For a second year in a row, the Empire Challenge was decided with no time left on the clock.
New York City, seeking a third straight victory in the high school football all-star senior showcase, hit on a 30-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired but Long Island thwarted the ensuing two-point try to hold on for a thrilling 28-27 win before a crowd of 8,452 last Friday night at Hofstra.
“We considered kicking the extra point and going for overtime, but ultimately we went for the win,” NYC head coach Anthony Odita said. “Both teams played a great game.”
NYC won last year, 37-35, on a 32-yard field goal at the horn, and nearly topped those heroics after Long Island scored the tiebreaking touchdown on a 34-yard flea-flicker from quarterback Tommy Heuer (Oceanside) to receiver Owen Glascoe (Massapequa) with 41 seconds remaining.
On fourth-and-14, Heuer, who went 9-for-19 for 83 yards, cut left after handing off to teammate Derek Cruz as Glascoe ran a post pattern. Heuer took the toss-back and found his Nassau Conference I rival streaking behind the secondary for a 28-21 lead after Farmingdale’s Briant DeFelice’s booted his fourth successful extra point.
“The entire defense bit on it,” Glascoe said of the trickery. “We practiced it all week. I had to make that catch.”
Long Island offensive coordinator Rob Blount, who last fall guided Oceanside to its first county championship in 40 years, said the gadget play wasn’t clicking in the days leading up to the game but did when it counted. “We ran it probably five or six times in practice and dropped it almost every time,” he said. “It didn’t look like we were going to use it, but it was a good spot and we basically ran out of things to call. It’s great that it worked.”
NYC connected on a magical pass of its own, with quarterback Michael Nicosia (Archbishop Stepniac) capping a snazzy 74-yard drive with a heave to Sheepshead Bay’s Titus Leo, who made a dynamic leaping grab in the corner of the end zone on the last play of regulation. However, after Nicosia went 5-for-5 on the final drive, Sayville’s James Lyons got a hand on his two-point conversion pass to preserve Long Island’s first win since 2015.
Westhampton’s Dylan Laube scored L.I.’s first three touchdowns — all on direct snaps — and earned Most Outstanding Player honors. He had 76 yards on 13 carries and added 25 yards on two receptions. Quarterback Nick Anzalone (Lindenhurst) was 5 of 9 for 66 yards, while Garden City’s Andrew DeSantis led the defense with 6.5 tackles.
NYC’s offense racked up 486 total yards, including 259 on the ground led by Erasmus Hall’s Shamar Logan (76 yards, one touchdown), Lincoln’s Jonathan Cato (69, 1) and Justin Felder (63 yards) of Holy Cross.
Nicosia hooked up with teammate Tyler Winston (five catches, 102 yards) on an 18-yard scoring strike to give NYC a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Laube scored on a 5-yard run on the first snap of the second and added a 1-yard plunge with 3:24 remaining in the half as L.I. took a 14-7 lead. It was tied at 14 at halftime thanks to Logan’s 20-yard touchdown. Laube had the only touchdown of the third quarter, another 1-yard run from the Wildcat formation.
“It was an exciting back-and-forth game,” said Lawrence’s Joe Martillotti, who coached an offensive line that included Oceanside’s Vin Schell and Mike Scibelli. “It’s the way an all-star game should go down.”
Other local participants included Lawrence’s Suquan Stays, Chris Collier and Christian Rodas, Wantagh’s Gavin Casey and Jack Lavache, Seaford’s Andrew Chirico, Freeport’s Aaje Grayson, Elmont’s Chester Anderson, and Oceanside’s Bryan Aguilar.
Long Island now holds a 13-8 edge in the series. Sixteen of the 21 meetings (the first two matchups featured Nassau vs. Suffolk) have been decided by fewer than eight points, including five by a point.