By Joseph Staszewski
One of the most constant fixtures in Justin Guerre’s life will now be absent — now that the final whistle of the Empire Challenge has been blown.
The St. Francis Prep running back put on pads last week to play football for a final time as he and his New York City teammates took on their Long Island counterparts in the annual high school football senior all-star game at Hoftra’s Shuart Stadium June 25. The New York City team lost 24-18 to Long Island. Guerre, who was the face of a revival of the Terriers program, carried the ball six times for 23 yards in his last contest on the gridiron. He has opted to run track at LaSalle University instead of pursuing football at the next level.
“It was really tough because football has been my life,” Guerre said.
He’s played the sport competitively since he was 7 and turned into one of the most explosive players in the Catholic league in recent years. Guerre said he could have played football at Division I Rhode Island or Division III Alfred and Hartwick, but received more scholarship money to run for LaSalle, which is part of the Atlantic 10.
The sprinter ran a time of 6.47 seconds in the 55-meter dash outdoors this season and went 10.83 seconds in the 100 meters. The option to walk on to a football team is off the table since LaSalle disbanded its program in 2007. He believed the realization of his football career coming to an end wouldn’t take long to sink in.
“I’ll probably feel it tomorrow when I wake up,” Guerre said.
LaSalle gains one of the fastest runners in New York City. But football fans are losing a player capable of making exciting plays at any moment. Once Guerre gets free along the outside of a football field, he is nearly impossible to bring down.
The two-time All-Queens first team selection by TimesLedger Newspapers rushed for 1,246 yards and 15 scores in 2013 season. He added 329 yards receiving and a touchdown catch. Guerre posted four touchdowns in a game twice this season. It was enough to help St. Francis Prep reach the CHSFL Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“Here was a guy who jumped out on film to me, who had a different speed than everybody,” New York City and Lincoln head Coach Shawn O’Connor said. “We knew he was small, but you can see he has a different gear.”
Guerre saw the Empire Challenge as a fitting way to end his football career. He said he had dreamed of playing in the game that benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation for cystic fibrosis since he started high school.
Guerre called the day terrific, but bittersweet.
“I grew up playing football,” he said. “I’m going to miss everything about the sport.”