The objective never changes for the West Islip football team.
“It’s great to make the playoffs, but that’s not our ultimate goal,” said senior tailback and linebacker Drew Cestaro. “We want to win it all.”
There are lofty expectations this season for the Lions as the No. 2 seed in Suffolk Division II behind Half Hollow Hills West.
“Being a two-seed is great for the entire community,” senior lineman Tim Mullane said. “It’s more of a good thing than a distraction for us, because we have really high goals.”
West Islip lost twice to Hills West last year, including the division semifinals. Then-sophomore quarterback Jake Guercio took over for injured QB Conor Smith and rushed for more than 200 yards in the defeat.
“[Jake] did a good job from the time he came in,” said Mullane, who had 38 tackles a year ago, including 13 stops for a loss and six sacks. “It was a tough, hard-fought loss.”
But a memorable time for younger players like Guercio.
“Getting to play in a playoff game was a great experience,” Guercio said. “We have a lot of returning players and we’re looking forward to a great season.”
West Islip has 47 varsity players, including 24 seniors led by Antonio Alicea (WR/DB), Dillon Carrino (TB/WR/DB), Pat Mulcahy (WR/DB), Joe Valentino (TE/DE), Rob Skibinsky (WR/DB), Cestaro and Mullane.
Lions head coach Tim Mileti believes Mullane could be one of the best lineman in Suffolk, and another in a line of top West Islip big men.
“Tim is a tremendous athlete,” said Mileti, who added that Mullane can throw a football 60 yards and bench press 285 pounds. “He could be one of the better kids to go through this program.”
Mileti hopes these Lions can capture their first division title since 1994, but knows that nothing is certain.
“Football is like life -- you have to go out and earn it,” the eighth-year coach said. “Being a two-seed is just a number, and that does not determine our season.”
A year ago, the Lions won six of their first seven games, before losing twice in the final three games to the Colts. But 2016 gives West Islip a clean slate and an opportunity to reach its first county final since back-to-back appearances in 2007 and 2008.
“We are always ready to play,” Guercio said. “If you give us a date and a time we’ll be there, and we’ll definitely be prepared.”
Mileti added: “Our goal is to get to the LIC, and that’s always been our goal.”
No changes there.