Don’t be surprised if the 2019 Empire Challenge football game on Friday takes on more of a Long Island Air Show look.
In the annual game that pits all-star teams from Long Island and New York City against each other, the Island’s offense will feature a pair of ultra-dynamic quarterbacks in Kellenberg’s Matt Sluka and St. Anthony’s Greg Campisi. Both were Newsday All-Long Island first-team selections last season.
“I see our team as capable of making big plays from scrimmage,” Sluka said. “With wide receivers like Jordan Clinton [Floyd] and Jake Lazzaro [Oceanside] things could get pretty explosive.”
“There are a lot of very-talented receivers, some of the best I’ve seen,” Campisi said. “And of course you have to know that both Matt and I trust our arms.”
The game is scheduled to kick off Friday night at 7 p.m. at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. The proceeds will go to the Boomer Esiason Foundation to combat Cystic Fibrosis.
“It’s a game, you can’t help but get excited about,” Campisi said. “Some of the players were people I knew. Others were just names in the newspaper. But the talent-level on the team is incredibly high.”
“If anything has surprised me it’s how quickly all the players are taking to learning the offense,” Sluka said. “It’s about a week of practices and the players aren’t just talented but also smart. In a short time we’re getting things down.”
Sluka steered Kellenberg to an 11-0 mark and a second straight CHSFL AA championship to finish his career 22-0 as a starter. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and was intercepted only once. He also rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. Sluka will take a post-grad year at Peddie Prep in New Jersey.
Campisi was 138-for-229 passing for 2,189 yards and 25 touchdowns as the Friars finished 7-2 and reached the CHSFL AAA semifinals. He also ran for 12 touchdowns. He is going to Harvard next year and will play lacrosse.
Sluka said that after spending his football seasons going against many of the players who are now his teammates, he likes lining up with them.
“You kind of wonder what everyone is made of when you’re playing against them,” he said. “I really like what I’ve seen.”
“Long Island won last year so we have to keep it going,” Campisi said, referring to the 28-27 win last June. “I look at our team and have to believe we have what it takes.”