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Week 1 football preview: St. Anthony's opens in grand fashion

St. Anthony's High School quarterback Greg Galligan rolls

St. Anthony's High School quarterback Greg Galligan rolls to his left on a keeper in the first quarter of a NYCHSFL varsity football Class AAA first round playoff game against Mount St. Michael. (Nov. 5, 2011) Credit: James Escher

Two of the top-ranked football teams in the tri-state area open the season in grand fashion Friday night in South Huntington. High School fans are in for a treat when MSG Varsity's No. 2 ranked Bergen Catholic travels from Oradell, N.J. for a showdown with No. 5 St. Anthony's for a game that will be broadcast live on Cablevision's Channel 14 as Friday Night Football returns to MSG Varsity at 7 p.m.

St. Anthony's, the defending CHSFL champion, puts a 29-game winning streak -- Long Island's longest active streak -- on the line.

"We like to open up against opponents that are only going to make us a better team as the season moves on," said St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert, who is in his 29th season. "It's exciting for the players and it's exciting for the coaches. This is a tremendous challenge."

Among the story lines will be Reichert's quest to become the all-time winningest coach in Suffolk football history. He is currently tied with Bellport's Joe Cipp Jr. at 211. For the Friars to win, they'll need to score with the Bergen Catholic offense. That responsibility lies with veteran quarterback Greg Galligan, who engineered the title run a year ago, and a backfield tandem of Anthony Leggio and Anthony Andersen.

Newfield at Smithtown West, Friday, 6 p.m.: The defending Class II champion Wolverines go on the road to play the eighth seed at Smithtown West, which has an outstanding quarterback in Matt Heldberg. Expect a rugged defensive struggle.

Floral Park at Manhasset, Friday, 6 p.m.: There are high expectations for Chuck Collyer's fourth-seeded Floral Park Knights. Keys to the game are Manhasset quarterback Kevin Overlander and Floral Park's exciting halfback, Ronnell Jones.

West Islip at Whitman, Saturday, 2 p.m.: Fourth-seeded West Islip moves down into Suffolk II and has the experience behind halfback Nick Aponte to win a title. Third-year coach Robin Rosa feels his team is ready to make a playoff run -- a very tough season opener for these teams.

Farmingdale at Syosset, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: Both teams are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2011. Farmingdale is back and loaded after missing the Nassau I playoffs in 2011 -- a rarity. The return of 22 seniors and a huge line will put the Dalers in the title hunt.

West Babylon at Riverhead, Saturday, 2 p.m.: Electric quarterback Clifton Melhado is healthy and that's good news for West Babylon. The bad news -- they open against Suffolk II's top-rated quarterback in four-year starter Ryan Bitzer. They'll air it out in Riverhead.

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