Nine returning starters with Section VI tournament experience — including state place finishers Marshall Taylor and Anthony Orefice — has the Lockport Lions as one of the Niagara Frontier League’s favorites in the upcoming 2013-14 season.
Head coach Joe Scapelliti’s team opens its league season at 5 p.m. today at Grand Island.
“The season will hopefully be a break-out one for us,” Scapelliti said. “We only graduated one starter from a last year’s team, which finished ranked ninth in Western New York.”
Coach Scapelliti said nine LHS returning starters have qualified for the Section VI championships at least once in their careers.
“This is the most talented and deepest team we’ve had in quite some time. That being said, the NFL looks to be as tough as ever,” Scapelliti said.
“Last year the league had five out of eight teams ranked in the top 10 in Western New York and boasted eight Section VI champions. This year shouldn’t be any different. Without a doubt, the NFL is the best league in Western New York and one of the overall toughest in the state.”
Leading the Lions this year is the all-star football lineman and noted state strongman senior Marshall Taylor at 220 pounds. Taylor is the defending VI champion, placing sixth at states a year ago.
Orefice (126), now a junior, is a three-time state representative and a two-time state place finisher. He enters the season with a colossal 159 career wins.
Among other top Lions wrestlers this season are senior Marcelus Hinton (285) and juniors Kirk Feeney (145) and Vince Eberhart (138).
Hinton has been a standout LHS football lineman for the past two seasons. He’s a two-time sectional place finisher and a Second Team All-NFL selection a year ago. Hinton enters the season with 48 career wins.
Feeney, a First Team NFL all-star last year, is a sectional finalist from a year ago. He has 73 career wins. Eberhart was a Class AA finalist last year and earned Second Team All-NFL honors. He has 78 career wins entering the season.
Scapelliti enters his 11th season coaching the LHS wrestling team. His career record is 104-52.
Last year, the mat Lions finished 6-1 in the NFL and were 15-3 overall. Lockport tied Lewiston-Porter for the league title.
Among the key players lost to graduation were state representative Jose Pagan, sectional finalist Brad Feeney, Josh Steinman and Seth Anderson.
“Lew-Port will be our stiffest competition this season. They returned pretty much their whole nucleus,” Scapelliti said.
“But you can’t look past teams like Kenmore West, Niagara Falls and Niagara-Wheatfield. We wrestled against Clarence last week — the defending No. 1 large school in Western New York — and we came up just a little short. We have to work hard and get over that hump.”
The Lions Boosters will host their annual tournament Jan. 10 and 11 at LHS.