GARRET MEADE PHOTO
Malcolm Cater of Riverhead made six and a half tackles, blocked an extra-point attempt, and earned the player of the game award.
HEMPSTEAD — Before moving on to play for Syracuse University, Malcolm Cater had one more high school football game to play in. One more chance to make an impression against some of the top high school players in the New York metropolitan area. One more chance to win another honor.
He did it all in impressive fashion.
Playing a position he had never played before, Cater was selected as the player of the game in the 15th annual Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge on Tuesday night. The Riverhead High School senior made six and a half tackles and blocked an extra-point attempt for Long Island in its 15-10 loss to New York City before 8,224 fans at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.
It was the third time in four years that New York City had won this annual game, and the second year in a row in which a Riverheader had a major impact on the game. Miguel Maysonet, who now plays for Stony Brook University, was the most valuable player of last year’s game.
This time, though, it was Cater standing on a stage afterward to receive his award alongside former NFL players Boomer Esiason, the game’s founder, and Marty Lyons.
“I was just telling my teammates I was going to give 110 percent,” Cater said. “All through camp I was talking a lot … so I had to really show my team what I was made of.”
Fittingly for a game in which defense was so prominent, another player from the defensive side of the ball received the game MVP award on Tuesday: New York City defensive tackle Jason Bromley. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Bromley, a senior from Flushing, had a tremendous game in his own right, making a game-high seven tackles (three for a loss of 21 yards), including two sacks.
New York City prevailed in an exciting finish. Long Island was leading by 10-9 when it picked up a couple of first downs deep in its own territory with time running down. Then disaster struck for the islanders. A bad snap from the shotgun formation sent quarterback John Kinder scrambling to retrieve the ball in the end zone. Kinder then whipped a desperate pass that Devante Wheeler picked off and took to the 1 before he was hauled down. Two plays later, quarterback Jordan Rodriguez dove in from a yard out, putting New York City ahead, 15-10, with 1 minute 41 seconds to go. An attempted two-point conversion pass by Rodriguez failed.
An extra point had separated the teams by halftime.
New York City struck first with a seven-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez on a quarterback draw 10:21 into the first quarter. Cater blocked Nick Fiorito’s extra-point attempt to keep the score 6-0.
The first quarter ended with Long Island driving to the New York City 3-yard line. It was on the first play of the second quarter when Davon Lawrence brushed off a couple of bodies on the left side and charged across the goal line. Jesse Signa’s kick made it 7-6.
Umbrellas started popping up in the stands as rain started falling early in the second quarter before picking up its intensity. Esiason was seen holding an umbrella for a sideline reporter during an interview.
In light of the game’s no-blitz rule, Cater started at right defensive end instead of his normal linebacker position, with the thought that it would make him a more effective pass rusher. “We needed guys who have a great motor, so he was the perfect fit,” said Joe Patrovich, Long Island’s defensive line coach.
But Cater, one of six Syracuse-bound players in the game, still wore his familiar No. 4 jersey and exhibited his active style. He made the tackle on the game’s first play from scrimmage and was involved in four tackles in the first half.
“Malcolm, he’s one of the top players,” said JeVahn Cruz, Cater’s cousin who played cornerback and safety for Long Island. “He plays with such energy. Malcolm’s got that motor so you know he’s going to make the plays happen.”
How did Cater like playing defensive end?
“Big, slow guys are there” on the line, Cater said. “If they keep a hand on you, then there’s a problem, but if you get past them, you’ll do a good job. I wasn’t worried because I got comfortable at the position, and I kept going hard.”
The wet, slippery conditions affected the game. On Long Island’s second possession of the third quarter, Kinder fumbled the ball and New York City’s Chris Brathwaite came up with it. That gave New York City the ball on Long Island’s 17. New York City had to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Fiorito, making it 9-7.
But New York City’s lead didn’t last long. A 56-yard return by Mike Gallo on the ensuing kickoff set up a 30-yard field goal by Signa to give Long Island a 10-9 edge with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
New York City set itself up for a good scoring opportunity with a 39-yard punt return by Dean Marlowe. The city team moved to the Long Island 23 before a Frank Laino pass was intercepted by Cruz at the Long Island 8 with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter.
Asked what he thought of the job Cater did, Patrovich replied: “Oh, ridiculous. He can play. He’s an athlete.” The Hauppauge coach added: “I wish I coached a busload of him. I wish I coached one of him.”