EMPIRE CHALLENGE | LONG ISLAND 34, NEW YORK CITY 27
Because of the weather, the postgame fireworks show was cancelled. That was O.K., though, because the fans had already seen a different sort of fireworks, before and during the 20th annual Empire Challenge football game.
At first, there was nature’s brand of fireworks that caused two lightning delays at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium. And then there were the fireworks created by the Long Island offense.
Long Island’s offense provided some bolts of energy itself, beating New York City, 34-27, on Tuesday night in the annual meeting of the top senior high school players in the area.
It was the fifth straight win by Long Island, which has a 12-6 record in the history of the game. (The first two contests were between Nassau and Suffolk counties.)
Shoreham-Wading River wide receiver Isreal Squires caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from John Daniggelis to help the Long Islanders out to a 34-14 lead with 5 minutes 45 seconds left. Squires, who will play football for St. Lawrence University (N.Y.), made two catches for 32 yards.
Long Island Class IV champion Shoreham was well-represented at the game. One of Squires’ Shoreham teammates, Dan Hughes, played free safety. Hughes will next play football for Bryant University (R.I.). Shoreham’s coach, Matt Millheiser, was on the Long Island coaching staff along with one of his assistant coaches, Hans Weiderkehr.
Riverhead’s Villanova University-bound Ethan Greenidge played left tackle for Long Island.
Much of the talk before the game, attended by 9,628 spectators, centered around a weather watch. With heavy humidity hanging in the air, it was uncomfortably warm, but that was the least of the organizers’ concerns. A storm, traveling at 40 miles per hour, was heading in Hofstra’s direction as game time approached. Fans in the stands were asked to relocate under the stands because lightning had been detected in the area and the players who had come out for pregame warmups were instructed to go back inside.
Several lightning strikes were seen. At 6:34 p.m., the game’s official scorer, Joe Giannotti, announced to the press that a 30-minute delay had been ordered for the game’s scheduled start. Shortly after, ominous grumbling thunder could be heard.
Finally, shortly before 7:30 p.m., a huge American flag was unfurled, covering almost the entire field for the singing of the national anthem by John Amirante.
The game started, but just five plays from scrimmage were run before lightning once again returned to the area. Only 3:19 into the game, play was halted. Fans headed back under the stands again and the players went indoors for a second lightning delay.
At 8:14 p.m., with a brilliant rainbow forming an arc east of the stadium, the New York City players trotted back onto the field to the applause of fans, followed by the Long Island team.
Long Island didn’t seem disturbed by the delays. Daniggelis, the Smithtown East quarterback who will play lacrosse for Yale, made his final high school football game a memorable one, throwing for one touchdown and running for another. He covered 121 yards on 7-of-17 passing and ran for 72 yards from 11 carries. For his efforts, he was presented with the game’s most valuable player award by Boomer Esiason, the chairman emeritus of the game.
Isiah White of Longwood ran for two Long Island touchdowns.
The player of the game honor went to New York City’s Chris Parker. The Poly Prep standout, who is headed to Rutgers, caught six passes for 119 yards and returned four kickoffs for 88 yards.
New York City was hurt by penalties, 12 of them that came at a cost of 83 yards.
In an oddity for an all-star game, three players were ejected, two from New York City.