For the second straight year, Kings Park High School hosted the National Football Foundation’s Long Island Quarterback Challenge skills competition.
The star-studded event, held Sunday, July 23, had no shortage of signal callers from the North Shore. And unlike last year when it was a boys-only event, the girls were also part of the fun.
Commack’s Jeremy Weiss, the reigning champion coming into this year’s competition, finished third this time. He was just behind Smithtown West’s Brayden Stahl, who finished in second place.
The 2023 overall winner was Mustafa Mozawalla of Syosset, who prospered in the classroom as well as the gridiron, completing each throwing drill with panache.
Players from Nassau and Suffolk, including from the Catholic leagues, were eligible to participate. Jake Fields from Smithtown East, Shane Kiernan of Miller Place and Kaeden West from Comsewogue were all part of the field of 16, who were put through their paces on the field as well as the film room.
In addition to second overall, Stahl won the award for accuracy and West had the longest throw of the day, launching a majestic rainbow that rang against the crossbar in the back of the south end zone. It measured 64 yards.
Former NFL quarterback Matt Simms judged the boys as they ran drills in anticipation, arm strength, touch, mobility and football IQ. One of the highlights of the day was when Mozawalla scrambled to his left and, while sprinting to the sideline, threw a 40-yard dart in perfect stride to his receiver who tapped his toes in the back corner of the end zone.
“That was a magnificent throw,” Simms said. “Probably one of the best in the two years since we’ve done this.”
Kiernan and Fields also looked very good in the mobility drills as well as quarterback progressions.
As the sport of flag football has exploded on Long Island, organizers smartly added a contest for the girls — seven out of the 10 contestants were from Suffolk, including Grace Gilmartin and Pixie Ryan, both from Northport, and Taylor Mileti of Hauppauge.
However, it was Jennifer Canarutto of Plainview-Old Bethpage in Nassau who took first prize. Canarutto, who led her team to an undefeated season as well as the New York State championship just two short months ago, beat Alexandra DaEira-Loccisano of Eastport-South Manor and Delaney Israel of Longwood, who finished in second and third place, respectively.
Many familiar faces came down as receivers for the quarterbacks as Hauppauge Lady Eagles Stephanie Braun, Emma Condos, Meghan Goutink and Melissa O’Connor all caught passes for not only Mileti, but a few of the other contestants who were in need of targets.
Four Northport Lady Tiger pass catchers — Caitlyn Muzyka, Dana Restivo, Caitlyn Ryan and Jamie Weissman — braved the 90-degree heat to support Gilmartin and Ryan. Hauppauge’s head coach Steve Mileti watched his daughter Taylor from the press box as he served as color commentator on the live stream with Newsday’s high school sports editor, Gregg Sarra. Northport head coach Pat Campbell cheered on his sextet of athletes from the sidelines.
Muzyka was awarded “best receiver” on the girls side.
In total, eight quarterbacks and 18 receivers from TBR’s readership area competed on a long, hot, competitive and ultimately successful day.