They’ve long played in the same division, but when the unbeaten Hampton Bays football team squared off against unbeaten Babylon on Saturday at Coach Walt Williams Field, the Baymen had to prove to themselves and the football community at large that they were in the same league.
For one week anyway, they were not.
Exhibiting a strong run-pass balance, the Panthers moved the ball at will all afternoon. They found the end zone on all four first-half possessions, flattening the Baymen, 37-8, in front of a raucous homecoming crowd.
“We played a very good football team, we wanted to see how we measured up and we didn’t measure up,” Hampton Bays head coach Mike Oestreicher said. “Babylon is significantly better than we are. We’ve got to get ourselves together for the playoffs and take another shot at them. They’re going to be the No. 1 seed [in Division IV], so if you’re going to win the county championship, you’re going to have to go through Babylon this year.”
Hampton Bays (5-1) had won their first five games by an average of 25.2 points, but their opponents during that span entered week six with a combined record of 4-21. Babylon (6-0) made it clear early that it had no plans of backing down against the Baymen, marching downfield on its opening drive and taking an 8-0 lead on a 1-yard plunge by Luke Zappia and a two-point conversion.
The visitors evened the score with a big play on the ensuing possession. On 3rd-down-and-9 from the Baymen 21-yard line, quarterback Justin Carbone rolled right, wheeled to his left and floated a screen pass to Tracey Kennedy. The senior bolted down the left sideline before finally being tripped up at the Babylon 1. On the next play, Taylor Catz plunged in for the touchdown at the 3:54 mark of the first quarter, and the Baymen matched Babylon’s conversion as Carbone tucked the ball in himself for the two points.
Hampton Bays had taken a punch early, but the Panthers were back in front in a matter of seconds. Eric Schweitzer hauled in a line-drive kickoff at the Babylon 20 and knifed through the middle of the Baymen special teams unit on his way to an 80-yard kickoff return, and with another conversion they led, 16-8. It marked the sixth-straight week that Babylon scored a special-teams touchdown.
“There were two things we couldn’t do and win this football game—we couldn’t give up quick scores and we couldn’t give up a special teams score,” Oestreicher said.
The Panthers didn’t let up. After Hampton Bays failed to move the sticks on its next possession, Schweitzer capped a 10-play Panther drive with a 10-yard touchdown run with 10:14 remaining in the first half. After another four-and-out by the Baymen, Babylon went on a seven-play, 63-yard drive that was polished off by a 10-yard score by Zappia.
“They were just much more physical than we were, period,” Oestreicher said. “We had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage all day on both sides of the ball. They didn’t to anything incredibly tricky—they ran it right at us and we couldn’t stop them, and we tried to run it at them and we couldn’t move them.”
Oestreicher was pleased with the way the reserves performed in the second half, forcing two turnovers on downs and the first Panther punt with four minutes left in the game. Behind junior quarterback Ryan Palazzolo, the Baymen strung together a few first downs late.
Per Oestreicher, there was one more positive.
“There aren’t any kids getting on that bus that are doubting who’s the better football team, and that’s a positive for us,” he said.