Long Island team has wealth of quarterbacks for Empire Challenge

Ben Kocis of Huntington (#12) during the practice

Ben Kocis of Huntington (#12) during the practice for Long Island players for the 19th annual Empire Challenge high school football all-star game. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

advertisement | advertise on newsday

It'll be the spread formation, but given the skill set of Long Island's three quarterbacks, it's more like a triple option that will be on display against New York City Wednesday night in the 19th Empire Challenge all-star football game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

"With so many all-stars here, the competitive level rises and brings out the best in all of us," said Ray Catapano (Carey), who was named the starting quarterback for the L.I. squad that has won the last three Empire Challenges. Proceeds from the game benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which aids in cystic fibrosis research. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Catapano, who led Carey to an undefeated season last fall that culminated in a Class II Long Island Championship and the Rutgers Cup for the best team in Nassau County, faced stiff competition for the starting job from Ben Kocis (Huntington) and Joe Capobianco (Lawrence). They also will take snaps in a high-powered offense that hopes to dominate as it did in last year's 40-8 triumph.

"All three are excellent athletes, accurate throwers and well-schooled," offensive coordinator Dave Shanahan (Glenn) said. "They are smart quarterbacks and I'm very impressed that they can all throw on the run."

Catapano who is headed to Southern Connecticut State, and Capobianco (Merrimack) will both play Division II football in the Northeast-10, while Kocis will play Division I lacrosse at Binghamton.

"This game is definitely a little more special for me because it's the last time I'll put on a football helmet," said Kocis. "I'm excited. You've got so many great running backs and receivers that there are a lot of choices. You don't usually have that luxury in high school."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Capobianco, who set Long Island career records for passing yardage and touchdown passes and guided the Golden Tornadoes to the last two Class III Long Island Championships, missed several practices to attend orientation at Merrimack but returned to the team Sunday. Catapano and Kocis have each looked sharp and threw touchdown passes during Saturday's first game-situation scrimmage.

"We'll start [Catapano] and rotate all three," Shanahan said. "Then we'll go with the hot hand in the fourth quarter."

The coaching staff won't be surprised if that's Catapano, who threw 36 touchdown passes with only three interceptions out of the spread for the Seahawks last fall. That's what attracted Southern Connecticut, a late entry in the recruiting derby. "I had two other schools in mind and then my athletic director, who went to Southern Connecticut State, mentioned me to them," Catapano said. "I went for a visit and fell in love with the place. I liked the school and they said I could compete for a starting job as a freshman. The coaches said they liked the way I threw the ball. They use a read-option spread like Carey, so I feel like I'll fit right in."

Shanahan said that's been the case for all of his quarterbacks in preparation for Wednesday's game, even with a limited practice schedule. "They picked up the offense in four days," Shanahan said. "The quarterback is in the eye of the storm in this offense. We give them the right to 'choose the play.' Make the read and make the right decision."

Subscribe to Newsday’s high school sports weekly newsletter for the latest stories, scores and photos about Long Island high school sports events.

Comments

Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: