The 17th Annual Empire Challenge—a fundraising all-star game to help support the Boomer Esiason Foundation’s fight against cystic fibrosis—has become a huge contribution to the football community here on Long Island, and throughout New York.
The stars were out to show their support—former Jets running back Freeman McNeil and wide receiver Wesley Walker were in attendance and participated in the coin toss. Also in attendance were the record 12,418 fans showing their support for Boomer’s foundation, and who witnessed a 31-7 Long Island victory over New York City. The win was the Island’s second straight and eighth overall in the series.
MSG Varsity’s Mike Quick said that this year’s Long Island team is “the best it’s ever been.” Others have said that this was a dream team for high school football and they proved that theory true as the Long Island all-stars routed New York City.
Long Island had a great game overall, but Empire Challenge MVP running back Stacey Bedell was the talk of the night, scoring three touchdowns, including a 92-year run in the third quarter to give Long Island a comfortable 24-0 lead.
Touchdowns were also scored by wide receiver Mike Richardson, who made a great diving catch in the end zone near halftime. In the fourth quarter, 6-foot-5 receiver Alex Rawa added a TD of his own.
Long Island was led on defense by Syosset’s Evan Kappatos, who had three tackles—including a sack on the very first defensive play of the game. He also had a fumble recovery.
“It’s great to play in this game,” Kappatos said before kickoff. “It’s a representation of our hard-work and it’s a real honor to represent our community.”
Kappatos, a three-time Piner Award winner as the best linebacker on Long Island, will be attending Princeton University next fall, along with Freeport quarterback Isaiah Barnes and Brian Sheng, another Syosset Brave. Sheng recorded a sack of his own in the game.
Boomer Esiason envisioned this game to support his cause and bring the community closer through football and after 17 years, the Boomer Esiason Foundation and the Empire Challenge has come a long way.
“This game represents great effort, intensity, and sportsmanship,” Boomer Esiason said before the game. “This game means a lot to me and to the community; with football, we’re raising money for a disease so close to my heart.”
Esiason started this foundation to fight cystic fibrosis, inspired by his son, Gunner, who was diagnosed with the disease when he was three-years-old.
This game has evolved into a great charity event with its great moments, including the 2009 game where Gunner actually played for one sequence at quarterback, handing the ball off to his running back for an 85-yard touchdown. The New York City all-stars never touched Gunner, until after the play when all of them crossed the line of scrimmage and hugged and hi-fived the QB.