Preshod McCoy goes all out during wind sprints at the...

Preshod McCoy goes all out during wind sprints at the end of practice. Credit: Newsday / Bob Herzog

Step back in time to when the North Babylon running game ruled high school football. There was nothing fancy about it. An army of blockers, a powerful halfback and the relentless drive to grind out win after win.

North Babylon head coach Terry Manning never strayed from the winning formula, which was a run-at-all costs, philosophy. From 1995 to 2004, the Bulldogs lost a total of 11 games. That's a lot of running and a ton of winning.

The muscle is honed on a dominant line. The skill positions are loaded with speed. And the swagger is certainly back at North Babylon. In an era where the spread formation is in vogue, the Bulldogs can be considered the anti-spread.

And Manning is no apologist. His style hasn't changed in 20 years. Call his wishbone, double-wing offensive sets what you will. Some find it boring to watch the same running plays over and over. But that's the key to the madness.

The Bulldogs want to wear down opponents, break them, if you will. Manning once said, 'How many times is the kid on defense getting back in the hole to face the blocking schemes and the numbers of blockers we're throwing at him? Especially, when he knows, play after play, 'here they come again'.

Some find the North Babylon offense tantalizing. It's a rugged style, not for the squeamish. There's a pounding going on inside the tackles on every play. Only tough players need apply.

And Manning laughs when someone suggests adding a passing element to his repertoire. "What's that?," he says.

So while the spread units entertain crowds from perennial title contenders in Freeport, Floyd and Sayville, Manning continues to run his two-a-day practices in preparation for another season that could be dubbed the meat grinder. To him, there's nothing sexy about the way they win - just that they win.

"It's about W's," he said. "And that's all it's about."

North Babylon won 11 games in a row last year, including a 17-10 win over East Islip, to capture the Suffolk Division II title. It was Manning's eighth divisional crown since 1995.

The Bulldogs came up short in the Class II title when a classic Garden City defense refused to yield, and the undersized Trojans came away with a 9-6 win. The loss doesn't change a thing at North Babylon. It only fuels the rage inside the tackles this year.

While North Babylon and Garden City figure to go through the motions of a regular season that sees them as prohibitive favorites to return to the LIC, there are other interesting story lines.

Can Seaford, our top team in the Small Schools poll, continue to run roughshod over Nassau Conference IV? The Vikings have 32 consecutive wins in the 516. Does that streak end or do the Vikings return to defend their LIC crown? I think they make Long Island history and become the first team to go 12-0 in successive seasons.

Of course, you can never count out Garden City. They could also finish 12-0, but heavy graduation and a North Babylon team seeking to avenge last year's LIC disappointment, may be too much for the Trojans.

We may see a first in 2010. The Sachem district has never won a Long Island football championship. The Flaming Arrows of Sachem North won 10 in a row last year and were denied an LIC appearance when the season was derailed in a 27-6 loss to Floyd in the Suffolk Division I final.

Sachem North is absolutely loaded with talent. If there was ever a year for the Arrows, this is it. They have experience at every position, including one of Long Island's best linebackers in senior tough guy Jesse Scanna.

If Sachem North, ranked eighth in the MSGVarsity tri-state top 25 poll, can get out of Suffolk they should meet Nassau Conference I defending champion, Freeport, or top-seeded Farmingdale, both ready to represent the 516.

The first whistle opens the season on Monday. There are no guarantees.