Kappatos shines in Empire Challenge
The 17th Annual Empire Challenge football game, founded by former NFL quarterback and East Islip native Boomer Esiason, was played Tuesday night at Hofstra’s James Shuart Stadium. The game showcases the best high school football players from New York City and Long Island, while raising funds to help fight cystic fibrosis—something that is very important to Esiason—as his son Gunner is affected by cystic fibrosis.
Grabbing the spotlight this year was Long Island’s defense, which suffocated New York City all night, leading to a 31-7 victory.
“This event means a lot to me,” Esiason said before the game. “It brings together the game that I love and a cause so close to my heart.”
MSG Varsity’s Mike Quick said the game is a testament to the hard work Esiason has put into organizing the event for 17 years.
“Boomer has worked so hard for this event,” Quick said. “To see all his hard work pay off and this event get bigger and bigger each year is great because it supports such a wonderful cause.”
Syosset star linebacker Evan Kappatos knows the game is much more than just about football.
“It is a great honor to be chosen to play in the Empire Challenge game,” Kappatos said before kickoff. “This game supports an amazing cause and is something great to be a part of.”
Receiving recognition as a dominant football player is nothing new for Kappatos, already a three-time Piner Award winner (given to the best linebacker on Long Island), a first team All-State linebacker, and a future Princeton University football player, Kappatos lived up to his accolades.
MSG Varsity’s Carl Reuter spoke proudly about the type of person Kappatos is.
“He is one of the best kids I have ever covered in almost thirty years of covering high school sports,” Reuter said. “Evan is just a hardnosed kid and he just gets it. He knows that sports is important, but he also knows how important the classroom is. He is going to be a sensation whether that be in the NFL or the business world.”
Kappatos attributes his great work ethic to the success he has had.
“Many people do not see the work put in outside of practice and on the weekends, so they can’t really understand what we as athletes go through," Kappatos said. “To be selected to the team is the ultimate confirmation of all the hours of work put into this great sport.”
Led by Kappatos, Long Island’s defense dominated the Empire Challenge from start to finish. Kappatos set the tone early for Long Island. On a third-and-5 in the first quarter Kappatos sacked New York City Quarterback Jessel J. Jones.
Kappatos was not finished just yet, as he made tackle after tackle including one on New York City’s Kareem Folkes for a loss of eight on a third and 14 during the second quarter. Kappatos even recovered a fumble in the game as his presence was felt all over the field.
Quick was impressed with Kappatos’ performance.
“There are certain guys that you want to see if they can step up to the challenge,” Quick said. “Evan is one of those guys and he was outstanding tonight.”
After the game Kappatos spoke about his team.
“We really played like a team tonight all around,” he said. “We played a great game and it was a special way for me to end my high school career.”