our neighbor — we knew it was going to be a big game for us, so we came out here and played hard.”

The Eagles found the end zone on the opening play of the second quarter when senior quarterback Harrison Lynch found sophomore running back Alec Rinaldi for the touchdown. Junior Sean McGovern split the uprights, and his team trailed, 23-7.

From there, it went from bad to worse for the Eagles, as the Panthers continued to light up the scoreboard. First, senior running back Matthew Bell, on a hand off, stepped outside and strolled into the end zone untouched. Rock Point was desperate to stop the bleeding and threw a long ball down the right sideline only to have it picked off by Miller Place senior defensive back and co-captain Mike Bodnar, who ran it back to the 16-yard line. With 8:55 left in the half, Farrell found Matthew Bell, who caught the ball and ran 21 yards for the score and 37-7 lead.

“Words can’t describe how bad we wanted it — we had the heart and the hustle,” Bell said. “We wanted it more and that’s what happened.”

The Eagles couldn’t get any traction, as Lynch searched for an open receiver and threw the ball down the right sidelines, only to have it picked off again, this time, by senior defensive back Kevin Kelleher.

The Panthers took over on the 34-yard line, but were unable to move the chains. With a cold breeze sweeping through, Romero-Cisneros knocked the ball between the posts with 16 seconds left on the clock. His 37-yard field goal helped his team surge ahead 40-7.

On the subsequent kickoff, the Eagles had time for one or two more plays. Desperate to put points on the board before the halftime break, Rocky Point made another long attempt, but Kelleher again saw the pass and snatched the ball out of the air for his second interception on the day.

Thomas Bell opened the second half for Miller Place with an 85-yard kickoff return to put the Panthers deep into Eagles territory. Mosely got the call, again, and delivered. Two plays later, he pushed his way into the end zone, and just 15 seconds into the third quarter, Miller Place head coach Ron Petrie began rotating his bench players with the 47-7 advantage.

“Defensively, we set a tone early; they had a couple of quick three and outs,” Petrie said. “With what we do offensively, we knew we would be able to find some mismatches in the passing game, and I think that’s what opened it up for us.”

In the closing quarter, Ammirato struck again for the Panthers’ final score of the day.

“It was a great win and I’m happy we won for our seniors today,” Ammirato said.

With the missed extra point, the Panthers were out in front, 53-7.

Rocky Point wasn’t out of gas just yet, and the Eagles managed one more score with nine minutes left when senior running back Brandon Combs found the end zone to help bring the final score to 53-14.

Bell said the win was very satisfying.

“They fought hard, we fought hard; it’s all the preparation from our coaches that got us to where we are now,” he said.

Farrell wasn’t surprised by the win, and was proud of his team’s efforts as the Panthers improve to 4-2 in Division III, while Rocky Point dropped to 2-4.

“It just shows how hard we worked and how bad we wanted this win,” Farrell said. “We wanted it for all the fans, and we wanted it for all of us.”

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