The postgame fireworks show was canceled because of the stormy weather that blew through Long Island. So that left it up to John Daniggelis to light up the night sky. And the Smithtown East quarterback sparkled like a Roman candle.
He ran for 66 yards and one touchdown, threw for 121 yards and another score and was voted MVP as he led Long Island to a 34-27 victory over New York City in the 20th Empire Challenge played before a crowd of 9,628 at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium Tuesday night. "That was my goal -- to go out with a bang," Daniggelis said. "I only know how to play one way, and that's 100 miles per hour."
So on Long Island's first play after a 41-minute lightning delay just 3:19 into the game, Daniggelis broke tackles for an 11-yard game to the NYC 11. Four plays later, Isaiah White (Longwood) scored from the 3 and Zach Kolodny (Farmingdale) kicked the first of his four extra points.
On the next drive, Daniggelis electrified the crowd with a dazzling 24-yard run that included an all-out hurdle over a would-be tackler. "It was all instinct. He went for my knees and I had to defend myself," Daniggelis said. "I've done it before."
Daniggelis hit Kevin Bragaglia (Sachem North) for 25 yards early in the second quarter and capped that drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and a 14-6 lead.
In the third quarter, Daniggelis found Matt Selts (Sayville) down the left sideline for another 25-yard gain that set up White's second touchdown, a 3-yard burst that produced a 28-6 lead. In the fourth quarter, he gave Long Island a 34-14 lead with a 24-yard scoring pass to Israel Squires (Shoreham-Wading River). On that drive, he ran skillfully to loosen up the defense.
"I'd go through my first and second reads and then my internal clock would go off," Daniggelis said. "I didn't want to get blindsided by those quick pass-rushers the City had. I relied on my feet."
That was no surprise to Long Island head coach Mike Stanley (Carey). "We thought that when things would break down, we'd get something out of it with John," Stanley said. "He's a total athlete and the main reason we won the game."
This "total athlete" said he had some twinges of regret that Tuesday night was his final football game, as he is headed to Yale to play lacrosse. "Definitely, my head is spinning right now," Daniggelis said. "I don't think I'll really miss this game until the first fall without football goes by. It'll be rough for me. If this is my last game, it's a really good way to go out."
Daniggelis admitted he is hedging his bets just a bit regarding football. Notice he said "if" Tuesday night was his last game. "I want to get adjusted at Yale and see how my schoolwork is. I want to nail it academically first," he said. "Then we'll see where that takes me. I'm going there to play lacrosse but I'm not slamming the door shut on football."