In the News

2018 Empire Challenge in the News Roundup

Empire Challenge Goes Down to the Very Last Play… Again! via News12 The Bronx


Long Island wins 23rd annual Empire Challenge via News12 Long Island


McAuley gets kick out of Empire Challenge via Riverhead News Review


Newsday Article (subscription required)


Newsday Article 2 (subscription required)

Jets land Far Rockaway native in sixth round via NY Post

The NY Jets drafted Empire Challenge alumni in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.


The Jets stayed local for one of their Saturday picks.

Gang Green picked defensive lineman Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi in the sixth round, the 180th-overall pick. Fatukasi grew up in Far Rockaway and played at Beach Channel High School. He went to Connecticut for college where he had 168 tackles in 48 games for the Huskies.

“It feels great,” Fatukasi said. “I give thanks, I don’t want to sound cliché, but I have to thank God for every moment that I have had up until now. It’s surreal. Words can’t explain how I feel right now.”

The 6-foot-4, 318-pounder will get a chance to compete on a Jets defensive line that is in flux. Once a strength of the Jets, they have lost Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson in the past year. Only Leonard Williams remains from when the Jets had one of the best defensive lines in football.

“It was always my goal to play in the NFL,” Fatukasi said. “I believe it’s everyone’s goal to do so and it was always something I had in the back of my head. It was always something I worked towards, it was always something I prayed for and to have this moment right here, I can’t even believe it that it’s right here.”


Annual Empire Challenge to kick off at Hofstra


Schwartz: Local Standouts To Battle Wednesday In Annual Empire Challenge High School Football Game


By Peter Schwartz

The same thing happens every year, as my family and I settle into our seats just before the pregame ceremonies. The teams are introduced and a large American flag covers the field before the national anthem. Since we started taking him to this game a few years ago, my son Bradley will always lean over to my wife and I and say, “Someday, I’m going to play in this game!”

I expect the same Wednesday night at Hofstra University, when we attend the 22nd annual Empire Challenge, a football game between high school seniors from Long Island and New York City. The Boomer Esiason Foundation will donate proceeds from the event to support local high schools that need money for uniforms, helmets and other equipment such as tackling dummies.

The game also brings attention to a subject that is also near and dear to Esiason’s heart — cystic fibrosis. The former NFL star and Long Island native started his foundation after his son Gunnar was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. Gunnar would go on to play football at Friends Academy and then actually played in the 2009 Empire Challenge sporting his dad’s No. 7.


NYC ends Empire Challenge slide against L.I.

By: Tony Bellissimo

It took a record-setting performance from quarterback Sharif Harris-Legree for New York City to snap a five-game losing streak against Long Island in the 21st annual UnitedHealthcare Empire Challenge all-star football game on Tuesday night.

One snap away from defeat, Harris-Legree, of Grand Street Campus, connected with Jordan Hannah (Lincoln) in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown on fourth-and-9 with 22 seconds remaining to lift New York City to a thrilling 39-34 victory before a crowd of 7,145 at Hofstra. It was the third passing score for Harris-Legree, who completed 24 of 33 passes for an Empire Challenge record 371 yards and added a rushing touchdown on the way to MVP honors.

“The coaches believed in me and put the ball in my hands to do damage, and we got the win,” Harris-Legree said. “The winning play was just a wonderful catch.”

One of Harris-Legree’s counterparts, Carey’s Mike Catanese, also stood out and had Long Island in position to continue its recent dominance after hooking up with Infinite Tucker (Huntington) for a 12-yard touchdown with 1:46 to go. Plainedge’s Dylan Burns booted the extra point for a 34-33 lead, but plenty of time remained for Harris-Legree’s finishing touch.

Read the full article here.

Schwartz: Once Again, ‘Boomer Bowl’ Leads Fight Against Cystic Fibrosis

By: Peter Schwartz [SOURCE]

WFAN Host’s Foundation Benefits From Thrilling United Healthcare Empire Challenge Football Game At Hofstra

The celebration was on in the west stands of Shuart Stadium.

That’s where the New York City fans were sitting … check that … standing after a long Hail Mary pass by Long Island quarterback Mike Catanese fell incomplete on the final play of the game.

After five straight losses, New York City stopped the bleeding with a dramatic 39-34 win over Long Island in the 21st annual United Healthcare Empire Challenge, an all-star game of high school seniors to benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation and the fight against cystic fibrosis.

For the record, the winning score was a 19-yard touchdown pass from Sharif Harris-Legree to Jordan Hannah on 4th and 9 with 22 seconds left. Harris-Legree, from Grand Street Campus, was the game’s MVP throwing for an Empire Challenge-record 371 yards and three touchdowns in front of a crowd of 7,145 at Hofstra University.


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Schwartz: Football For A Good Cause At 20th Annual Empire Challenge via CBS New York


Written by: Peter Schwartz

Despite Mother Nature’s efforts, it was a beautiful evening at Hofstra University on Tuesday night. Sure, there was plenty of rain and two lightning delays, but it didn’t matter. Despite stormy conditions at Shuart Stadium, the end result was all that counted.

In fact, there was really nothing that could take away from the real meaning of the 20th annual UnitedHealthcare Empire Challenge, an All-Star high school football game presented by the Boomer Esiason Foundation, pitting Long Island against New York City. For the record, Long Island won for the fifth straight year, beating New York City 34-27.

But the final score was irrelevant.

Proceeds from the event support area youth football and the fight against cystic fibrosis. The money raised is distributed between the Gunnar H. Esiason Endowed Scholarship at Hofstra University, high school athletic programs, tickets provided to local youth groups and the cystic fibrosis community.

Continue reading the full article here.

Football: SWR’s Squires catches TD pass in Long Island win via Riverhead News-Review


Written by: Bob Liepa


Because of the weather, the postgame fireworks show was cancelled. That was O.K., though, because the fans had already seen a different sort of fireworks, before and during the 20th annual Empire Challenge football game.

At first, there was nature’s brand of fireworks that caused two lightning delays at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium. And then there were the fireworks created by the Long Island offense.

Long Island’s offense provided some bolts of energy itself, beating New York City, 34-27, on Tuesday night in the annual meeting of the top senior high school players in the area.

It was the fifth straight win by Long Island, which has a 12-6 record in the history of the game. (The first two contests were between Nassau and Suffolk counties.)

Shoreham-Wading River wide receiver Isreal Squires caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from John Daniggelis to help the Long Islanders out to a 34-14 lead with 5 minutes 45 seconds left. Squires, who will play football for St. Lawrence University (N.Y.), made two catches for 32 yards.

Continue reading the full article here.

Pete Blieberg: Empire Challenge’s unsung hero Updated June 23, 2015 11:33 PM via Newsday

Written by: Greg Sarra

Pete Blieberg didn’t sleep Monday night. He hasn’t slept the night before the Empire Challenge for 20 years, which is understandable.

Blieberg is the senior game coordinator for the matchup of Long Island’s senior football all-stars against their counterparts from New York City. It’s a full-time job, and he loves it.

Continue reading here.