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East Islip: Power hitters

Mike Higgins finds a hole during summer practice.

Mike Higgins finds a hole during summer practice. Credit: Newsday / Bob Herzog

Its most famous alumnus has the perfect first name for the school’s football program: Boomer.

Even though Boomer Esiason was a slick, strong-armed quarterback for the Redmen in the late 1970s who went on to a distinguished NFL career, East Islip is better known for lowering the boom on defense.

That was the case last season when East Islip allowed a Suffolk-low 89 points in going 9-2. Expect more of the same for the No. 2 seed in rugged Division II. “We’ll mostly be a running team with a strong defense, just like last year,” said fullback/linebacker Mike Higgins (#44 above). “We lost a really close game [to North Babylon] in the county final. Any goal is realistic this year. I don’t think there’s an unbeatable team in this league.”

There are several teams, however, who are unwavering in their belief that straight ahead is the only direction to travel — on both sides of the ball. “Teams like us, North Babylon, Bellport and Riverhead are all right in your face. Show us what you’ve got,” Higgins said. “Those are hard-hitting games. And that’s our style.”

Added running back Frank Artura, who ran for more than 1,200 yards in 2009, “It comes down to teams that pound the ball. We have an attitude to play as hard as we can all the time. I like to play physical football. The Final Four [in Division II] every year are those smash-mouth teams.”

The wrinkle this year is that defending Class III Long Island champion Half Hollow Hills West with its explosive spread offense and versatile Comsewogue moved up to Division II. “There will be different styles each week,” Higgins said. “That makes it interesting.”

According to coach Sal J. Ciampi, things are always interesting in D-II. “Year in and year out, it’s the best division in Suffolk. There aren’t four traditional powers like we have in any other division,” he said, referring to top-seeded North Babylon (defending county champion) Bellport (coached by Joe Cipp, the second winningest coach in county history) and Riverhead (the 2008 Rutgers Trophy winner as the best team in Suffolk).

“We’ve got four good, traditional teams who still line up, try to beat you up and run the ball,” Ciampi said.

Plenty of boom, not very much zoom.

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