A No. 1 seed, coming off a losing campaign, is heady stuff, but Bayport-Blue Point is realistic about its lofty preseason status.
"This is a test none of us has gone through,'' coach Eric Iberger said. "We're not a superstar team."
But the Phantoms return starters at 21 of 22 positions and that, plus a stunning upset of No. 2 Babylon in last year's playoffs, earned them the No. 1 spot.
"I love that there's some buzz at school," All-County TE/DE Gary Farley said. "I like having the target on our backs and being out front."
Added quarterback Corey Picone, who runs the potent wing-T, "We have a chance to take the division by the throat. We want to show last season wasn't a fluke."
Teams out to prove otherwise include perennial power Babylon, which had reached the county championship game for 13 consecutive years before being ousted by Bayport-Blue Point. The Panthers expect to return to their accustomed place, led by All-County players Stephen Loudon (WR/S) and Nick Brennan (OL/DL).
Glenn, which won 10 straight before losing in the county final, will be dangerous again. So will Mt. Sinai, with the return from injury of explosive running back Josh Morales.
BAYPORT-BLUE POINT (4-6)
Coach: Eric Iberger (sixth season)
Key players: Sr. QB/DB Corey Picone (5-10, 185); Sr. TE/DE Gary Farley (6-4, 205); Sr. RB/LB Jack Sheehan (5-9, 185); Sr. RB/LB Ryan McCoy (6-1, 190); Sr. SE/DB Ian Bateman (6-2, 185); Sr. OL/LB Joe Emmel (5-11, 195).
About the Phantoms: Rarely does a 4-6 team earn a No. 1 seed, but with starters returning at 21 of 22 positions and a playoff upset of No. 2 Babylon, that's the scenario. "It's awesome to have that recognition," said Sheehan, one of several two-way starters and along with Farley a returning All-County player. Picone, McCoy and Bateman are offensive weapons.
Coach: Rick Punzone (eighth season)
Key players: Sr. WR/S Stephen Loudon (6-3, 210); Sr. OL/DL Nick Brennan (5-9, 225); Sr. RB/LB Trevor Fudim (5-8, 170); Sr. OL/DL Brendan Cunningham (6-1, 240); Sr. WR/DB Connor Hunter (6-1, 170); Sr. WR/DB Andrew Hurst (5-10, 170).
About the Panthers: Loudon may force Babylon to pass more than usual. He's that good a receiver (19 catches, 240 yards, eight TDs). Brennan is the only returning starter on the offensive line, but Fudim (411 yards, 5.0 average) also returns from a unit that averaged more than 33 ppg. Brennan leads a typically hard-hitting defense that allowed only 10 ppg.
Coach: Dave Shanahan (16th season)
Key players: Sr. G/LB Joe Giaramita (6-5, 215); Sr. QB Ryan Rielly (6-0, 175); Sr. DB/G Bryan Shankman (6-2, 225); Sr. RB/S Joe Rizzuto (5-10, 175); Jr. WR/CB Nick Wagner (5-10, 175); Jr. TE/LB Rich Czeczotka (6-3, 215).
About the Knights: Rielly is a dual threat (606 yards rushing; 609 yards passing) and Rizzuto ran for 410 yards as Glenn averaged 31 ppg. The defense returns Giaramita (45 solo tackles) and Shankman (36 solo tackles, including two sacks). Wagner is an experienced receiver (12 catches). Czeczotka, a starting LB, can play tight end or quarterback.
MT. SINAI (6-4)
Coach: Vinnie Ammirato (12th season)
Key players: Sr. RB/S Josh Morales (5-11, 190); Sr. TE/DL R.J. Zbikowski (6-3, 245); Sr. OL/LB Frank Abbondanza (5-11, 215); Sr. OL/LB Connor Stroh (6-3, 225); Jr. QB Austin Kay (6-3, 185); Jr. WR/S Pat Hogan (6-2, 180).
About the Mustangs: The offense gets a big boost with the return of quick, strong Morales, a Division I prospect who broke his thumb in Game 3 and did not return. Abbondanza is a three-year starter who led the team with 74 tackles. Stroh and Zbikowski are also three-year starters. Kay's strong arm means Mt. Sinai may throw it more.
HAMPTON BAYS (7-2)
Coach: Michael Oestreicher (seventh season)
Key players: Sr. QB/DB Robbie King (5-8, 170); Sr. RB/LB Dylan Flynn (5-9, 185); Sr. C/LB Zach Catz (5-9, 175); Sr. OT/LB Igor Leite (6-0, 235); Sr. G/DT Sean Murphy (5-9, 185); Sr. WR/DE Timmy Wheeler (6-0, 205).
About the Baymen: They hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1984 and have high hopes again. King (872 yards passing, 233 rushing, three interceptions on defense) is one of the best athletes in Division IV. Leite (77 tackles, 16 for losses) anchors a defense that returns eight starters. Flynn rushed for 323 yards and made 39 tackles.
CENTER MORICHES (5-4)
Coach: Steve Failla (fourth season)
Key players: Sr. OL/DL Connor Murphy (6-3, 280); Sr. C Bobby Reeve (5-9, 205); Sr. OL/DL Billy Hotaling (6-4, 255); Sr. OL/DL Jamie Ferrante (6-0, 220); Jr. OL/DL Chris Niemynski (6-1, 200); Jr. WR/DB Myles Bell (6-0, 180).
About the Red Devils: Program is only in its fourth varsity season and is quite proud of its first playoff berth in 2009. Center Moriches expects to be back in the postseason with a veteran offensive line led by Murphy, a two-way force at 280 pounds. Bell caught seven touchdown passes as a sophomore. Must replace several key seniors.
PORT JEFFERSON (3-5)
Coach: Jim Mimnaugh (10th season)
Key players: Jr. QB/S Dan Serignese (6-1, 170); Jr. RB/S Zach Powell (5-8, 175); Sr. OL/DL Eli Cates (6-3. 260); Sr. OL/DL Alex Ruback (6-1, 200); Sr. OL/DL Chris Clark (5-10, 190); Jr. OL/DL Brett Ruggiero (5-10, 215).
About the Royals: Two-way linemen Cates (48 tackles), Ruback (67) and Clark (34) are among only six returning seniors that are backbone of a team hoping to return to its 2008 playoff status. Serignese threw seven touchdown passes and Powell ran for five scores. Defense allowed 24 ppg per game, so Mimnaugh is switching from a 4-3 to a 4-4.
Coach: Jack Martilotta (first season)
Key players: Jr. RB/DB Ryan Malone (5-11, 180); Sr. FB/LB Tyler McNeil (6-2, 220); Sr. QB/DB Mike Mangiamele (6-2, 170); Sr. WR/DB Tremain Hansen (6-4, 190); So. RB/LB Tom Filipkowski (5-10, 175); So. OL/DL Mark Proferes (6-1, 250).
About the Porters: New coach inherits a team that reached the playoffs in 2009 for the first time in a decade, but lost some experience and depth. Malone was All-County as a sophomore and leads the offense. McNeil, a bruising fullback made All-League. Mangiamele caught four TD passes and Hansen added three. Looking to sophs for some help.
Coach: Darren Phillips (seventh season)
Key players: Sr. RB/LB Patrick Tuths (6-0, 195); Sr. FB/LB Isaiah Thomas (6-0, 210); Jr. OL/DT Malcolm Williams (6-4, 265); Sr. RB/LB Onaja Brown (6-0, 195); Jr. QB/S Teague Florio (5-10, 170); Sr. OL/DT Robert Porco (6-3, 230).
About the Mariners: Tuths is a dangerous dual threat out of the spread, running for 594 yards and adding 168 on receptions. He also made 62 tackles. Thomas (420 yards rushing, 73 tackles) and Browning (298 yards, 39 tackles) are other two-way seniors. Junior quarterback Florio runs the spread. Coach Phillips is switching back to a 4-3 defense.
Coach: Fitz McKinnon (third season)
Key players: Sr. FB/LB Ricky Purnell (5-10, 185); So. OL/LB Kashawn Dockery (6-2, 215); So. WR/S Damon Daniels (5-10, 170); So. OL/DL Talaquan Maddox (5-10, 225); Sr. RB/LB Tayshawn Donaldson (5-9, 205); So. TE/LB Juan Serrano (5-9, 175).
About the Warriors: There's more of a commitment to the running game this season, with fullback Purnell and tailback Donaldson expected to get the bulk of the work. That's because the offensive line features some promising sophomores like Dockery, Maddox and Serrano. In fact, underclassmen are key. Defensively, the Warriors intend to use their quickness to attack and apply quarterback pressure.
STONY BROOK (1-7)
Coach: Kris Ryan (first season)
Key players: Sr. FB/LB Tank Ekokobe (5-9, 210); So. TB/LB Donnie Liotine (5-10, 170); So. QB/CB Marco Masakayan (5-8, 165); Jr. C/DE Chris Davis (6-1, 240); So. RB/CB Andrew White (5-10, 165); Sr. TE/DE Farqu Taylor (6-2, 210).
About the Bears: Ryan hopes his first season will produce some toughness and a physical presence, led by linebackers Ekokobe and Liotine. There are sophomores all around, including quarterback Masakayan and tailbacks Liotine and White, who will be featured in an option offense. Davis provides size up front on both sides of the ball.
Coach: Joe Read (fifth season)
Key players: Sr. WR/LB Henry Read (6-0, 190); Sr. OL/DL Anthony Bartonik (5-11, 195); Sr. C/LB Ryan Heimroth (5-10, 185); Sr. WR/S Tom Kretz (5-10, 185); Sr. OL/LB Robert Terry (6-0, 185); Sr. RB/LB Pat Stepnowski (6-1, 190).
About the Monarchs: After ending an 18-year drought by making the playoffs in 2008, Mercy took a step back by not winning a game last season. Experienced linemen Bartonik, Terry and Heimroth provide the basis for optimism that things will be different this season. Read is a three-year starter and the only player left from the playoff team.