Brenden Femiano grew up watching the Empire Challenge hoping one day to play in the all-star game between Long Island and New York City schools. He just always figured it would be for Long Island, before he transferred to Poly Prep.
“It really means the world, growing up on Long Island, cheering for Long Island ever since I was younger,” Femiano said. “And to finally play in the game is really great. I am really proud to be in this game.”
Instead of donning Long Island blue, the Northport native was in New York City red at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium on June 23. While he still has ties to Long Island, he takes plenty of pride in playing for the Big Apple.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I still live out here and still have a connection with it, but my heart is in the city and this is where my family is now.”
Femiano transferred to Poly Prep from St. Anthony’s after his sophomore season, and commutes two hours from Northport to Brooklyn every day. He faced off against some of his former Friar teammates and old friends in the all-star game, including St. Anthony’s defensive end Peter Corbett and Islip defensive tackle Cobi Rose.
“I spoke to them before the game,” Femiano said. “There is no bad blood, it is for the love of the game.”
The city team ended up falling to Long Island 34–27, but Femiano carried the ball nine times for 25 yards.
This season, Femiano rushed for 1,346 yards and 13 scores. He was also a force on defense at the linebacker position. He and city teammate Chris Parker led the Blue Devils an 8–1 record. Femiano is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands.
“I know what he can do,” Parker said before the contest. “Good luck to Long Island, to be honest”
It was at Poly where Femiano took his game to the next level and developed his work ethic.
“Coach Mangiero and that whole staff were really great,” Femiano said. “They really prepared me for college. The whole lifestyle of really committing, and dedicating all your time to the team.”
Following a successful two seasons in Brooklyn, Femiano will continue playing football at Bryant University of the Northeast Conference, where he is the lone city team member of four future Bulldogs — Daniel Hughes, Corbett, and Anthony DiMatteo — playing in the Empire Challenge.
“I am excited,” Femiano said of heading for Bryant. “My dad has always loved the school, I have always loved the school. I understand there are four Bulldogs in this game,” he said before the Empire Challenge kickoff. “I’ve never seen any of them play, and I hope no one underestimates me, because I won’t underestimate them.”
Femiano wanted to leave them with a good impression by showcasing his talent in the all-star game he grew up watching — just not for the team he grew up rooting for.