The Belleville East Lancers head into the Cahokia Boys Bowling Regional on Saturday at Redbird Lanes with one distinct advantage over the 10 other teams trying to chase down state-power O'Fallon.
In a season where O'Fallon went undefeated in the Southwestern Conference, it was the Lancers who twice gave the Panthers their biggest scare.
"Of the six games we bowled against them this season, I think we beat them four of those game. They just beat us in total pins so they won the matches,'' said Lancers coach Marcus Barriger. "They've got most of their bowlers back from last year and so do we. It just depends on what team shows up, bowls well and makes the proper adjustments.
"Our kids just need to take things as they come. We need to be patient and not try do things we're not capable of doing.''
The 2014 state series marks the first time regional events have been held.
Ranked among the top five teams in the state all season, O'Fallon will be the team to beat when first-round action begins at 9 a.m. at Redbird Lanes.
Host Cahokia and Columbia also could be in the hunt, while Althoff, Belleville West, Centralia, Freeburg, Mascoutah, Wesclin, Gibault and Waterloo also are in the field.
The top four teams and the top 10 individuals not on those teams will advance to the Mascoutah Sectional, which will be held Jan. 25 at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville.
Other regionals feeding into the Mascoutah Sectional are at Herrin, Collinsville and LaSalle-Peru. The 2014 IHSA boys state bowling tournament will be held Jan 31-Feb. 1 at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon.
Two-time all-state bowler Billy Goodman (216 average), along with freshman sensation Andrew Orf (226), lead the way for O'Fallon, which also has seven other individuals with averages of 230 or better.
While O'Fallon seems to have the best team in the Cahokia Regional, East could have the top individual in Thomas Peters.
Peters carries a 230 average and earlier this week bowled a perfect 300 game. Tyler Kuykendall (207) and Kyle Wells (206) also have enjoyed impressive seasons for the Lancers.
Columbia is led by one of the state's best in Cameron Touchette (215), while host Cahokia's top kegler is Kyle Brewer, who owns a 211 average.
Site: Camelot Bowl, Collinsville
Time: 9 a.m.
Local teams: Alton, Civic Memorial, Mater Dei, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Metro East Lutheran, Granite City, Highland, Lebanon, Roxana, Triad and Wood River.
Favorites to advance: Alton, Granite City, Collinsville and Highland.
Top local individuals: Brenden Boehnke, Collinsville (203 per game average), Eddie Fiudo, Collinsville (203), Nathan Lijewski, Granite City (205) and Zach Chapman, Highland, (216).