East Islip may be about more than bowling this season, but after losing coach Rick Papandrea to stomach cancer last month, it seems fitting that the boys want to honor him with the sport he loved the most.
"We got through Rick's funeral and they were a very determined team because they were bowling for something more than themselves," coach Bob Cheadle said.
Led by Jacob Klein, Jon Cheadle and Nick DeFazio, who have held captains practices since the beginning of the school year, East Islip knocked down 3,620 pins in the first match of the year. Klein, with a 237 average as of late last week, spearheads a mature, consistent team with depth.
Their biggest competition is defending champ Middle Country, which has two 300 games in the same match this season from standout Centereach juniors Mike Ruben and Andrew Rosenblatt. Sachem East, young but talented, returns one of the best bowlers in the county in freshman Nick Caruana.
Comsewogue is led by Mike Giudice and Nick Eckert, along with twin captains Noel and Dan Rivera. Smithtown will likely be near the top thanks to Frank and James Masone.
Islip (Mike Kovarick) and Central Islip (Matt DiGiantomasso) will be in the mix.
In Nassau, Hicksville, led by Robbie Culp, hopes to challenge defending champion Farmingdale, which returns postseason star Steve Hamlin. Nick Ng (Bethpage) and Brandon Soedarmasto (Levittown District) lend some star power.
Keep an eye out for Jeff Juarez and East Meadow. The junior, a two-time Nassau all-star, shot an 801 series on Dec. 18 and maintains one of the best averages in the county. He and Mike Siska could make this the Jets' year. Carle Place (Sean Doherty) and Plainview JFK (Aron Lampert) also have talent.
Thomas Rocco returns to defending Conference I champ Garden City, but the Trojans face pressure from Manhasset, which has an eye on the postseason behind seniors Al Shin and Kevin York. Hewlett's Adam Glickman and Island Trees' John Daly also should do well.
Sewanhaka District is led by Messiah West and Nicholas Genova. Plainedge is rebuilding but Nick Jorgensen is talented.
Defending CHSAA champ Chaminade is led by Connor Egan, senior captain Phil Loeschinger and Nick Niles. Don Crispyn helps lead a well-balanced Holy Trinity squad.
There's a good amount of parity after that, with Kellenberg (Jimmy Morris, Chris Johnson) and St. John the Baptist (Christopher Hall, Eric Haviland, Matt Simmonds) expected to do well.