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Hot wings are the real winners in Empire Challenge

Jahmek Murphy of Tottenville High School, left, and

Jahmek Murphy of Tottenville High School, left, and Richie Bermudez of John F. Kennedy (Bronx) partcipate in a chicken wing eating contest featuring the senior football all-stars from New York City against their Long Island counterparts at Hofstra University on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Long Island’s top lineman were face to face with their opponents from the city.

Spectators roared as the clock wound down in a tight contest, with neither side giving in, despite the heat of the moment....and this was just the wing eating contest.

Before Long Island and New York City’s all-star football players meet on the gridiron in Tuesday’s Empire Challenge, 10 players from each team squared off at Hofstra Saturday to determine who could eat more chicken wings.

“Everyone was screaming and yelling. It was a lot of fun,” Farmingdale’s Javier Hernandez said.

The City came out ahead, edging Long Island by about a half an ounce, but Locust Valley’s Spencer Matthaei said it was still an enjoyable experience and one that reminded him of the football field.

“The way they had it set up, we were face to face with the other line, just like it would be in football.” Matthaei said. “You’re looking right into the eyes of your competitor.”

Teammates Hernandez and Dareus Smith of Glenn agreed. “There was a lot of noise and a lot of big guys just getting at each other,” Hernandez said.

“You have to look your opponent in the face and just take care of business,” Smith said.

The bowls of wings, provided by Hurricane Grill and Wings, for each side were measured before the contest began. After a minute of eating, the bowls were measured again, with the remaining weight being subtracted from the starting weight to determine the winner.

While Smith, Hernandez, and Lawrence center Nick Ramirez all said spicy food is a routine part of their diets, Miller Place lineman Kieran Glynn was in more unfamiliar territory.

“The wings were very good, but I don’t do well with spicy foods,” Glynn said. “I was nervous but it was a lot fun.”

As the clock winded down, both sides slowed their pace, with the wings’ spice evidently taking its toll.

“We had to dig our feet into the ground, and just keep moving,” Ramirez said. “You have to fight through, just like on the football field.”

Ultimately though, the players agreed the event was just an entertaining way to end a day of practice, and bond with athletes who had competed with them for years.

Said Smith: “We were having a ton of fun, and were just celebrating with each other.”

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