Jefferson’s Thomas shines in lopsided loss to Long Island

City team loses third straight Empire Challenge

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Thomas Jefferson High School’s Kendall “Speedy” Thomas provided one of the few bright spots in a dismal night for the New York City team at the annual Empire Challenge high school football senior all-star game on June 18.

The Orange Wave running back’s 75-yard kickoff return in the third quarter was the highlight of the game for the team from the five boroughs. Thomas said “the seas spread wide open” as he weaved through an opening in the defense before he was finally brought down at the Long Island team’s 11-yard line.

“I was waiting for that all game,” Thomas said of the kickoff return. “I said to my coach the first one I get I’m breaking it.”

The kickoff return set up New York City’s lone score, a rushing touchdown by Augustus Edwards. The rest of the game was a rout as Long Island won 40–8 before a crowd of 9,868 at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium. The game benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation for cystic fibrosis research.

This third straight loss sets an ignoble record for the team from the five boroughs. The margin of loss was the second worst among the 17 games played between the two squads. Long Island’s 44–7 win in 2005 is on the only one worse.

“It sucks,” said Danny Landberg, coach of the NYC team and Erasmus Hall High School. “I’m a football coach, a competitor, and you don’t want to be in that situation ever. It’s definitely a embarrassing feeling.”

The kickoff return by Thomas earned him his team’s most outstanding player award. He carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and a 2-point conversion. Landberg compares the senior headed to Nassau Community College to New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles because of his versatility.

“I can’t imagine Darren Sproles’s high school highlight film being any better than his,” said Landberg.

The game quickly turned sour for the New York City team. Starting quarterback Matthew Domina of Erasmus Hall was carted off the field midway through the first quarter after suffering a dislocated ankle on a hard tackle. When Domina went down, Boys & Girls quarterback Brandon Marsh became the team’s lone quarterback.

Marsh completed 12 of 23 passes for 139 yards, but four interceptions — three in the first half alone — derailed things. These turnovers nullified the efforts of the city’s defense, which picked off Long Island quarterbacks a record three times. Brooklyn Tech linebacker Kyvaune Brammer intercepted A.J. Otranto on the Long Island 20-yard line with 59 seconds left in the first half.

Still, Long Island quickly dominated the game. Otranto scored on a 9-yard run and Brian McKean scampered in from 5 yards out to put NYC down 13–0 with 8:18 left in the first quarter. Some trickery led to the next score as Will Stanback, who had a record four touchdowns, tallied an 18-yard touchdown on a hook-and-ladder play. It put Long Island up 19–0 at the half.

“To put in the work for the whole week and come out here and lose this bad is not a good feeling,” Marsh said. “To have all the opportunities we had in the red zone and not succeed, we are not very happy with that.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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