- Last Updated: 2:36 AM, June 19, 2012
- Posted: 12:36 AM, June 19, 2012
Ben BiFalco was preparing for soccer season with his new team at Tottenville when his life took a 180 degree turn for the better.
He was approached by an assistant on the football team, who was impressed with his big right leg, about being their kicker. After mulling it over and checking out the team, seeing how many of his friends at the school were on it, BiFalco made the leap, one of the best decisions, BiFalco said, he’s ever made.
“It’s like two different worlds,” he said. “I wanted to be on a team I could relate to. I felt it was something I could be really good at.”
BiFalco will be the kicker for New York City in Tuesday’s 17th annual Empire Challenge, the showcase for senior all-stars that pits the city against Long Island’s best, and in the summer will arrive at Wagner College as a preferred walk-on.
“It’s too good to be true,” he said. “Just being on the field, having the opportunity to play in that game, to be on a team that is the best of the best from New York City – all five boroughs – is an honor.”
BiFalco played football growing up, but never kicked. He was too small entering high school for the sport, so he stuck with soccer, his other love. He played two seasons at Petrides, transferred to St. Peter’s for his junior year and wound up at Tottenville, an up-and-coming soccer program, this past fall.
After choosing football, he didn’t pick up a kicking coach; he’s taught himself.
“A lot of stuff is similar to soccer, same stretching, accuracy with soccer is also a big thing,” he said. “When I put my time into something, it has to be something I care about. When something catches my eye, I know I can train myself to be good at it.”
In limited opportunities this fall, BiFalco shined for the Pirates, who reached the PSAL City Championship division semifinals. He made 35-of-37 extra points and drilled his lone field goal attempt during the regular season. The one kick he missed, however, still haunts him, a 43-yard field goal late in regulation of Tottenville’s 20-17 loss to Erasmus Hall in the semis. After he made a 37-yarder in overtime, Erasmus Hall’s Khalil Lewin scored on an acrobatic 15-yard dash to paydirt, ending Tottenville’s season.
Tuesday could be his chance at erasing the painful memory.
“After that, that feeling just running onto the field after hitting the game-winning field goal or extra point, it would be indescribable," he said.
“To bring home a title and defeat Long Island,” BiFalco added, “I would never forget that ever.”
Lincoln’s do-it-all Duchenne in familiar role for NYC: If football had a utility position, Lincolon’s Denzel Duchenne would fit the job description. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound receiver was a jack-of-all trade and a Swiss army nife of possibilities for the Railsplitters as they captured their first city championship since 1990 at Yankee Stadium in December.
“He could throw the ball. He could run it. He could catch it,” Lincoln and NYC head coach Shawn O’Connor said. “He goes under the radar so to speak probably his whole life and he always rise up to the occasion.”
He will be used in a similar role on Tuesday, which was evident in practice on Sunday. Duchenne caught passes along the sideline and even set a key block to spring a big run, much to the delight of offensive coordinator and Tottenville coach Jim Munson.
It's clear to see the effect he can have just by looking at his season statistics. Duchenne caught 22 passes for 416 yards and eight touchdowns and had 27 rushes for 255 yards and five touchdowns. He prides himself in his versatility.
“It’s a big responsibility,” Duchenne said. “I can be a game-changer.”Follow @NYPostsports