Syosset believes it's ready to crash the Farmingdale-Freeport party atop parity-rich Conference I. The No. 2 seeded Braves will be seeking the program's first county title since 1974 behind Evan Kappatos, who became the first sophomore to win the Piner Award (given to the county's best linebacker) last year.
"There's always been a perennial top of the conference,'' said Syosset coach Paul Rorke. "And we've been scratching and clawing to get there and to stay there.''
Either Freeport - the two-time defending champion - or Farmingdale, has won nine of the last 11 county titles. Freeport is the No. 3 seed but returns some massive beef up front, including All County lineman Terrell Brown, while the top-seeded Dalers boast 34 seniors, led by linebacker Carl Brescia.
Oceanside should provide some offensive fireworks with quarterback Tyler Heuer and receiver Gene Garay, while East Meadow center Brandon Noblett is the largest (280 pounds) of a massive Jets team.
Massapequa, Baldwin and Uniondale round out the top 8 seeds, and MacArthur jumps up from Conference II and will be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Brescia may have summed up the conference best when he said: "There are no easy games.''
Coach: Buddy Krumenacker (18th season)
Key players: Sr. TE/LB Carl Brescia (6-1, 210); Sr. QB Sal Tuttle (6-1, 170); Sr. WR/DB Brian Prendergast (5-9, 165); Sr. OG/DT Brendan Tenny (5-11, 240); Sr. WR/DB Pat Starke (5-11, 170); Sr. RB/LB Kevin Wahl (5-10, 180).
About the Dalers: With 34 seniors and depth at every position, it's Long Island championship or bust at Farmingdale. The spread offense has dangerous weapons in Wahl and Prendergast, who can catch and run out of the backfield. Tuttle returns at quarterback, while Wahl and Brescia anchor the 4-3 defense at linebacker.
Coach: Paul Rorke (17th season)
Key players: Jr. OL/LB Evan Kappatos (6-1, 240); Sr. OG/NT Tom Koziatek (5-10, 240); Sr. C/DE Jake Lebowitz (6-2, 240); Sr. QB Alex Contino (6-0, 185); Jr. WR/DB Chris Park (6-0, 175); Sr. WR/DB Alirio DeMeireles (6-0, 175).
About the Braves: With only a 38-man roster, Rorke will rely heavily on Kappatos, the defending Piner Award winner (given to the county's best linebacker), and the rest of the beef up front. Contino returns as quarterback, and a year of experience should prove valuable this season in the spread offense.
Coach: Russ Cellan (25th season)
Key players: Sr. WR/LB Jeff Williams (6-2, 195); Sr. OL/DL Terrell Brown (6-2, 285); Sr. OL/DL Cephas Knighton-Ward (6-0, 265); Sr. RB/DL Dan Olivier (6-0, 220); Jr. QB/DB Isiaih Barnes (6-1, 190); Jr. WR/DB Jere Brown (5-9, 170).
About the Red Devils: The two-time defending county champs have an inexperienced but talented quarterback in Barnes, who has plenty of playmakers on the outside to work with. Brown and Knighton-Ward are monsters up front, and Olivier is a big enough back to break arm tackles.
Coach: Rob Blount (2nd season)
Key players: Sr. QB Tyler Heuer (6-2, 190); Sr. WR/CB Gene Garay (5-11, 160); Sr. RB/SS Nick Sherry (5-11, 190); Sr. LB/OL Brian Ellis (6-0, 205); Sr. FS Chris Flynn (5-11, 175); Sr. WR/SS Joe Swanson (6-0, 190).
About the Sailors: Putting up points should be no problem with a 1,500-yard passer in Heuer firing all over the field to Garay, Swanson and Chris Hughes. Defense is an issue because of a lack of size, but big-play safety Flynn could swing games with turnovers.
EAST MEADOW (7-2)
Coach: Vinny Mascia (13th season)
Key players: Sr. C/DE Brandon Noblett (6-2, 280); Sr. WB/SS Sean Hinchy (5-7, 170); Sr. FB/LB Jeff Zea (5-11, 215); Sr. WB/LB Shin Shun Kang (5-10, 205); Sr. WB/LB Chris Mastroianni (5-10, 180); Sr. TE/NG Will Kaywood (6-3, 280).
About the Jets: "Nothing new in 2010. Same old Jets..." according to Mascia. They'll look to control the clock with a vaunted ground game out of the flexbone. Hinchy leads that charge, as he can run, catch and tackle with the conference's best. He'll run behind a line that averages 260 pounds.
Coach: Pat Nolan (9th season)
Key players: Sr. WR/DB Steve Romano (6-1, 195); Jr. OL/DL Anthony Turano (6-2, 285); Sr. WR/DB Rob Chiocco (5-10, 180); Sr. OL/DL Kieran Mienza (6-1, 280); Sr. OL/LB Rich Staubitz (5-10, 190); Sr. WR/DB Ian Lukaszewicz (5-9, 165).
About the Chiefs: Romano headlines a strong group of receivers, who will all be utilized in the spread attack. The defense should produce plenty of interceptions, as the three top receivers also man the defensive backfield. Sophomore Vassili Grigorakos will get the carries on offense.
Coach: Stephen Carroll (24th season)
Key players: Sr. TE/DE Ieshawn Johnson (6-1, 210); Sr. RB/LB Chris Mertens (6-0, 190); Sr. OG/NG King Bulaan (5-10, 230); Sr. C/DT Mike DeVito (5-10, 200); Sr. RB/DB Aaron Greene (5-11, 185); Sr. OG/DT Dan Kastanis (5-11, 230).
About the Bruins: Everything about Baldwin is based on power - power running backs Mertens and Greene coming out of the power-I attack. And the defense is a powerful 5-2 designed to shut down the run. This team may not be the fastest, but they can hit.
Coach: Greg Didio (20th season)
Key players: Sr. OT/NG Jordan Dingle (6-9, 300); Sr. OG/DE Sean Brown (6-4, 280); Sr. TE/LB Darrell Fuller (6-0, 210); Sr, C/DE Harry Auguste (6-0, 210); Sr. FB/LB Khaliq Murray (6-0, 205); Sr. TB/CB Terrance Rodway (5-11, 185).
About the Knights: Look for Uniondale to spend a lot of time running the ball to the right behind Dingle and Brown. Rodway is a slasher type who can split out wide and also returns punts. William Stanback should also get plenty of touches out of the I-formation.
Coach: Bobby Fehrenbach (12th season)
Key players: Sr. RB/LB Tom Joyce (5-11, 190); Sr. RB/DB Nick Meadows (5-8, 170); Jr. RB/DB Brett Ellers (5-8, 160); Sr. C/DL Kevin Butler (6-0, 200); Sr. OL/DL Zach Trimboli (5-10, 270); Sr. QB Kevin Monahan (6-0, 180)
About the Generals: A move to Conference I would be daunting for any team, but MacArthur will be in the mix for a playoff spot behind a versatile backfield that includes three elite runners. Monahan makes the move from wide receiver to quarterback, where he could be spelled at times by sophomore Gerard Cunningham.
PLAINVIEW JFK (3-5)
Coach: Matt Gentile (11th season)
Key players: Sr. WB/LB Steven Vissachelli (5-9, 185); Sr. WB/CB Brandon Glass (5-7, 165); Sr. C/DT Ryan Harris (5-9, 250); Sr. OG/DE Emre Ozelkan (6-1, 245); Sr. TE/LB Gil Doremus (5-9, 180); Sr. FB/LB Alec Beckerman (5-10, 210).
About the Hawks: Vissachelli and Glass, who combined for over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2009, will run behind a veteran offensive line that includes four returning starters. Defensive consistency remains a problem, but eight starters come back to that group.
Coach: Craig Stueber (7th season)
Key players: Sr. QB/S Brandon Gamblin (5-10, 170); Sr. OG/DE Stephen Brumber (6-0, 225); Sr. FB/LB Antonio Wilsher (5-9, 220); Jr. RB/DB Chris Durham (6-0, 155); Sr. OL/LB Aaron Kuczek (5-9, 190); Jr. RB/LB Fritz Cherubin (5-10, 185).
About the Comets: Gamblin is not the biggest quarterback, but he can run and pass, and now with a year of service under his belt, he's become a senior leader. He'll need some help around him though, meaning Wilsher, Durham and Cherubin, a transfer, have to step up. Senior Joe Leonard will also help out in the backfield.
Coach: Antoine Moore (7th season)
Key players: Sr. RB/DB Rahmik Perry (5-10, 180); Jr. OL/DE Terry Pharr (6-1, 205); Sr. QB Elijah Rustin (6-1, 180); Jr. OL/DT Lester Samuels (6-2, 250); Sr. OL/DT William Dukes, IV (6-2, 250); Jr. QB Jahpel Page (5-7, 150).
About the Tigers: It was a hard tumble, with a winless season after two straight playoff appearances. Moore sees his squad getting at least one in the win column this year behind a strong running attack led by Perry out of the wishbone.
PORT WASHINGTON (2-6)
Coach: Joe Del Gais (2nd season)
Key players: Sr. OL/DL Mike Reali (6-3, 285); Jr. RB/LB Blaze Stoddard (6-0, 215); Sr. RB/LB Jason Guerwitz (6-0, 195); Jr. RB Shawn McCoy (5-5, 155); Jr. RB/LB Robert Krieger (6-3, 200); Jr. OL/DL Ben Dell (5-8, 200).
About the Vikings: Del Gais has a full stable of running backs to throw at opposing defenses out of the veer option system. Still a young team in the rebuilding process, Port Washington boasts a burner in McCoy, and a bruiser in Krieger.
Coach: Mike Yoo (2nd season)
Key players: Sr. FS Sam Baskharoun (5-11, 170); Sr. OL/DL John Nictas (6-0, 260); Sr. LB Tommy Graef (5-11, 180); Sr. QB Chris Gugliemi (6-5, 180); Sr. WR/DB John Martinez (5-10, 170).
About the Highlanders: Yoo says there is a buzz in the air about football for the first time in years at Herricks. They welcome in talented lineman Jimmy Sheridan and running back Jordan Brett from Jericho, which is not fielding a team this season.