Syosset's reward for last year's magical journey -- in which it became the first school to win the Long Island Championship with four losses -- was the top seed in deep, competitive Conference I. "That's new territory for us," Braves coach Paul Rorke said.
Two keys to Syosset's first Long Island title are back -- quarterback Will Hogan (2,401 yards, 22 touchdowns) and receiver Mike Elardo (1,421 yards, 19 touchdowns, both L.I. records). "They've been working together the entire offseason and they'll pick up where they left off last year," Rorke said of the duo that hooked up for two game-winning TD passes in the playoff run.
But the Braves lost a third player who was a first-team All-Long Island choice, linebacker E.J. Aronson, who suffered a torn labrum in the Braves' final lacrosse game last spring, and is not likely to return for football season.
The Braves have to replace their entire offensive as well. "That's a challenge, especially in this conference," Rorke said.
There will be many challengers for the conference title. No. 2 East Meadow has an experienced offensive line led by Matt Mascia and a strong defense anchored by Mascia and outside linebacker Billy Piano.
No. 3 Massapequa has a senior core led by running back Chris Bacotti. No. 4 Farmingdale has depth, size and speed led by versatile Tom McPartland, a wide receiver/safety /kick returner, and dominant edge rusher Charlie Tomassetti. No. 5 Baldwin has several key linemen back from last year's 10-1 squad and No. 6 Freeport has depth and talent on both lines, led by Mike Garcia, plus its usual array of speedsters. "It's such a deep conference," Freeport coach Russ Cellan said. "It'll be a scramble. There will be no off weeks."
Rorke, whose team was a 3-seed last year, agreed. "No matter where you're seeded in this conference, you can win. It's Conference I football. There's a lot of parity. "
1. SYOSSET BRAVES
2014 record: 8-4
Coach: Paul Rorke, 22nd season
Will Hogan, QB, 6-2, 190, Sr.
Mike Elardo, WR/CB, 5-8, 160, Sr.
Pat Walsh, TE/DE, 6-4, 225, Sr.
Drew Rosen, OL/DL, 6-2, 270, Sr.
Christian Skorka, WR/S, 6-0, 170, Jr.
About the Braves: Combo of Hogan (2,401 yards passing, 22 TDs) and Elardo (L.I.-record 1,421 receiving yards, 19 TDs) could be even better, as Hogan wasn't even a starter until mid-season a year ago. Defending L.I. champs must rebuild their entire offensive line.
2. EAST MEADOW JETS
2014 record: 8-2
Coach: Vinny Mascia, 18th season
Matt Mascia, OT/NG, 6-3, 290, Sr.
Billy Piano, WB/LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.
Tom Provenzano, WB/S, 5-10, 155, Sr.
A.J. Jones, SE/DB, 6-2, 190, Sr.
Zach Fritz, TE/DE, 6-1, 240, Sr.
About the Jets: Mascia is a dominating two-way lineman, and a veteran offensive line is team's strength. Piano (35 tackles) and Provenzano (30 tackles) highlight a seasoned defense. Junior Anthony LaRosa, guides the offense.
3. MASSAPEQUA CHIEFS
2014 record: 5-5
Coach: Kevin Shippos, fifth season
Chris Bacotti, RB/DB, 5-8, 170, Sr.
Tommy Kempton, OL/LB, 6-1, 220, Sr.
Kyle Berna, OL/LB, 6-1 235, Sr.
Brad Baldinger, QB, 6-0, 6-0, 190, Sr.
Phil Tesoriero, WR/DB, 6-2, 185, Sr.
About the Chiefs: Bacotti is primary running threat and is part of a core group of seniors. Baldinger is looking for a breakout year throwing to Tesoriero and John Cardis. Kempton and Berna are big, tough linebackers.
4. FARMINGDALE DALERS
2014 record: 7-2
Coach: Buddy Krumenacker, 22nd season
Tom McPartland, WR/S, 5-11, 185, Sr.
Charlie Tomassetti, TE/DE, 6-3, 220, Sr.
Javier Hernandez, G/DT, 5-9, 290, Sr.
Christian Hernandez, RB/LB, 6-0, 185, Sr.
Ahmad Johnson, RB/LB, 6-0, 220
About the Dalers: McPartland is not only the top receiver but also an outstanding safety (38 tackles, three picks) and kick returner. Tomassetti made 42 tackles, including five sacks and leads an aggressive defense.
5. BALDWIN BRUINS
2014 record: 10-1
Coach: Stephen Carroll, 28th season
Jacorie Nosworthy, OL/DL, 5-11, 215, Sr.
Miguel McKenzie, OL/DL, 5-11, 250, Sr.
Jose Recinos, QB/S, 5-10, 165, Sr.
Matthew Henry, RB/DB, 5-9, 150, Sr.
Jonathan Dibique, LB/RB, 5-10, 190, Jr.
About the Bruins: Nosworthy and McKenzie bring strength and leadership to team that won its first 10 games last season as a No. 8 seed. Dibique scored six touchdowns and made 35 tackles. Henry (three TDs) will have a bigger role.
6. FREEPORT RED DEVILS
2014 record: 4-5
Coach: Russ Cellan, 30th season
Tyree Powell, TE/LB, 6-2, 220, Sr.
Mike Garcia, G/DT, 6-2, 265, Sr.
Rashad Tucker, QB/DB, 5-8, 155, Sr.
Tim Phillips, OL/DL, 6-0, 235, Sr.
Troy Phillips, OL/DL, 6-0, 255, Sr.
About the Red Devils: There is so much interior line depth that Powell moved from tackle to tight end. Garcia improved his strength. Troy Phillips (255 pounds) is no relation to the Phillps brothers, but joins them on huge offensive line. Tucker gets plenty of protection.
7. OCEANSIDE SAILORS
2014 record: 2-6
Coach: Rob Blount, seventh season
Vinny Guarino, QB, 6-0. 200, Sr.
James Paczkowski, WR/LB, 5-11, 180, Sr.
Nick Pizzarelli, LB/OL, 6-2, 225, Sr.
Mike Ambrosecchia, S/RB, 5-11, 180, Sr.
Aronis Espinal, TE/DL, 6-4, 220, Sr.
About the Sailors: Skill players lead the way, particularly Guarino (1,950 total yards, 12 total TDs), starting his third season. Paczkowski (20 catches, 252 yards) is the most experienced receiver, and he also made 55 tackles.
8. PLAINVIEW JFK HAWKS
2014 record: 4-5
Coach: Chris Rogler, fifth season
Nicco Mueller, RB/LB, 5-11, 195, Sr.
Kevin Pastier, QB/S, 5-11, 175, Sr.
Chris Montgomery, TE/LB, 6-4, 210, Sr.
Jason Napoli, OL/DL, 6-1, 200, Sr.
John Laiosa, OL/DL, 5-9, 200, Sr.
About the Hawks: Senior-laden team eyes repeat trip to playoffs, led by Mueller, a dangerous runner who scored six touchdowns but expects many more. He and Montgomery provide strength at linebacker. Napoli and Laiosa are veterans of the offensive line.
9. UNIONDALE KNIGHTS
2014 record: 4-4
Coach: Philip Coppola, first season
Dillano Binda, QB, 6-0, 180, Sr.
Magin Saravia, OL/DL, 5-11, 300, Jr.
Julian Desire, DE/TE, 6-3, 230, Sr.
Zach Knighton-Ward, LB/TE, 6-2, 210, Jr.
Justice Townsend, WR/DB, 6-4, 180, Sr.
About the Knights: Barely missed final playoff spot last year and new coaching staff is charged with taking next step. Binda will run spread offense as a first-year starter. Saravia will start both ways again. Desire was co-leader in tackles.
10. HICKSVILLE COMETS
2014 record: 3-5
Coach: Richard Carroll, third season
Brian Bell, RB/LB, 5-11, 235, Sr.
Sam Hincapie, RB/LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.
Joe Roach, TE/DE, 6-3, 230, Sr.
Connor Rielly, WR/DB, 5-9, 175, Sr.
Joe Neubauer, OL/LB, 5-10,. 195, Sr.
About the Comets: Their strongest position is linebacker where veterans Bell (47 tackles, five sacks), Hincapie (65 tackles, three interceptions) and Neubauer (25 tackles) shine. Hincapie is also the leading returning rusher with 400 yards.
11. HERRICKS HIGHLANDERS
2014 record: 3-5
Coach: Mike Yoo, seventh season
Alex Kang, G/DT, 6-4, 315, Sr.
Mike Saleme, WR/FS, 6-3, 175, Jr.
Chris Grau, QB, 5-11, 165, Sr.
David Aaronson, OT/DT, 6-4, 265, Sr.
Joe Carmody, RB/S, 5-8, 165, Jr.
About the Highlanders: Grau (610 yards passing, four TDs; 419 yards rushing, seven TDs) triggers their pistol offense. Defense has experience, led by three-year starter Kang up front and Saleme and Carmody (302 yards rushing) in secondary.
12. HEMPSTEAD TIGERS
2014 record: 0-8
Coach: Sylas Pratt, first season
Shawan Brown, OL, 6-2, 250, Sr.
Saybein Barron, QB, 6-2, 199, Jr.
Marlon Gregg, OL, 6-2, 250, Jr.
Jaylen Evans, RB, 6-0, 200, Jr.
Dashawn Meadors, RB, 6-3, 210, So.
About the Tigers: A new coaching staff has a huge chore after an 0-8 season. Brown is only senior who figures to start. Barron will run a pro-style offense, with Gregg providing the protection. Youngsters Evans and Meadors will get a chance to start in backfield.
13. VALLEY STREAM CENTRAL EAGLES
2014 record: 2-6
Coach: Bryan Goldman, second season
Thomas Logan, RB/LB, 5-10, 210
Anthony Thomas, RB/LB, 5-10, 190
Scheelner Beauval, WR/DB, 6-0, 180
Kristian Gabbidon, OL/DL, 6-0, 200, Sr.
Corey Saltzman, OL/DL, 6-2, 290, Sr.
About the Eagles: Senior-laden squad hopes to bring VSC its first winning season in 20 years. Potential for a punishing ground game behind Logan and Thomas. Gabbidon and Saltzman are experienced linemen.
14. PORT WASHINGTON VIKINGS
2014 record: 2-6
Coach: Jamal Ramsay, sixth season
Jacob Kaypour, QB, 5-10, 170, Jr.
Justin Ceename, OL/DL, 5-9, 205, Sr.
Aiden Finnerty, WR, 6-1, 180, Sr.
Cristian Camacho, RB, 5-11, 185, Sr.
Hayden Braider, WR, 6-2, 200, Sr.
About the Vikings: Ceename is an anchor on the line, but rest of defense will be filled by unproven players. Kaypour, Finnerty and Camacho provide experience and leadership on offense.