Carey’s Mike Catanese was the second quarterback on the Long Island depth chart for Tuesday night’s Empire Challenge, a 39-34 win for New York City. But when it was all said and done, Catanese was the leader of the offense.
Catanese, a 6-3 passer, came into the game during Long Island’s second series and immediately found his footing, eventually snagging late-game snaps from Newfield’s Ryan Klemm.
The offense found consistency with Catanese under center, as he went 10-for-19 for 163 yards and a touchdown en route to being named Long Island player of the game.
He also rushed seven times for 33 yards and a touchdown.
“We had great line play and great wide receivers, so I just had to put the ball in a decent spot and the wide receivers went and got it,” he said, deflecting praise to his teammates.
One of the game’s biggest highlights came from Catanese on a fourth-and-4 halfway through the first quarter. He took the snap, scrambled in the backfield and got hit by a lineman as he fired a strike to Patchogue-Medford’s Nico Morabito, who hauled it in for a 26-yard gain.
That conversion led to the game’s first score, a 9-yard sweep from left to right by Huntington’s Infinite Tucker.
“With his accuracy on the field and his leadership, he took over the game,” said coach Joe Piccinnini, who is also the coach at Newfield. “We needed that taken care of. He stepped up and got the job done.”
Despite earning significant playing time in the second half because of his consistent play, Catanese was the second-stringer entering the game. A possible explanation, he said, was that he had to leave practices early the previous week for several awards dinners for baseball and academics.
While that may have had some influence in the quarterback pecking order, it didn’t stop Piccinnini and offensive coordinator Rob Hoss from putting the ball in Catanese’s hands when it mattered most.
“Everybody has a role,” Piccinnini said. “When somebody’s doing better, that person’s going to play. You just go with who’s got the hot hand.”
Catanese proved himself ready for Cornell football, using the Empire Challenge as a litmus test against some of New York’s best players. He called it a tune up, citing the overwhelming college talent.
“If you look at the colleges all these players are going to on our team or their team, it’s all Division I or Division II,” he said. “They’re all great football players. It’s the best of the best.”
And Catanese certainly belonged, making accurate throws in traffic and acting as the offense’s leader from the second he stepped on the field.