Stormy weather at Shuart Stadium delayed the start of the Empire Challenge all-star football game more than a half hour, but even after the rain cleared up, the dark cloud that has haunted the New York City team in recent years remained.
The boys from the Big Apple could not recover from a slow start and a slew of harmful penalties in their 34–27 loss to Long Island in front of the crowd of 9,268 fans at Hofstra University. It was the 20th-annual game befitting the Boomer Esiason Foundation for cystic fibrosis research. Long Island has now won five straight.
“It was the stupid plays, the unnecessary roughness, the hitting of the other players,” said Lincoln quarterback Paul Litvak.
The city looked to have a big stop as Long Island kicker Zach Kolodny missed a 25-yard field goal, but the Big Apple defense was called for illegal formation. The suburban squad made it pay with a four-yard touchdown run by Isaiah White. The city committed eight penalties for 83 yards.
New York City responded in the second quarter with a 12-yard pass from Litvak to Curtis’s Andre Ridley to make the score 7–6 after the extra point was missed.
The city squad again looked to have another key stop on four and 14 from 30, but was called for a 15-yard facemask. Game most-valuable-player John Daniggelis of Smithtown East capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to put his team up 14–6 with 3:46 to go in the second quarter.
“We could have done better,” said Lincoln’s Alejandro Oregon, who blocked two kicks. “We took a little stupid penalties.”
Long Island then scored two straight touchdowns to increase its lead to 28–6 midway through the third quarter before Poly Prep quarterback Chris Parker helped the city offense, as a receiver. He went on to be the team’s most valuable player.
“I don’t have the ball in my hand as much as I did at Poly Prep,” said Parker, who had 119 yards receiving and 13 yards rushing. “When I did get the ball, I tried to get as much as I can and showcase my talent.”
Lincoln’s Luis Rodriguez started to rally with a one-yard touchdown run. Parker then converted the two-point conversion to make the game 28–14 with 14:55 left. After another Long Island score, Parker and the city offense scored another touchdown when St. Peter’s Joe Czelusniak connected with Ridley to make it 34–20 with 3:01 left.
After the score, the city team received the ball back, because of game rules. Parker then set up a touchdown with a 22-yard pass. Willie Dale caught a six-yard pass to make it 34–27 with less than a minute left.
“We saw the score, we just wanted to toughen up and move the ball,” Litvak said.
The comeback fell short as his team failed to recover the ensuing onside kick with 31 seconds left. It was still a memorable night despite the loss.
“I was here to have fun,” Parker said. “It is not about winning or losing, it’s about having fun.”