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Strong Staten Island group selected for Empire Challenge all-star game


The Empire Challenge – also known as the “Boomer Game” for its support of the Boomer Esiason Foundation and its battle against cystic fibrosis – will celebrate its 20thanniversary this summer with a strong contingent of Staten Island players playing for the New York City squad.

The game is scheduled for June 23 at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium with NYC taking on a team of Long Island players.

The roster of Staten Island players invited to compete is as follows:

St. Peter’s

Willie Dale

Sean Kennedy

Joe Czelusniak

Jeff Karteron

Will Myhre

Sean Wade


Kahleel Doumbia

Andre Ridley

Willy Johnson

Monsignor Farrell

Pat Kelly

Christian Sheridan

Joe Irlinger


Nicco Ruggiero

Christian Sullivan

Luis Perea

Susan Wagner

Dan Romolo

New Dorp

Dawa Winn


2007 Empire Challenge Alum – Jaiquawn Jarrett

Via Metro

Jaiquawn Jarrett couldn’t remember after Sunday’s 20-13 win the exact number of starts he’s had with New York — even if he can count them on one hand.

But it was the unheralded Jarrett, a former second-round pick of the Eagles in 2011, who keyed a feisty Jets defense to the win.

He had seven tackles, one sack, a fumble recovery and interceptions in the first and third quarter after finding out Friday he would be making the start for rookie first-round pick Calvin Pryor.

“When the tables are rolling for you, you just got to continue to capitalize,” Jarrett said. “The ball fell in our favor and we were able to get the offense the ball and they were able to go down there and get some points for us.”

Pryor is still far more comfortable playing the run. In a game against a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, the Jets feared Pryor could get burned.

And so Jarrett got his first start of the season against a quarterback who had an NFL-record 12 touchdowns the last two weeks. The Jets defense as a whole responded with four quarterback sacks and numerous hurries of Roethlisberger in the pocket.

“I think as a unit, as a team, we came together. We dialed in, we stayed focused on doing just our job,” Jarrett said. “We were able to go out there and execute and get the job done.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


L.I. continues streak over NYC via Long Island Herald

‘Despite allowing 268 rushing yards and going 1-for-9 on third-down conversions, Long Island continued its recent dominance of New York City by capturing the 19th annual UnitedHealthcare Empire Challenge football all-star game, 24-18, before a record-crowd of 9,762 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium on June 25.

Long Island never trailed in winning a fourth straight matchup and for the fifth time in six years. Quarterback Ben Kocis (Huntington), who directed a 95-yard scoring drive in the second quarter and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth, took home MVP honors. Linebacker Lawson Prendergast (St. John The Baptist) had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth and six tackles.

“It was such an honor to play with all of these all-stars,” said Kocis, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 165 yards. “It’s the last time I put on a football helmet, so I wanted to leave everything on this field.”’

Read the entire article here.

CHSFL All-Stars Compete in Empire Challenge

Huntington’s Ben Kocis leads LI in Empire Challenge football all-star game

Originally published: June 25, 2014 10:39 PM
Updated: June 26, 2014 12:43 AM

Ben Kocis, who won the Boomer Esiason Award as Suffolk’s most outstanding quarterback last fall, put on a show with Esiason on the sidelines in the all-star football game that is fondly known as “the Boomer game.”

Kocis (Huntington) directed a 95-yard drive in the second quarter that he capped with a 5-yard scoring run and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in Long Island’s 24-18 victory over New York City Wednesday night in the 19th Empire Challenge. Proceeds for the game, which drew a crowd of 9,762 to Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium, benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation which supports cystic fibrosis research.

“It’s such an honor to play with all of these all-stars,” said Kocis, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 165 yards and accepted the game’s most valuable player award from Esiason, the only time an Esiason Award winner has also won the Boomer game MVP. “I’m honored to be here.”

The Binghamton-bound lacrosse player proved that he hadn’t packed away his football skills before leaving for college. He entered after a ragged, scoreless first quarter, replacing Ray Catapano (Carey) with L.I. starting a drive on its own 5, and didn’t have a great start, misfiring on his first three passes.

But on fourth-and-10, an Empire Challenge special rule wound up working to L.I.’s advantage. Teams are permitted two punts per half, and L.I. had already punted twice. So though it was backed up nearly to its own goal line, L.I. had to go for it. Kocis rolled right, into the end zone, and delivered a strike to Andrew Ris (Carey) for 17 yards and a huge first down.

“We called a ‘flood’ route,” Kocis said. “Andrew found a soft spot in the zone, made a good grab, and that gave us some breathing room.”

That play seemed to lift the entire offense. Kocis floated a pass to Trent Crossan (Sachem North), who escaped for a 10-yard gain and another first down. Kocis connected with Curtis Jenkins (Farmingdale) for 4 yards on screen and after an offsides penalty, drilled a pass to Elijah Jones (Lawrence) for 16 yards and a first down to the L.I. 41.

On his next play, Kocis hooked up with Sam Ilario (West Islip) for 31 yards to the New York City 12. Three plays later, Kocis followed his blockers to the right for a 5-yard touchdown. On the extra point try, Ris, a former quarterback, took the snap and threw to Jake Carlock (Babylon) in the end zone for an 8-0 lead.

Ilario, who had supplied Long Island with its only positive play in the first quarter with a 28-yard run out of the slot, said his long reception was “a straight vertical route. I gave the outside linebacker a little more, the safety shifted and there was no one there.”

Kocis, who completed 6 of 10 in the first half for 81 yards, acknowledged that he needed a couple of completions “to get the butterflies out. Once I got in a rhythm, I felt comfortable.”

L.I.’s third quarterback, Joe Capobianco (Lawrence) replaced Kocis with 3:59 left in the second quarter and quickly put his stamp on the game. On his fourth play, Capobianco hit Crossan in stride for an electrifying 60-yard completion to the New York City 5.

The drive stalled, however, and L.I. had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Bryan Morris (Sachem North) for an 11-0 lead at the half.

L.I. didn’t score again until Kocis hit tight end Josh Valentin (Commack) for a 44-yard TD pass on the second play of the fourth quarter. Lawson Prendergast (St. John the Baptist) iced it with a 25-yard interception return with 3:14 left. Long Island has won the last four Empire Challenges and leads the all-time series, 11-6.

Read the original article here. 

Football For a Cause: Looking Ahead to the United Healthcare Empire Challenge via Double G Sports

by Alex Kuhlke

On Wednesday June 25th, high school football players from Long Island and New York City will go head-to-head as they compete in the 19th Annual United Healthcare Empire Challenge. Established in 1996, the Empire Challenge benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation- an organization founded to fight cystic fibrosis. Founded by former-famed NFL player Boomer Esiason (whose son Gunnar was born with cystic fibrosis), the Boomer Esiason Foundation expresses their mission statement as follows: “The Boomer Esiason Foundation is a dynamic partnership of leaders in the medical and business communities joining with a committed core of volunteers to heighten awareness, education and quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis, while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure.”

Read the full story here.

Long Island team has wealth of quarterbacks for Empire Challenge via MSGVarsity

Originally published: June 22, 2014 9:13 PM
Updated: June 22, 2014 10:33 PM

It’ll be the spread formation, but given the skill set of Long Island’s three quarterbacks, it’s more like a triple option that will be on display against New York City Wednesday night in the 19th Empire Challenge all-star football game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

“With so many all-stars here, the competitive level rises and brings out the best in all of us,” said Ray Catapano (Carey), who was named the starting quarterback for the L.I. squad that has won the last three Empire Challenges. Proceeds from the game benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which aids in cystic fibrosis research. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Catapano, who led Carey to an undefeated season last fall that culminated in a Class II Long Island Championship and the Rutgers Cup for the best team in Nassau County, faced stiff competition for the starting job from Ben Kocis (Huntington) and Joe Capobianco (Lawrence). They also will take snaps in a high-powered offense that hopes to dominate as it did in last year’s 40-8 triumph.

“All three are excellent athletes, accurate throwers and well-schooled,” offensive coordinator Dave Shanahan (Glenn) said. “They are smart quarterbacks and I’m very impressed that they can all throw on the run.”

Catapano who is headed to Southern Connecticut State, and Capobianco (Merrimack) will both play Division II football in the Northeast-10, while Kocis will play Division I lacrosse at Binghamton.

“This game is definitely a little more special for me because it’s the last time I’ll put on a football helmet,” said Kocis. “I’m excited. You’ve got so many great running backs and receivers that there are a lot of choices. You don’t usually have that luxury in high school.”

Capobianco, who set Long Island career records for passing yardage and touchdown passes and guided the Golden Tornadoes to the last two Class III Long Island Championships, missed several practices to attend orientation at Merrimack but returned to the team Sunday. Catapano and Kocis have each looked sharp and threw touchdown passes during Saturday’s first game-situation scrimmage.

“We’ll start [Catapano] and rotate all three,” Shanahan said. “Then we’ll go with the hot hand in the fourth quarter.”

The coaching staff won’t be surprised if that’s Catapano, who threw 36 touchdown passes with only three interceptions out of the spread for the Seahawks last fall. That’s what attracted Southern Connecticut, a late entry in the recruiting derby. “I had two other schools in mind and then my athletic director, who went to Southern Connecticut State, mentioned me to them,” Catapano said. “I went for a visit and fell in love with the place. I liked the school and they said I could compete for a starting job as a freshman. The coaches said they liked the way I threw the ball. They use a read-option spread like Carey, so I feel like I’ll fit right in.”

Shanahan said that’s been the case for all of his quarterbacks in preparation for Wednesday’s game, even with a limited practice schedule. “They picked up the offense in four days,” Shanahan said. “The quarterback is in the eye of the storm in this offense. We give them the right to ‘choose the play.’ Make the read and make the right decision.”

Read the original article here.

Syracuse DT Jayson Bromley overcomes dark past for bright future in NFL

Article written by: Ralph Vacchiano


He avoided the gangs and drugs on the streets of Jamaica, Queens, and the pimps and prostitutes that were frequent visitors to his apartment building. He sidestepped the roaches in his kitchen and the rats in the living room, too.

The only thing he couldn’t avoid was the anger. So a young Jayson Bromley, long before he became a football prospect, became a fighter. He fought anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason — mostly for no good reason at all.

“You couldn’t look at him,” says Frances Nimmons, the woman he calls Mom. “If somebody looked at him wrong, he’d fight him. He just was a kid with problems.”

“I had anger problems,” Bromley says. “All I wanted to do was fight people. I’d get mad and I’d black out and you couldn’t control me.”

He never figured out why that happened, despite years of counseling and endless talks with his mother. Maybe it came from the knowledge that his biological mother abandoned him when he was 3 months old, or that six months later his biological father was arrested for murder. Maybe it was all the crime around him, or the rodents that had become like pets.

Wherever the anger began, there was no question of where it ended.

“It didn’t stop until I started playing football,” Bromley says. “Football really calmed me down.”

Sitting in a lounge just outside the spacious weight room inside the football building at Syracuse University, Bromley, now 21 and long past his days at Flushing High School, admits he’s amazed at what he’s become — a 6-3, 306-pound defensive tackle coming off a 10-sack season, standing on the edge of the NFL. Football was never his dream. He was just a “chubby kid” who liked to hit people. For years the only football he played was unorganized tackle on the street.

Yet here he is, just a few days from graduating from Syracuse — the only Division I school that offered him a scholarship, reluctantly — on the same weekend he’ll likely hear his name called by the NFL. He has been projected as high as a third-rounder, though most peg him somewhere between Rounds 4 and 6.

Bromley, though, believes he should go much higher.

“I’ve watched the best D-tackles in the country and I look at them and say ‘Ain’t nothing that they do that I don’t do — that I can’t do,’ ” he says. “Aaron Donald (a defensive tackle from Pittsburgh) was the best defensive player in the country this year. But I told him ‘If me and you are on the same team, I’m starting.’ ”

“That’s who he’s always been,” says Syracuse defensive line coach Tim Daoust. “He wants to know, Where is the bar set? Who are the great ones?”

“He is so determined,” Nimmons adds. “It’s scary.”

There have been scarier things in Bromley’s past, like the summer day in 1992 when Nimmons got a call about a baby that had been left on the doorstep of a stranger. The stranger called Child Services, but someone suspected the baby belonged to Nimmons’ brother, James Jones, and his girlfriend, Tyreine Bromley. Nimmons raced to Queens to pick up the 3-month-old Jayson.

Tyreine Bromley had a drug problem, Nimmons says. Jayson was born with a crack addiction, and Jones wasn’t exactly the fatherly type. According to a Daily News story from 1994, testimony at his murder trial revealed Jones was a pimp and he was sentenced to 8½ to 25 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and unlawful imprisonment after he tied up one of his prostitutes — also the mother of his daughter — to a radiator in his basement. He had beat her. The woman, Shirley Ross, later died.

That was just nine months after Jayson Bromley was born.

So Frances and Roy Nimmons, Jayson’s aunt and uncle, raised him as their own. With the help of her mother Kay, Jayson’s grandmother, they endured the early years when Nimmons says Jay’s drug affliction made his cries so severe often no one would babysit him. A testicular hernia that wasn’t removed until he was six months old made him cry even more.

As he grew up, the Nimmonses, Bromely’s mom and dad as far as he’s concerned — he knows his biological parents, but considers them “more like family friends” — did their best to keep him off the troubled streets of Queens. Nimmons’ one rule was simple: “When that street light comes on, you better be in the house,’” she says. They put him in summer school to keep him occupied. They put him to work, too, painting and fixing up the apartment building, which was just fine with him.

“I always liked to make my own money,” Bromley says. “So I always worked, whether it was shoveling snow in the winter time, cleaning people’s backyards, cleaning people’s houses. My brother used to buy houses and renovate them so I used to do the demolition on the houses, carrying 50-pound bags up and down the steps. I was probably like 12, 13.”

Still, it was around then that the child with problems began to turn into a problem child, looking for fights wherever he could find them. His counselors suggested medication. Nimmons refused. She worried he’d eventually just quit school.

“It wasn’t easy growing up in my house,” Bromley says. “I had three older sisters and none of them graduated high school. I’m the youngest kid and I’m not looking up to anything positive as far as going to school and doing the right thing. How do you come from that? How do you build yourself up to say ‘I want to go to school?’ ”

He pauses. “Football,” he says. “Football made me go to school. Because if I didn’t go to school, I couldn’t play.”

Bromley couldn’t play much when Jim DeSantis, Flushing’s head coach, got his first look at him. That was a few months after Bromley nearly quit before he even started. His grandmother died before his freshman year and he was too heartbroken to continue. “She was his whole world,” Nimmons says. “So I just told him ‘Grandma said ‘Do what would make you happy.’ ’ ”

Football, it turned out, made Bromley happy. He was short, fat and raw at first, but DeSantis saw a work ethic and determination that few matched. By his senior year, Bromley had grown into his frame and DeSantis and his defensive line coach Rudy Alvarellos — a “father figure” to Bromley, who died in February — knew they had a late-blooming monster, even if nobody else did.

Late in his senior year, Bromley had no Division I offers and DeSantis “had to beg” the other PSAL coaches to put Bromley on the all-city team. That got him into the 2010 Empire Classic all-star game where he showed everyone what they were missing. He dominated with two sacks, seven tackles (three for a loss) and two passes batted at the line. He was named the MVP, and within days he had a scholarship offer from Syracuse.

“Syracuse really got lucky,” Bromley says. “They found a diamond in the rough.”

He went on to be a three-year starter for the Orange and broke out with a big senior season. More importantly, the once angry teenager had turned into a big teddy bear of a man — a leader off the field, a captain on it, and a man who friends and coaches say is rarely caught without a big, wide smile.

“I’ve been with him for three years and I don’t know that angry side of him,” Daoust says. “He is a humble, hungry young man who goes to work every day. I love him. He’s a leader. He’s somebody I don’t worry about socially or with the decisions he’s going to make.”

“He’s just a totally different kid now,” Nimmons says. “He became a real good man.”

Through that big smile Bromley admits “it’s crazy how my demeanor changed.” He’s grateful for the influence of his mom, grandmother and Alvarellos, but he also recalls that “every other man that came into my house was always coming out of jail or something. It was always something negative. So I don’t really understand how I developed a mentality of actually wanting to be positive when there was so much negative around me.

“I feel like the past molded me into the man I am today, taught me what I don’t want in my life. A lot of people have people in their lives that are positive examples of what to do. Everything in my life taught me what not to do.”

That’s why, even as he prepares for the NFL draft, Bromley makes frequent trips back to Flushing to talk to the kids surrounded by that familiar negativity.

“We get a lot of kids who decide not to get into sports and stray and do stupid things,” DeSantis says. “Jay is a great, positive example of what sports can do.”

The thought of that brings yet another smile to Bromley.

“Growing up, I never saw that dude from my neighborhood that went to school and was doing something positive,” Bromley says. “I want to be that guy.”

LI stars use flashy plays, defense to dominate Empire Challenge

Originally published: June 18, 2013 10:15 PM
Updated: June 19, 2013 12:28 AM

Photo credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke | Long Island team running back William Stanback, center, and teammates celebrate a touchdown against the New York City team in the United Healthcare Empire Challenge high school all-star football game at Hofstra University. (June 18, 2013)

Photo credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke | Long Island team running back William Stanback, center, and teammates celebrate a touchdown against the New York City team in the United Healthcare Empire Challenge high school all-star football game at Hofstra University. (June 18, 2013)

Sheer dominance, as Long Island exhibited in last year’s Empire Challenge, was perhaps too mundane for this game, with all its pageantry and pregame pomp and circumstance.

So how does this sound? Long Island won the coin toss Tuesday night and deferred . . . then tried an onside kick. Long Island recovered it, but the play was called back and it was forced to kick again. According to the rules…

NYC high school football all-stars get beat by Long Island stars, 40-8, in Empire Challenge game at Hofstra University

Erasmus Hall quarterback Matthew Domina suffers dislocated ankle in ugly loss.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:22 AM

New York City’s quarterbackMatthew Domina throws for a first down in the first quarter against LongIsland in the Empire Challenge High School Football All-Star Game atHofstra University on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in Hempstead, N.Y. Dominaleft the game with a fractured ankle. (Kathy Kmonicek for the New YorkDaily News)

During the week of practiceleading up to Tuesday night’s Empire Challenge high school footballall-star charity game, Erasmus Hall quarterback Matthew Domina lookedbetter than he ever had, according to his head coach and the head coachof the New York City team, Danny Landberg. That’s saying a lot for thestarting quarterback of the PSAL city champions.

It made it all the more difficult to see Domina exit early with adislocated right ankle in Tuesday’s 40-8 loss to Long Island at HofstraUniversity’s James M. Shuart Stadium before a crowd of 9,869.

Midway through the first quarter, Domina, NYC’s starting quarterbackwas crunched on the rain-soaked turf by two Long Island defenders on arush up the middle and Domina remained on the ground after the play. Hewas tended to for several minutes before he was put on a stretcher.

Landberg confirmed the East Stroudsburg-bound Domina suffered adislocated right ankle on the play. There’s currently no timetable forhis recovery.

“He just tried to take off and make something out of nothing and justgot caught up there, twisted it and it got dislocated,” Landberg said.“I would assume he’s not going to have a great summer. Let that be theworst.”

With Tottenville quarterback Brandon Barnes out nursing a knee injury,Boys & Girls’ Keon Marsh took over and tossed four interceptionswhile going 12-for-23 for 139 yards.

William Stanback was the star for Long Island, earning MVP honors with12 rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns, including an 87-yard burstfor a score with 12:40 left in the fourth quarter. The Uniondale HSproduct who will play for UCF next season also scored on ahook-and-ladder in the second quarter. Stanback is the first player inEmpire Challenge history with four overall touchdowns in a game.

NYC didn’t have much going offensively, mustering just 162 total yards.Tottenville’s Miami-bound running back Augustus Edwards scored on a5-yard run in the third quarter to get his team on the board. Hefinished with six carries for 26 yards.

Thomas Jefferson’s Kendall (Speedy) Thomas was the most impressiveplayer from the five boroughs, slashing and dashing for 49 yards on 10carries and returning a kickoff 75 yards in the third quarter that setup Edwards’ touchdown run.

Thomas earned Player of the Game honors for New York City, something he said he was hoping for.

“I tried to give my team a little spark,” said Thomas, who will playfor Nassau Community College next season. His brother Mark played therefor two seasons and will play for Kansas next season.

Landberg made it a priority to get Thomas the ball and has beenimpressed by him throughout his high school career, heaping very highpraise on him.

“I compare him to Darren Sproles,” Landberg said, “and I can’t imagineDarren Sproles’ high school highlight film being any better than his.”

Thomas has known Domina for a long time and it was tough for him to see Domina get injured.

“Me and Matt go way back, and that’s always gonna be my friend forlife,” Thomas said. “Seeing him on the ground, that made me want to turnit up.”

The lopsided loss was the second straight for New York City afterdropping last year’s game, 31-7. It’s worst loss came in 2005, a 44-7final. Since the game changed from Nassau-Suffolk to Long Island-NYC in1998, NYC is 6-10.

“It sucks,” Landberg said of losing big in two straight years.“Listen, I’m a football coach, I’m a competitor; you don’t want to be inthat situation ever. It definitely is an embarrassing feeling. For me,let’s get ready for Erasmus now.”

The Empire Challenge raises money for the Boomer Esiason Foundation inits fight against cystic fibrosis. Boomer’s son, Gunnar, was diagnosedwith the disease at 2 years old. Gunnar recently graduated from BostonCollege.