Before he strapped on his football helmet for the Long Island team’s opening practice for this year’s Empire Challenge, Dominic Pryor of Ward Melville got the rock-star treatment for what he did while wearing his lacrosse helmet several days earlier.
“The first day, they kept asking us, ‘How’d you do that!’ ” Pryor said of he and fellow Patriot Eddie Muñoz being happily bombarded with questions about their incredible comeback in the state championship game.
Pryor capped off a June to remember by making five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in Long Island’s last-second 37-35 loss to New York City.
How’d he do that?
“Just had to focus on football and then have some fun,” said Pryor, who played his final football game last Wednesday night, but not his final game at Shuart Stadium, as he will play lacrosse at Hofstra.
For his performance in the Empire Challenge, Pryor is Newsday’s final Athlete of the Week for the 2016-17 school year. He could very easily have been named Athlete of the Month.
Pryor scored the first of six straight goals for Ward Melville in their epic rally against Pittsford in the state Class A final that capped a 20-2 season. His stellar two-way play at midfield earned him All-American and Newsday first-team All-Long Island honors.
And then he stashed his lacrosse gear and changed helmets. “It was hard to get used to it at first,” Pryor said of the early Empire Challenge practices. “But I was just having fun and making the most of it.”
He impressed Long Island receivers coach Paul Longo of Floyd. “I saw him do big things against us twice last season, so I knew what a great athlete he was,” Longo said. “In practice he was wowing us. He was making catches and jaws were dropping. I felt he was going to have a big game and sure enough he did.”
Pryor caught a 24-yard scoring pass from Aaron Ruthman late in the second quarter to give Long Island a 21-19 lead at half. That connection clicked again late in the third quarter when Ruthman found Pryor in the left corner for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 28-19 lead that did not hold up.
Though that game didn’t have the perfect ending that his final high school lacrosse game did, it was a memorable evening nonetheless. “It was an awesome experience, especially playing with John and Eddie,” Pryor said of Muñoz and another Patriot, John Korpac, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. “It was a fun game, a fun atmosphere. It’s the best time I’ve ever had in a football game.”
And a nice exclamation point to a June filled with them.