Empire Challenge last hurrah for Syracuse duo
They have battled throughout their high school career, including a pair of epic meetings in the fall. Wayne Morgan’s Erasmus Hall won both, including an overtime thriller over Alvin Cornelius’ Tottenville in Huguenot that booked the Dutchmen’s ticket to the PSAL title game at Yankee Stadium.
Morgan and Cornelius are teammates now, competing for New York City in the 17th annual Empire Challenge, and then at Syracuse University, where the dynamic duo will also be roommates come July 1.
Their rivalry is now a friendly one. Proof came in the form of one exchange at a spirited practice Sunday morning at Shuart Stadium.
Cornelius caught a touchdown pass over Clinton’s Jeremiah Obeng-Agyapong and Morgan put out his hand to congratulate the wide receiver.
But as soon as Cornelius bit, Morgan pulled back and the two shared a laugh.
“We were just having fun, joking around,” Morgan said. “If he does that in the game, of course I’m giving him a real five, but not in practice.”
“It looked like he was giving me props for a bit, but I told him he’s lucky it wasn’t him [guarding me],” Cornelius said.
Morgan, who threw for 773 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns, returned a punt for a score and had two defensive TDs in the fall, got a glimpse into his future last Sunday when he played in the Upstate-Downstate Classic at the Carrier Dome.
“It was an amazing feeling playing in the Dome,” Morgan said. “I knew I was going to be there in a couple of weeks so for the first time playing there was a good experience. I had a lot of fun.”
The crowd wasn’t quite as large as it would be for an Orange game, but Morgan said he couldn’t help envisioning what it would be like when he was on the field for ‘Cuse.
“It wasn’t packed how it usually would be packed, but I was just in the moment,” Morgan said. “When everybody’s there, that’s going to be a different story. I’m not going to be able to hear myself think.”
Cornelius was also selected to the Downstate squad, but passed on going, attending the Tottenville prom instead. He knows that he’ll be on campus soon enough and can’t wait.
“I’m excited,” Cornelius said. “I’m ready to go up there and show them what I’ve got.”
Cornelius, like Morgan, was named first team all-city by MSG Varsity and also showcased his versatility this season. He rushed for five touchdowns, had 27 catches for 404 yards and three scores, had six interceptions, one returned to the house, brought back a kickoff and two punts for TDs and threw a touchdown in the playoffs.
At the Empire Challenge, though, the two will have clearly defined roles. Cornelius will be the City’s featured receiver and Morgan its shutdown corner.
“Alvin has been our most consistent guy,” said Lincoln’s Shawn O’Connor, New York City’s head coach this year. “He has caught every pass and Wayne has been right there on him on every pass, too. Their will to compete has been great. I think they’re going to do fine on the next level.”
While Morgan and Cornelius can’t wait to start their collegiate careers, they both have unfinished business in high school. Tuesday night at Shuart Stadium, the Empire Challenge is the final hurrah.
“This is my last high school game ever so I’m trying to leave with a win and plus it’s for New York City,” Cornelius said. “People don’t really look at the city for football, but we do have some talent and on Tuesday night we’re going to show everybody that New York City has talent.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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