L.I. team to use pass-oriented spread in Empire Challenge

Team Long Island quarterback Steven Ferreira (Sayville) sets Team Long Island quarterback Steven Ferreira (Sayville) sets up his pass during an Empire Challenge football practice at Shuart Stadium. (June 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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That's quite a spread the Long Island team is putting on. And we're not talking about the pregame BBQ tailgate party, which also is pretty impressive.

"I've never played on a team like this," said Michael Richardson (West Babylon), one of four starting wide receivers whom starting quarterback Steven Ferreira (Sayville) will choose from in Tuesday night's Empire Challenge against the New York City all-stars at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium beginning at 7:30.

The L.I. team, which has won eight of the previous 14 games against the City in the annual game that benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation and its cystic fibrosis research, will employ the pass-oriented spread formation that coach Rob Hoss (Sayville) used so successfully in a 12-0 season, capped by the Golden Flashes' 78-61 win over Lawrence -- the highest-scoring varsity football game ever played on Long Island -- in the 2011 L.I. Class III championship game.

"I always got double-teamed, but you can't do that with this group. All of us can take it to the house," said Richardson, who will be joined on the outside by Alex Rawa (Locust Valley) with Tom Hannan (Sayville) and Jere Brown (Freeport) in the slot. "I think that gives us an advantage."

The New York City team features a touted secondary, led by Syracuse-bound Wayne Morgan of Erasmus Hall, who runs a 4.35 40. Najae Brown and Bruce Parker of Mt. St. Michael also will try to contain the L.I. receiving corps and Massachusetts-bound 300- pound defensive tackle Robert Kitching of PSAL champion Lincoln is a major run-stopper.

Kitching could be faced with trying to slow down another player headed to UMass, running back Stacey Bedell (Floyd). While Long Island's spread emphasizes the passing game, the wide-open offense creates running lanes that could allow Bedell to display his elusiveness and speed. "If we get Stacey in open space, just a little crease, he'll be dangerous," Hoss said.

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Bedell likes the offensive balance. "Our offensive line is looking good and all of us want to make big plays," he said. "The wide receivers will take the pressure off the running backs and the running backs will take the pressure off the wide receivers."

All of those skill players give Ferreira plenty of options. "Everywhere I look on offense, I have confidence in the guys," said Long Island's all-time leader in yards passing and touchdowns. "I can't wait to throw to these guys. It's been a lot of fun getting to meet all these guys that I had read about."

Ferreira also has one last chance to hook up with Hannan, his favorite target at Sayville and friend since childhood. "I'm hoping we'll connect a few times," said Ferreira, who will share time with Rich Czeczotka (Glenn) and Isaiah Barnes (Freeport). All three quarterbacks will play in the first half, but Hoss said he wants to win and will go with the hot hand in the second half.

Hannan won't be surprised if that's Ferreira. "It'll be a cool experience to play with Steven for the last time. Then it will be a little weird after that. We've played together since PAL," Hannan said. "It's sick playing with all these great guys. It's fun, but it's competitive, too. Everyone wants the top spot."

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