For one Long Island quarterback, the Empire Challenge provides the opportunity to push the restart button on his football career. For another, it's a forlorn farewell before hitting the eject button.
"It's definitely an honor to be here," said Steve Genova of St. Anthony's, flashing a wide smile and pointing to the array of players around him as he added, "We had weapons at St. Anthony's, but we've got the best of the best here."
Genova's senior season got derailed in Week 7 when he suffered a concussion against Stepinac and was unable to play in the Friars' final four games. "That was heartbreaking. I tried to get cleared for the playoffs, but I wasn't ready," said Genova, who completed nearly 70 percent of his passes in CHSFL play and averaged more than 200 yards passing per game. "I did all I could to help the coaches and help my teammates. It was definitely frustrating being on the sidelines, but I put the team first and coached up the guys. That's exactly what I want to do someday -- be a football coach."
Before he puts on a headset and picks up a clipboard, Genova wants to play football in college, which is why he was so excited about being selected to play in the 20th Empire Challenge, matching Long Island and New York City, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. Long Island leads 11-6 in the series.
Genova has worked hard to get in shape for this game and for his future. He will attend Choate prep school in Wallingford, Connecticut, and the 5-11, 175-pounder said, "I want to get bigger and stronger and I want to improve my grades. I'm hoping to do well and get offered a chance to play in college."
That's not the issue for Long Island's other quarterback, John Daniggelis of Smithtown East, a 6-1, 200-pounder and Newsday first-team All-Long Island selection in football and lacrosse. He said he got some college scholarship offers in football but was heavily recruited to play Division I lacrosse. He chose the latter when he was a junior and will play lacrosse at Yale next year.
"Football is my first love, so I definitely have mixed feelings about this game," Daniggelis said. "It's a little bittersweet for me because it will be my last football game. I had some football offers, but I chose to play lacrosse at Yale because it gave me the best mix of academics and athletics at the highest level."
Daniggelis, who threw for 979 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for 751 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall, is the nominal starter for the Empire Challenge. He and Genova are scheduled to rotate series, at least in the first half, operating out of the spread formation. Long Island coach Mike Stanley of Carey said he likely will go with the hot hand in the second half.
Like Genova, Daniggelis is positively giddy about the collection of offensive talent around him. "It's like I have a whole bunch of toys to play with," he said. "I've got the easy job. I get to keep them all happy."
Running back Isaiah White of Longwood and wide receiver Andrew Trent of Bellport are among those who most impressed coaches during practice.
"We've got great relationships with all the receivers off the field," Daniggelis said, "and that will help us on the field when we get into some tough situations in the game."
Now he hopes for a grand finale before he changes helmets and picks up his lacrosse stick. Said Daniggelis, "I'd love to go out with a bang."