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Liam Bailey, Mike Leach get to live a dream in Empire Challenge

Sayville's Liam Bailey at the Empire Challenge H.S.

Sayville's Liam Bailey at the Empire Challenge H.S. football practice at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on June 17, 2016. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Liam Bailey and Mike Leach got the season finale they wanted when they won the Long Island Class III championship for Sayville after leading a shutdown defense against Plainedge on Nov. 29.

Now, the duo is back for an encore.

Bailey, a middle linebacker and Leach, a defensive end, are teaming up one last time as they help lead Long Island’s talented defense in the Empire Challenge football game, which is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hofstra.

“It’s awesome because when you win a championship you want more,” Bailey said Friday at practice at Hofstra. “I was playing lacrosse in the spring, but there’s nothing like football, I couldn’t wait to get out here.

“It’s much different from regular high school. We get shirts, we get cleats, we’re treated like professionals and it’s awesome.”

Bailey, who is headed to SUNY Maritime next season, said he and Leach have been friends since PAL football and that the two have wanted to be in the Empire Challenge since they were in middle school.

Added Leach, who is leaning toward Nassau Community College football: “I love the kid, he’s like a brother to me. I was expecting to be here with him. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again one day.”

Newfield coach Joe Piccininni, who is leading the Long Island team, said the defense looks strong early on and added that the Sayville players are aggressive and are fundamentally sound.

“There’s many people that came off championships, but what’s great is all these kids coming together and playing for one goal, to win a game,” Piccininni said. “We’re coming together as a unit. This is the last high school game they’re all going to play — that’s motivation enough.”

Bailey said he’s excited to play the New York City team and although he isn’t too familiar with his opponent, he’s confident his team will stack up.

“We’re all athletes out here and we’re all great football players,” Bailey said. “We’ll adjust come game time. Everybody’s good so you’ve got to raise the bar a little bit.”

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