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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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Mount Siani senior midfielder Chris Marrs squeezes between Miller Place senior midfielders Daniel Meneses and Carter Contreras to gain possession of the ball in the Panthers' 2-0 blanking of the Mustangs on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Miller Place boys’ soccer team had yet to allow an opponent to score at home all season, and continued that streak with a 2-0 blanking of Mount Sinai on Monday.

The victories were not only a result of the team’s strong defensive line, but also because of the efforts of senior forward John Murphy, who scored at least one goal in all three of the team’s home clean sheets.

Miller Place senior forward John Murphy dribbles the ball downfield in the Panthers' 2-0 win over Mount Sinai on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place senior forward John Murphy dribbles the ball downfield in the Panthers’ 2-0 win over Mount Sinai on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place started off with two quick opportunities at a goal, but one hit off of the far left post and the other went through the field goal post above the net, and Murphy saw two of his own opportunities thereafter that just went wide. Despite a 0-0 score at the end of the first half, the Panthers were still able to get the job done in the second.

“We saw the game out,” Miller Place first-year head coach Kenny Lake said. “One of the biggest things we’ve been focusing on is shutouts more than anything else, and making sure we’re not giving up any cheap goals. We’ve kind of eliminated that since the beginning of the season, so I thought they did a great job.”

With 26:04 left to play in the game, senior defender Alex Moschella dribbled the ball all the way down the right sideline from Miller Place to Mustangs territory, and crossed the ball in front of the net to Murphy, who knocked it in for the team’s first point on the board.

“It felt good,” Murphy said of the goal. “Especially when I got the ball and went down the line; beat out the whole defense.”

Less than two minutes later, Moschella did it again, but this time, the cross opportunity was initially missed. And although a shot on goal was made, it went off of the top crossbar. A rebound was attempted, and Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen was able to come up with the save, but couldn’t maintain possession of the ball. After it bounced out of his hands and rolled out in front, the Panthers found themselves with another opportunity at a goal, and Miller Place senior midfielder Daniel Meneses rocketed the ball just left of a diving Jensen.

Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen punts the ball into play in the Mustangs' 2-0 loss to Miller Place on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen punts the ball into play in the Mustangs’ 2-0 loss to Miller Place on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They played tough,” Mount Sinai head coach Dave Herrschaft said of his team. “Definitely, they had a great first half, and then let up two in the second half and it was tough for them to really bounce back after that. I think they played a solid game. Offensively, they’ve got to get a little more creative and start finishing.”

With the win, Miller Place improved to 5-2-1 in League VI, while Mount Sinai dropped to 1-6-1.

While Lake is in his first year with the program, his team is already on pace to surpass the feats the team has been able to achieve over the last few years.

“They were business from day one — I didn’t have to do a whole lot of changing,” Lake said of his initial encounters with the team. “They came in as disciplined soccer players and that’s something that has been a pleasure. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids — mature, well-mannered, hard-working; they’ve given me everything they have to give.”

Centereach goalkeeper Annalie Buscarino leaps up to make the save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

One goal was all the Centereach girls’ soccer team needed to seal the deal Tuesday as the Cougars snapped their five-game losing streak with a 1-0 nonleague win over Miller Place.

“We possessed pretty well,” said sophomore sweeper Amanda Fabris, who made many stops for Centereach and pushed the ball back into Miller Place’s zone. “I think we stayed together well as a pack and filled in the gaps when we needed to.”

After some back-and-forth action and some saved shots by Miller Place senior goalkeeper and co-captain Danielle Bambola, Centereach senior forward Ryan Schubert was able to sneak one by her off a penalty kick that just crossed the line into the front left corner of the net.

Miller Place's Olivia Angelo heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Olivia Angelo heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Momentum shifted the Cougars’ way after the goal, leading to more opportunities, but the team couldn’t capitalize, resulting in a 1-0 score after the first 40 minutes.

“In the first half, I obviously didn’t have as clean of a save as I should have, and it hurt us, but in the second half I wasn’t afraid of the adrenaline coming in,” Bambola said. “The first half we could’ve picked it up a little more, but in the second half we came out hard-working and determined. We might have lost, but it was a close game and we worked really hard.”

Both teams pressed the defense and had multiple shots on goal, but it was a goalkeeper battle between Bambola and junior co-captain Annalie Buscarino, who made diving and jumping saves to keep the score unchanged.

Miller Place's Abbey Curcio races Centereach's Karly Sauve for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Abbey Curcio races Centereach’s Karly Sauve for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we can finish a little bit better, but I we got a lot of good shots off,” Miller Place freshman forward Abbey Curcio said. “We just get unlucky sometimes. Eventually we’ll put them in the back of the net.”

As time ticked off the clock, the Panthers team grew stronger and hungrier, connecting passes and shooting on net, but was unable to get the equalizer.

“I thought, in the second half, we played extremely well and it gave us a lot of things to build on going forward,” Miller Place head coach Tom Veryzer said. “I think we’ve shown improvement every single day because of how hard this group has worked. Going forward, we would like to finish more of our opportunities, but we know that will come if we keep at it and keep a positive attitude.”

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Port Jefferson junior forward and co-captain Jillian Colucci shoots and scores through a crowd of Babylon defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

After dropping the first two non-league games of the season, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is back on track after topping Babylon Monday, 4-1, to continue a three-game League VII winning streak.

“Coming from being Class B and beating them in the Suffolk County Championship last year and now dropping down to Class C, it is definitely a big win for us today,” head coach Allyson Wolff said. “In the beginning of the season we played some tough opponents in Ward Melville and Center Moriches and we felt like the girls weren’t talking or communicating, so we worked on that and our passing in practice, keeping it simple and playing to feet — not just trying to kick the ball — so I feel we definitely stepped it up for this game.”

Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made several big saves to keep the score 0-0, and the Royals had some chances at a goal early on, but Babylon’s defense came up with the stops.

Although opening the second half still in a stalemate, the Royals were quick to make up for lost time after speaking with Wolff at halftime.

“At halftime I told them that they weren’t playing our game,” Wolff said. “Babylon was beating us to the ball and stepping in front of us, and I told them that if we were going to let them do this, then we’re not going to win. I told them that they have to want it and it has to come from their heart, and told them that the other team looked like it wanted it more than they did, and I think that got them angry and sparked something.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O'Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals' 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals’ 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Less than four minutes in, junior forward Jillian Colucci beat out the Babylon goalkeeper, who came out of the box to try and make a save, and shot the ball into the right side of an empty net off an assist from junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor, for the 1-0 lead.

“I knew I was going to get the pass, so I started running and felt the defense on my back, but I was able to touch it past the goalie and did whatever I could do to continue to touch it into the net,” she said.

At the 29:48 mark, after O’Connor sent the ball into play, Colucci attempted a goal through a swarm of defenders, and junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin put out her foot to stop the rebound and sent the ball into the right corner for a 2-0 advantage.

Off another assist from O’Connor, who crossed the ball into the box after a foul call, Colucci scored her second goal with a straight shot up the middle through traffic and past the keeper. She followed it up with her hat trick goal when, again, the Babylon goalkeeper came out of the box, leaving the net empty.

“The game was intense, and it always is against Babylon,” Colucci said. “Since we’re only playing them once this season we knew we had to step up and play them as hard as we could and keep our record strong against them.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon's zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon’s zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Scarda made a save, her last of 18 on the afternoon, exactly three minutes after the Royals’ final goal to preserve the clean sheet for the time being, but after a goalie change, senior Noelle Zimmermann gave up a goal with 5:07 left to play, to bring the final score to 4-1.

“We really, really earned it,” Scarda said of the win. “All the nerves that we had — being scared about the game, we took and converted into our skill and our playing. We got our heads in the zone every chance we got and we trained very, very hard leading up to this game.”

What helped the Royals was that the team was playing to feet instead of chasing the ball in the air like they did in the first half.

“We don’t have good control of it [in the air], and when they play things to feet it’s pretty, it’s beautiful and it makes things happen,” assistant coach Michele Aponte said. “They’re a stronger group of girls together, especially getting to the level they got to last year. They want it.”

Port Jefferson travels to McGann-Mercy Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. game. The Royals have topped the Monarchs all six times they faced their opponent in the last three seasons.

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Jacob Bloom chases after an opponent for Miller Place. File photo by Desirée Keegan

When Jacob Bloom was heading into middle school, he had to choose between the two sports he had dedicated most of his childhood to learning.

But, his father told him his future wouldn’t involve a baseball bat, but a lacrosse stick, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made, as the now former Miller Place defender will be playing for Marist College next year.

“It was more of a complete sport,” Bloom said. “The physicality and the emotion — I fell in love with the game right away.”

Bloom’s father, Mark, who was coaching him in both sports, said he saw potential in his son to excel in the sport at a young age.

“He positioned himself better as a lacrosse player than as a baseball player,” he said. “In his size, his structure and his footwork.”

Miller Place boys’ lacrosse head coach Keith Lizzi saw the same strong future in the budding defender, who was brought up to the varsity team as a ninth grader.

“Jacob is extremely mature,” said Lizzi, who first coached Bloom when he was on the middle school football team. “He was coachable at a young age — he was like a sponge — and he listened well. He understood that it was going to make him better if he listens.”

Bloom said it was a challenge being the low man on the totem pole, but the team was able to groom him at a young age, and the athlete said the experience was what he needed most.

Mark Bloom saw his son devote most months out of the year to continue progressing in the sport, playing 10 months out of the year, and Lizzi also saw his player’s development each season. As a result, Jacob Bloom’s role continued to become more important to the team, as he began covering opponent’s tougher players each season.

Miller Place's Jacob Bloom reaches out his stick to keep a Comsewogue player at bay in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Jacob Bloom reaches out his stick to keep a Comsewogue player at bay in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“He’s very tactical,” Lizzi said of Bloom. “When he’s playing defense, he’s always thinking about what he’s doing. He’s not going to super aggressive and be all over you, but he’s going to outthink you.”

The defender always had a plan, according to Lizzi, and was very organized and harped on the little things to make sure he was always at the top of his game.

“Being a smart kid, he was able to figure out people’s next move,” Lizzi said. “When you play defense, you have to react, and his mentality was, if he could figure out what the other kid was trying to do, he’d be in a good spot. He knew every year there was something different to improve upon. He made major strides every year as a result.”

Bloom also prides himself on this.

“Defense takes a lot of mental work and understanding what your opponent wants to do, and I’ve always prided myself on being a very smart player and having a good lacrosse IQ,” he said. “I watch plenty of film and I’m always studying the guys I’m covering.”

He improved in his stick skills, passing, catching, throwing, footwork and body positioning every season, which Lizzi said helped him stand out among other defenders who didn’t continue to work on the basics at the varsity level.

Bloom was also a leader on the team.

“He was so mature that it was like having another coach on the field, which helped us,” the coach said of his former co-captain. “He understood our game plans, our strategy and why we did what we did, so he was able to help some of the younger kids around him and from a leadership point of view, he was a great role model.”

Bloom’s contributions to the team, along with its strong offensive leaders, helped the Panthers earn a Suffolk County championship title in 2013, and reach the finals again in 2014, where the Panthers fell to Rocky Point, 6-4. This past season, the team fell in the second round of the playoffs to Eastport-South Manor, 12-7.

Bloom was named an All-County defenseman this season and also won the Panther Pride award, which is given to a player who exemplifies what a Miller Place athlete should be. He also earned the school’s defenseman of the year award and leadership award.

These qualities helped him earn the recognition of various colleges and universities. He ultimately chose to play at Marist, where he will be joining the Panther’s former co-captain and All-County defenseman Brett Osman and All-County and All-Division midfielder and co-captain Liam Walsh.

“I couldn’t be prouder for him to play Division I lacrosse,” Mark Bloom said. “Just to watch him grow and become a man and a leader on the field, I think that he’s only scratched the surface with his ability. I think he can go much, much further than even what he’s achieved and reached now.”

Jacob Bloom said he’s excited to play for a growing program and Marist’s head coach Keegan Wilkinson. He said he’s learned a lot along the way that he plans to take with him to the next level and said the camaraderie, fraternity and brotherhood created with some of the guys he’s known since third grade, and will be friends with for the rest of his life, has meant a lot to him.

“What I take from coach Lizzi would be to never be satisfied — you have to keep working and keep getting better,” he said. “No matter how good you think that you are, you can always be better. Working toward a common goal has taught me to work hard and I can achieve great things.”

Miller Place's Mike Bodnar maintains possession with a longstick midfielder pressuring to try and force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Panthers pounced early, and despite letting their advantage slip away, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team came away with a 7-4 win over Westhampton Beach Monday to improve to 11-2 in League III.

“Westhampton came here and they always play us tough,” Miller Place head coach Keith Lizzi said. “They come in, they run a tough defense and they had us thinking and trying to do different things every possession, but we were able to score in spurts and pull away at the end.”

Miller Place's Jake Buonaiuto makes his way past a swarm of Westhampton players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Jake Buonaiuto makes his way past a swarm of Westhampton players. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The first spurt came in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Miller Place senior midfielder and co-captain Brendan Callahan stuffed the ball in, less than a minute into the game, off an assist from senior midfielder and co-captain Thomas Liantonio. Just 30 seconds later, the team did it again. This time, sophomore midfielder Kevin Gersbeck scored off an assist from junior attack Chris Nielsen.

Next, it was senior attack and co-captain Jake Buonaiuto’s turn, when he scored unassisted for an early 3-0 lead.

Miller Place’s defense drove Westhampton to take difficult shots as the Panthers surrounded their opponents and forced turnovers, but with 5:56 left in the quarter, Westhampton put its first point on the board.

Liantonio scored a goal of his own next, after Buonaiuto picked up an offensive rebound and passed it out and across the field to the senior midfielder, who whipped it in for the 4-1 advantage to end the first 12 minutes of play.

“The quick goals were definitely a good momentum booster, but we didn’t really take it and run with it,” Liantonio said. “We stalled out.”

Forced turnovers and saves by Westhampton’s goalkeeper, who made 13 during the match, kept Miller Place scoreless in the second, while the Hurricanes tacked on one goal to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-2, heading into the halftime break.

“In the opening minutes we came out hot and then we kind of settled in,” Lizzi said. “Their defense settled in I think, too, and it was just trying to figure each other out offensively and defensively.”

Westhampton was able to get the ball rolling, and in the opening minutes of the third stanza, the team scored two quick goals to tie the game, 4-4.

Kevin Gersbeck pulls back to fire the ball across the field for Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kevin Gersbeck pulls back to fire the ball across the field for Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place won faceoffs and scooped up some ground balls, but bad passes that bounced out of bounds helped the Hurricanes regain possession.

“We got a little complacent,” Buonaiuto said. “We thought we could just score, score, score, but obviously, that didn’t happen. We just needed to relax, find and get back into our rhythm, and find our way, which we did.”

With 5:45 left in the third, Buonaiuto, from behind the cage, passed the ball to Gersbeck in front, whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper, but bounced back behind the net. Buonaiuto scooped it up and again passed it in front to Gersbeck, whose shot hit its mark this time, for a 5-4 advantage.

Miller Place made a few big saves to preserve the lead heading into the fourth, and the Panthers held the Hurricanes scoreless, while Buonaiuto and Liantonio connected for another goal. This time, Liantonio assisted after scooping up a ground ball in the Panthers’ zone and taking it all the way up the field before passing to Buonaiuto, who rocketed his shot into the back of the cage. With 2:51 left to play, Nielsen connected with Gersbeck for the final score of the game, and Gersbeck’s hat trick goal.

Junior goalkeeper Jake Bowrosen finished with seven saves, while classmate Joe Kessler made five.

“Defensively, we really had a good game I thought,” Lizzi said. “Both goalies played excellent and [senior] Christian Stalter played great at the faceoff ‘X.’”

With two regular-season matchups left before the playoffs, the Panthers will first travel to Harborfields Friday at 4:45 p.m. and follow by hosting Elwood-John Glenn on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 p.m. Miller Place is looking to take wins and momentum into the postseason.

“Our fundamentals weren’t there — passing and catching, we didn’t clear the ball well, didn’t catch, threw the ball out of bounds a lot and had a lot of turnovers today,” Liantonio said. “Every guy here brings something different to the team. We need to play a full game, cut down the turnovers and try to find a way to win.”

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Freshman midfielder Thomas Mark evades the Panthers. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite a 14-4 loss at the hands of Babylon on a rainy Tuesday, the Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team is looking on the bright side.

“I think a young team like this, not ever experiencing the competition at the varsity level, especially a team that is the reigning county champions, it’s an uphill battle every single time,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “It was quite a learning experience. They competed until the last whistle and that’s all I could ask of them.”

A young team, the Royals are looking to improve day by day, to prove that they can hang with — and one day rule over — the other varsity teams.

Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

To get to that level, junior attack and co-captain Taylor Chiarelli said the team has been doing a lot of running during practice, something the team likes to call “lacrosse country,” while also working on stick skills and ball movement to learn the basics.

“We just need more practice, more movement and more calling out,” he said after the loss. “We didn’t win the game, but it’s all right. We tried our hardest and that’s all that matters.”

Forstell said competitiveness is one thing his athletes don’t lack, adding that although the score of the game may not show it, his Royals never gave up on a play and pressured Babylon until the last whistle.

The Panthers started off with eight unanswered goals until Port Jefferson junior attack Marco Scarda received the ball off of a pass and, from about 20 yards out, sent a straight shot past the goalkeeper to put his team on the scoreboard.

Babylon scored once more in the first, three times in the second and once in the third to take a 13-1 advantage into the final quarter.

“I feel like we kind of lost the game before we got out here, mentally,” said junior goalkeeper and co-captain Connor Fitterer, who made six saves on the evening. “We knew they were going to be a tough team. There’s a lack of experience for a lot of these players. Some of them picked up the stick for the first time last year or this year, so it’s been difficult, but it’s been fun.”

The Royals had something to smile about when Scarda scored again with 10:44 remaining in the game, off a pass across the field that he whipped into the back of the cage.

Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Babylon scored again but Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara countered with a goal of his own.

With five seconds remaining, Port Jefferson freshman midfielder Thomas Mark passed the ball from the far left side to sophomore attack Brian Mark, his older brother, who was in front of the goal and managed to lob the ball in overhead to bring the final score to 14-4.

With the loss, Port Jefferson moves to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in League IV, having lost the first game of the season to Bellport, 16-3, but bouncing back with a 16-6 win over Southampton/Ross in its second matchup.

“We definitely could’ve pressured harder, we definitely could’ve been playing a little tougher against them — we didn’t come out with as much fire as they did — but next week’s a new week and we’ll see them again,” junior midfielder and co-captain Max Scandale said. “We just need a little bit of practice, a little bit of time and we’ll definitely get there.”

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Miller Place senior attack Jake Buonaiuto dives and whips the ball toward the net in the Suffolk County Class B finals against Rocky Point last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Coming off a 2012-13 season where the team made it to the Class B Long Island championship, and a 2013-14 season where the Panthers made it to the Suffolk County Class B finals, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team is looking to continue its string of successes.

“Last season was a good experience for us,” Miller Place head coach Keith Lizzi said. “We had a lot of eyes on us and had to deal with some different pressures that we never really had to deal with before, and going back to a championship game like we did showed the endurance of these kids.”

The boys went 11-3 in Division II and 13-6 overall, and despite graduating 14 seniors last year, Lizzi said this season he has one of his biggest rosters.

“We’re carrying 35 guys and we bring back a lot,” the coach said, despite losing two Division I defenseman who are both starting on their current college teams as freshmen. “I think our strength right now would probably have to be in our depth. We’re deeper than we’ve ever been.”

The Panthers’ head coach said that although his teams have gone on to do big things through out the last couple of years, there’s only been a few main players that highlight Miller Place’s team. This year, however, he said he can run six midfielders and feel confident in the team’s ability to get the job done. In addition, he can mix and match people in different positions.

Miller Place senior defenseman Jacob Bloom races behind a Comsewogue opponent in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place senior defenseman Jacob Bloom races behind a Comsewogue opponent in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

On offense, he will be looking to senior four-year varsity starter Jake Buonaiuto, an attack, who has also shined on the school’s football team, and Thomas Liantonio, a senior attack who is coming into his third year on the varsity team.

He’s also looking forward to returning senior midfielder Christian Stalter, an All-County player last year who handles the face-offs.

“I feel like all the guys are coming back hungry and ready to go to give it one final run at it,” Liantonio said. “The experience of these guys that have been on the team will help us as we work together to balance as a team.”

The team is looking to bounce back from last season, and work to enhance its defense to get back into top form.

“Last year’s Long Island championship loss does not define us as a team,” Buonaiuto said. “Defensively, we have a couple of other guys who are stepping into big roles who are very talented, and offensively, I think we’re going to be even better.”

Returning to the team on defense are seniors Jacob Bloom, Jeff Bloom and Brad Williamson.

Senior Joe Bartolotto, who is the cousin of Liantonio, is a transfer from Mattituck and a Cornell University-commit who will also be contributing on defense.

“We have a really high lacrosse IQ, guys know where to be and how to play,” Jacob Bloom said. “Me, Thomas Liantonio and Jake Buonaiuto have all been on the team since we were freshmen — we’ve been on the team in years where we just barely made the playoffs and years when we made it all the way to the Long Island championship, so we know what losing feels like, and we know, definitely, what winning feels like, so we can take that and harness it and push everyone in the right direction.”

That knowledge is something Lizzi said he wants his team to focus on as it moves into a League 3 schedule, which comes with some new stiff competition.

“We want to tap into our big-game experience,” he said. “We are in definitely in the most competitive league where there’s 15 teams that can all beat each other. It’s going to be a grind, but if we can harness that big-game mentality, take it day by day and one game at a time, then everything else will fall into place.”