By Matt Diano:
For departing St. Anthony’s signal caller, Greg Campisi, nothing could go wrong on Friday night…Winning a game of rock/paper/scissors over fellow All-Catholic/All-State representative, Matt Sluka (Kellenberg) in order to earn the right to orchestrate the first offensive series of the game for Team Long Island, the Harvard bound Friar would be the centerpiece behind an even greater victory, as LI emerged with the 44-20 victory against their counterparts from New York City in the 2019 Empire Challenge on the campus of Hofstra University.
Getting the best and brightest from Nassau and Suffolk counties off on the perfect footing, it would not take Campisi long to showcase that his scholastic swan song would be one that the NYCHSFL faithful will remember forever…Utilizing all of his appendages on LI’s opening drive, the Farmingdale resident would preserve possession by scrambling for 12 yards on 3rd-and-8, and then follow it up with another 15-yard dash to put Long Island on the 4-yard line…Two plays later, he would finish what he started, hitting Carey’s Nick Giacalone on a short slant for the touchdown to make the score 7-0 (Chaminade’s Anthony Pecorella with the successful PAT).
The aforementioned TD dart would be the first of two occasions in which #11 [Campisi] would hook up with #25 [Giacalone] for points…Providing bookend scores, the duo played pitch-and-catch on a four-yard strike midway through the fourth quarter to account for the final TD of the game for LI…Earlier in this drive, it would again be Campisi’s ability to make something out of nothing that paved the way to the promised land. Twice facing 4th down deep in NYC territory, the future Crimson student-athlete would survey the field and find Jordan Clinton (William Floyd) both times (including on 4th-and-14) to keep the march alive.
Completing his evening with a stat line that read 9-for-15 with the aforementioned two touchdown passes, Campisi would complement his curricula vitae by adding 63 yards rushing…In recognition of his body of work, he was named the recipient of the Most Outstanding Player Award, making him the second NYCHSFL player in the past three years (Cardinal Hayes’s Christian Anderson in 2017) to have this esteemed honor bestowed upon him…Making the moment all the more special and cherished was the fact that he achieved all that he did while being coached one last time by his mentor/ living legend, Rich Reichert (Head Coach of Team LI), who put down his clipboard tonight after 41 amazing years of service to the St. Anthony’s program.
Outstanding in his own right would be the Metropolitan Catholic League’s other star field general, Sluka…Himself a worthy candidate of MVP consideration, the pride of Firebird Nation provided several glowing examples on Friday of why he never lost a single varsity game in which he suited up (22-0; back-to-back “AA” crowns).
Another unstoppable, All-Purpose, “Do anything and/or everything” presence under center, even when it was not the “Red Headed Assassin” punching the pigskin into the end zone directly, Sluka would still be very much at the heart of each triumphant pilgrimage up and down the gridiron…
Breaking free on a 27-yard run on the second series of the game (Long Island recorded points on five straight drives), Sluka moved the ball inside the New York City 39 and laid the tracks for Kevon Hall (Roosevelt) eventual 14-yard TD run to make the score 14-0 (another Pecorella PAT make).
Late in the 1st half (1:49 remaining), Sluka’s speed and strength again proved essential as he would gain five yards on a 3rd-and-6 to create a very manageable 4th-and-short (which Hall easily converted on the subsequent carry)…The reward for his effort came shortly thereafter when with 58 ticks still on the clock, #11 would hurl a “ball of beauty” into the arms of Oceanside’s Jake Lazzaro for the 20-yard touchdown to make the score 27-6
Answering a HUGE stop by his defense with Holy Trinity standout and Uniondale native John Stroughn contributing all night at Defensive End, (held on 4th& goal) at the onset of the third quarter, the 6’3, 205-pounder out of Roslyn immediately picked up where he left off, connecting with Lawrence’s Jordan Alexander on 3rd-and-6 to move the chains and then teaming up with yet another Catholic school standout, Kyle Angus (St. Anthony’s) on a 37-yard catch-and-run to advance the ball to the opposing 12-yard line…Identical to his performance in the 1st half, [Kevon] Hall did the rest, taking the hand-off the distance to further pad the LI lead.
All in all, Sluka accumulated 95 yards in the air, going 6-for-12. And while his total quantity of ground damage was not known at the time of publication, you best be sure it was plentiful!
Not to be overshadowed was the kicking prowess of Pecorella, who in addition to his previously cited consistency on extra point attempts, also tacked on a 35-yard field goal to close out the first 30 minutes of action.
LI’s output of 44 tied the all-time event record set by another group of Section VIII/Section XI/NS Catholic’s finest in 2005.
Perhaps the ultimate indicator that the festivities truly belonged to the NYCHSFL was that even on the losing sideline, it was wide receivers extraordinaire, Camari Glasgow (Iona Prep) and Shawn Harris Jr. (Stepinac) having a hand in all three of New York City’s scores.
Trailing 20-0 with 2:13 remaining in the second quarter, it would be the soon-to-be Merrimack College stud [Glasgow] on the back end of a TD pass to break the ice and put the City on the board…The touchdown haul was the first of a pair for the now graduated Gael, as he later made a spectacular 14-yard, sliding grab (as described by Newsday) half a minute into the 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 37-12.
Approximately 10 minutes later, it was Harris Jr.’s turn to shine, as he rounded out the combined tally of 64 points with a 20-yard reception.
To these gentlemen referenced above, as well as all of our favorite sons who graced us with an encore on June 14th, we thank them for the plethora of memories and wish them nothing but continued blessings as they embark on the next chapter of their careers!
Most of all, the players and fans who attended walk away supporting a great cause with the proceeds of the game going to the Boomer Esiason Foundation which fights to combat Cystic Fibrosis.
In case you missed it the Game will air on TV on CBS Sports Network on Saturday June 29th at 3:00 PM