From the first day of practice for the Empire Challenge All-Star football game, one player, Floyd quarterback A.J. Otranto, stood out on the Long Island team. Not for his command of the spread offense -- which is outstanding -- but for his commanding presence in and out of the huddle. "When A.J. opens his mouth, the kids fall in line," Long Island head coach Joe Martillotti (Lawrence) said. "Some years, there is a debate about who will be captain. This year, there was no debate."
Otranto was named offensive captain and starting quarterback for Tuesday night's game against the New York City all-stars at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 6:30 and the game will be broadcast live and in HD on MSG Varsity Channels 14 and 614. Proceeds benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation, the Gunnar Esiason Scholarship Fund at Hofstra and local youth football.
"These guys have so much talent and it's definitely an honor to be chosen captain and starter," Otranto said. "They brought out the best in me."
Otranto hopes to bring out the best in Long Island's spread offense, which features tailbacks Tyler Fredericks (Lawrence) and William Stanback (Uniondale), slot receivers Tom Kelleher (MacArthur) and Matt Starr (Sayville) and wide receivers James Higgins (Connetquot) and Tom Zenker (Chaminade). "We definitely have a lot of weapons on the field," Martillotti said.
With so many options on every play, Otranto said: "It's a field day for me. All the receivers have great hands and my backs are so versatile. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Offensive coordinator Rob Hoss (Sayville) said Otranto's strength is versatility. "He's an athletic quarterback who is a dual threat," said Hoss, like Martillotti, a spread devotee. "He's an accurate thrower and a dangerous runner. He can spread the field. He's perfect for this style of offense."
Otranto supplements his football skills with what Martillotti called, "natural leadership. Just listen. He's the most vocal kid out here."
Otranto, who guided Floyd to the last two Class I Long Island championships, knows what's at stake for the last high school football game for the players on both teams. "No team has won three in a row," Otranto said, well aware that Long Island has won the last two and leads the series 9-6. "It's not Floyd against Sachem North but it's Long Island vs. New York City and we definitely want to win."
Spoken like a true leader.