LI stars use flashy plays, defense to dominate Empire Challenge

Long Island team running back William Stanback, center, Long Island team running back William Stanback, center, and teammates celebrate a touchdown against the New York City team in the United Healthcare Empire Challenge high school all-star football game at Hofstra University. (June 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Sheer dominance, as Long Island exhibited in last year's Empire Challenge, was perhaps too mundane for this game, with all its pageantry and pregame pomp and circumstance.

So how does this sound? Long Island won the coin toss Tuesday night and deferred . . . then tried an onside kick. Long Island recovered it, but the play was called back and it was forced to kick again. According to the rules of this all-star game, no team can start with an onside kick.

OK, take 2 on the trick plays: William Stanback scored on a hook-and-lateral in the second quarter to give Long Island a 19-point lead in its 40-8 victory.

"We made that play up on the first day of practice,'' said Stanback, the Uniondale star who shined brightest. "We actually wanted to try that as the first play of the game, but I messed up and missed the call.''

Well, he certainly atoned.

Stanback gained 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.

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Stanback's third rushing touchdown -- a 10-yard scamper with 3:49 left -- matched Stacey Bedell's mark set in last year's 31-7 Long Island win. "Anytime you can tie that guy for anything, it's a big honor,'' said Stanback, a tailback headed to Central Florida.

From a split-backs formation, Connetquot's Brian McKean threw an 8-yard curl to Brian Balsamo (Sachem East) near the right sideline, and he lateraled to Stanback on a swing route. He went untouched 10 yards for a 19-0 lead 12:38 before the half.

Stanback also broke a dazzling 87-yard run, off a sweep left.

Long Island scored its first two touchdowns on quarterback keepers. Floyd's A.J. Otranto went in on a 9-yard run up the middle, and McKean's 5-yard burst made it 13-0 in the first.

McKean hit his T-Birds teammate James Higgins for 40 yards on a fade on the preceding play.

"It's fun being able to just throw one up to someone you're familiar with,'' said McKean, 5-for-8 for 99 yards. "Regardless of the coverage, I was going to him.''

The Long Island defense was impenetrable, allowing only 16 rushing yards and forcing five turnovers. Newfield tackle James Manginelli had four tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Bay Shore's Ousmane Camara, Steven Casali (Sachem East) and Jeff Pittman (Riverhead) each made five tackles.

"Once we started getting turnovers, we had control of the game,'' Farmingdale linebacker Ryan Feiner said. "We were just beating them off the ball and gang tackling.''

And that's as basic as it gets.

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