Greg Campisi was the first-team quarterback in Friday night’s Empire Challenge at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, all thanks to a game of rock, paper, scissors with fellow quarterback Matt Sluka.
Leaving the decision to a game of chance proved to not be much of a gamble. Campisi, the dynamic signal-caller for St. Anthony’s, earned game MVP honors by going 9-for-15 passing with two touchdowns and rushing seven times for 63 yards as the exceptional seniors from Long Island defeated their New York City counterparts, 44-20, in a blowout by halftime.
“It was one of the best two weeks I’ve ever been involved with in football,” said Friars coach Rich Reichert, coaching in the final game of his career after 41 seasons in football. “These kids, they did everything right. They showed up for practice, they were respectful and then they finished the deal.”
By the end of the first half, it was hardly a question of whether or not Long Island would win. It was a matter of by how much.
Long Island’s offense rolled, tallying 325 yards and scoring 30 points against the New York City defense. The game, in its 24th season, benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation and cystic fibrosis research.
“I was not expecting a blowout because last year they were toe to toe,” said Campisi, who credited the offensive line. “It’s nice. We came out really hot. We wanted to rep Long Island to its fullest.”
Long Island set the tone by scoring on each of its five first-half drives. Starting from its own 29-yard line to open the game, Long Island went 71 yards on 13 plays, scoring when Campisi found Nick Giacalone (Carey) from 3 yards. Anthony Pecorella’s extra point made it 7-0.
The defense, which held New York City to 122 yards on 24 plays in the first half, quickly got the ball back to the offense. The second drive, quarterbacked by Sluka (6-for-12 passing for 95 yards and one TD), was even better than the first.
Colin Hart, Garden City’s quarterback-turned-receiver for the game, took a reverse handoff and delivered a 22-yard pass to Jordan Alexander (Lawrence) on the drive’s penultimate play. Hall then ran it in from 15 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Hart later connected with Jake Lazzaro (Oceanside) for 38 yards on another trick pass, setting up Lazzaro’s 20-yard TD catch on a fade from Sluka that put Long Island ahead 27-6.
Kevon Hall (Roosevelt) rushed eight times for 68 yards and two TDs, including a 12-yard run for a 37-6 lead.
“This is an unbelievable experience,” he said. “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”
The offense accrued 450 yards on 63 plays, but the defense was just as impactful.
Marco Musso (Massapequa) had six tackles (three for a loss) and set up a 35-yard field goal by Anthony Pecorella (Chaminade) at the end of the first half after his sack forced a turnover on downs.
“We’re a collective unit,” Musso said. “If the offense scores, we have to hit them back with the defense.”
The hits just kept on coming.