History of the Empire Challenge


The inaugural Long Island Heroes Bowl began in 1996 between Nassau and Suffolk. Since 1998, it has been known as the Empire Challenge played between Long Island and New York City. The game takes place at Hofstra University every year.

1996: SUFFOLK 27, NASSAU 18 | June 29,
(Credit: Newsday/John Keating)

1996: SUFFOLK 27, NASSAU 18 | June 29, 1996
MVPs: Vaughn Sanders, RB, Lawrence; Keith Morgan, FB, Lindenhurst
Morgan ran for two touchdowns as the Suffolk All-Stars won the inaugural Long Island Heroes Bowl, the predecessor to the Empire Challenge. The turning point came at the end of the first half when Suffolk stopped Nassau on two plays from inside the 3 to preserve a 20-6 lead. Sanders rushed for 184 yards on 19 carries, including TD runs of 70 and 48 yards, for Nassau.

1997: NASSAU 12, SUFFOLK 0 | July 3,
(Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

1997: NASSAU 12, SUFFOLK 0 | July 3, 1997
MVPs: Pat Rock, QB, Division; Opoku Johnson, RB, Bellport
Rock eluded an imposing Suffolk pass rush and threw TD passes of 35 and 44 yards to help Nassau avenge its 1996 defeat. Nassau defensive tackles Elliott Hulse and Ryan Fletcher (eight tackles, four for a loss, two sacks) stifled a Suffolk offense that boasted four running backs with a 102 TDs during the season. Johnson had 90 all-purpose yards.

1998: LONG ISLAND 28, NYC 14 | July
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

1998: LONG ISLAND 28, NYC 14 | July 3, 1998
MVPs: Derric Rossy, LB/TE, Patchogue-Medford; Cassel Smith, RB, Tottenville
Now called the Empire Challenge and featuring the top seniors from Long Island against the best from the five boroughs, NYC was shut down after an early lead. With Long Island leading 21-6 and 4:55 left in the third quarter, Rossy sealed the win when he scooped up a fumble and returned it 47 yards for a TD.


1999: NYC 13, LONG ISLAND 12 | July
(Credit: Joe Rogate)

1999: NYC 13, LONG ISLAND 12 | July 3, 1999
MVPs: Clifton Smith, LB, Freeport; Leon Clarke, RB, Canarsie
Xaverian's Nicky DeSilvio drilled a 28-yard field goal with 15 seconds to cap a dramatic rally from a late deficit. DeSilvio had booted a 23-yard field goal to give his team a 10-6 lead with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, but Sewanhaka's Jeremiah Pope returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD and 12-10 lead. NYC drove 90 yards in the fourth quarter - keyed by a 43-yard reception from Curtis Guilliam - to set up the winning FG.

2000: LONG ISLAND 23, NYC 18 | June
(Credit: Joe Rogate)

2000: LONG ISLAND 23, NYC 18 | June 30, 2000
MVPs: Douglas Goodwin, DE, Holy Trinity; Russell Jessamy, RB, Canarsie
Goodwin blocked two field goals, partially deflected a punt and recorded six tackles and a sack. Baldwin quarterback Matt Shiels connected with Garden City's Dan Doherty on a 35-yard TD pass in the third quarter, giving LI a 23-12 advantage. The City closed within five points, but their desperation pass failed as time expired.

2001: NYC 17, LONG ISLAND 10 | July
(Credit: Richard Slattery)

2001: NYC 17, LONG ISLAND 10 | July 1, 2001
MVPs: James Wyche, DE, Roosevelt; Christopher Legree, QB, Poly Prep
The City overcame a 10-0 deficit and an outstanding game from Roosevelt's Wyche (9 tackles, 3 for a loss, 3 sacks). Stephen Gregory of Curtis returned a kickoff 105 yards to spark the City. Victor Parsley of Holy Cross intercepted a pass with 57 seconds left to preserve the victory. The win evened the all-time series at 2-2.

2002: LONG ISLAND 21, NYC 14 | July
(Credit: Newsday/Jim Peppler )

2002: LONG ISLAND 21, NYC 14 | July 3, 2002
MVPs: Jeff Dena, CB, Commack; Chris Zambrano, DE, St. Francis Prep
Commack's Jeff Dena stepped in front of a pass intended for Akeen Watson in the flat and returned a third-quarter interception 69 yards to break a 14-14 tie and give Long Island the margin of victory. South Side's Bryant Daniels had 116 yards and a TD on 18 carries for Long Island.

2003: LONG ISLAND 7, NYC 6 | July
(Credit: Paul J. Bereswill)

2003: LONG ISLAND 7, NYC 6 | July 3, 2003
MVPs: Trevon Rodney, LB, Babylon; Louis Jones, DT, South Shore
North Babylon QB Frank Wolfe scored on a 20-yard run with 6:51 left as Long Island pulled out the win. Linebacker Gian Villante of MacArthur made a goal-line stop on the final play of the first half. Rodney made eight tackles and assisted on three others. Jones blocked a punt and had seven tackles and two sacks.


2004: NYC 10, LONG ISLAND 7 (OT) |
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

2004: NYC 10, LONG ISLAND 7 (OT) | July 1, 2004
MVPs: Will Barrow, All-Purpose, Baldwin; Naheem Harris, DL, Poly Prep
Victor D'Arrigo of Port Richmond kicked a 21-yard field goal in overtime. It was the third win for NYC and the sixth straight game decided by seven points or less. Long Island had a chance to tie it, but a botched snap and hold prevented Lindenhurst's Chris Lynch from attempting a 38-yard field goal. Barrow caught six passes for 108 yards and had 144 all-purpose yards.

2005: LONG ISLAND 44, NYC 7 | June
(Credit: Paul J. Bereswill)

2005: LONG ISLAND 44, NYC 7 | June 30, 2005
MVPs: Anthony Muscarella, WR, Wantagh; James Romain, WR, Far Rockaway
Long Island exploded for 31 first-half points en route to the most lopsided game in its 10-year history. West Babylon QB Kevin Hennessy gained 130 all-purpose yards in directing LI's high-octane offense. Muscarella had five catches for 106 yards and a TD.

2006: LONG ISLAND 20, NYC 19 | June
(Credit: by Paul J. Bereswill)

2006: LONG ISLAND 20, NYC 19 | June 29, 2006
MVPs: Jerry Edwards, WR, Roosevelt; Andre Smith, RB, New Dorp
Edwards caught a 9-yard TD pass and set up another score with a 37-yard catch to help Long Island grab a 20-6 lead. Holy Cross QB Erik Anderwkavich threw an 18-yard TD pass to South Shore's Daryle Bell to cut the lead to 20-13 with 4:26 to play. Then, the City's Andre Smith scored on a 4-yard run, but missed the extra point to leave Long Island in the lead. NYC recovered the onside kick with 26 seconds left but stalled.

2007: NYC 35, LONG ISLAND 27 | June
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

2007: NYC 35, LONG ISLAND 27 | June 29, 2007
MVPs: William Porter, RB, Freeport; Antonio Walcott, RB, Fort Hamilton
The City scored twice in the final eight minutes in the highest-scoring Empire Challenge yet. Walcott ran for 175 yards and two TDs. Freeport RB Will Porter finished with 77 yards on 11 carries, Bellport's Edwin Gowins scored a pair of first-half TDs and Roosevelt's Mike Mayo had 78 yards on 13 carries and a score.

2008: NYC 21, LONG ISLAND 20 | June
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

2008: NYC 21, LONG ISLAND 20 | June 24, 2008
MVPs: Joe Sidaris, QB, Floyd; Jeffrey Legree, QB, Fort Hamilton
Trailing by six, the City converted a 4th-and-20 from its own 23 thanks to a 57-yard pass by Ford Hamilton's Jeffrey Legree to Shaahiyn Alston. That set up Legree's winning TD pass to Stephan Benjamin. Sidaris went 7-for-11 for 80 yards and two TDs.


2009: LONG ISLAND 31, NYC 14 | June
(Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

2009: LONG ISLAND 31, NYC 14 | June 23, 2009
MVPs: Miguel Maysonet, RB, Riverhead; Tristan Akong, RB, St. Francis Prep
On the second play from scrimmage, Friends Academy QB Gunnar Esiason — son of former Jets QB Boomer Esiason, the organizer of the Empire Challenge, which raises funds to help fight cystic fibrosis -- handed off to Roosevelt's Terrell Williams and watched the Thorp Award winner race 87 yards for a TD. Maysonet had 116 yards on 17 carries and two TDs.

2010: NYC 15, LONG ISLAND 10 | June
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

2010: NYC 15, LONG ISLAND 10 | June 22, 2010
MVPs: Malcolm Cater, LB/DE, Riverhead; Jason Bromley, DL, Flushing
With LI trying to run out the clock, a high snap forced John Kinder to retreat into his own end zone. Trying to avoid a safety, the Lawrence quarterback flung a sidearm desperation pass that was picked off by Poly Prep's Devante Wheeler. Two plays later, NYC's Jordan Rodriguez sneaked in for the winning TD. Cater finished with 7 tackles and a blocked field goal.

2011: LONG ISLAND 17, NYC 14 | June
(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

2011: LONG ISLAND 17, NYC 14 | June 21, 2011 MVPs: Mike Kozlakowski, LB, Lynbrook; QB Jordan Paul
Tyler Heuer's TD run with 3:30 left put Long Island in the driver's seat. However, NYC responded with a long kickoff return, and after a Jordan Paul-to-Jhaleel Oswald completion, was at the Long Island 38-yard line. Kozlakowski recorded his second sack of the game, a 9-yard loss, to halt NYC's momentum.

2012: LONG ISLAND 31, NYC 7 | June
(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

2012: LONG ISLAND 31, NYC 7 | June 19, 2012
MVP: Stacey Bedell, RB, Floyd
Bedell ran for 137 yards and three TDs as Long Island took a 31-0 lead into the closing minutes. Alvin Cornelius caught an 18-yard TD pass with 3:04 left for New York City's only score. Sayville QB Steven Ferreira was 8-for-11 for 132 yards and two TDs.

JUNE 18, 2013: LONG ISLAND 40, NYC 8
Buy photo
(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

JUNE 18, 2013: LONG ISLAND 40, NYC 8
MVP: William Stanback, Uniondale
Uniondale's William Stanback ran for 138 yards on 12 carries and set the Empire Challenge record with four total touchdowns as Long Island beat New York City for the third straight year.

(Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

MVPs: Ben Kocis, QB, Huntington
Huntington's Ben Kocis directed a 95-yard drive in the second quarter that he capped with a 5-yard scoring run and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in Long Island's 24-18 victory over New York City in the 19th Empire Challenge in June 25, 2014.

(Credit: James Escher)


MVP: John Daniggelis, QB, Smithtown East

Daniggelis ran for 66 yards and one touchdown, threw for 121 yards and another score and was voted MVP as he led Long Island to a 34-27 victory over New York City in the 20th Empire Challenge played before a crowd of 9,628 at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

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