Monday, June 27, 2005

Metro Mallers: Albany shut out the Mohawk Valley Vikings 22-0

Metro Mallers: Albany shut out the Mohawk Valley Vikings 22-0 in an Empire Football League preseason matchup late Saturday at Bleecker Stadium in Albany.
The defense, led by returning team captain Jeff Turman and linebackers Greg Woodward and Brian Domingo, kept the Vikings at their end of the field for most of the game.
Mallers running backs Jadel Whitfield, Sylvester Cooperwood and Larry Senior each scored a touchdown.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Trailblazers drop exhibition to Ice Storm

Trailblazers drop exhibition to Ice Storm
Times Staff Reports
First published: Sunday, June 26, 2005
COLCHESTER, Vt. - Despite running the ball effectively and becoming more efficient in the passing game, the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers fell to the Vermont Ice Storm 34-6 in a semipro football preseason game Saturday.

Head coach Mike Britton, however, said the Trailblazers' offense wasn't effective when it needed to be.

"The heat took a toll on our players and we weren't paying enough attention," Britton said. "We just didn't focus and froze inside the 20-yard line."

On one Trailblazers possession inside the Ice Storm 10-yard line, starting quarterback David Currier threw an interception into the end zone that was returned 103 yards for a Vermont touchdown.

Currier, however, threw nine completions for 158 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dan Staton late in the fourth quarter.

After notching 205 yards last week against Glove Cities, Ernie Miller only rushed for 28 yards on eight carries for St. Lawrence. Rob Scott had 11 carries for 60 yards.

Cheyenne Dashnaw and Ricky Delaney led the team with 12 tackles apiece. Dashnaw also had a fumble recovery.

The Ice Storm finished second in the New England Football League Double A Division last season with a 9-1 record. Vermont was the fourth-best team nationally in the division last year.

"We played a good game and ran comfortably," Britton said. "We just broke down when needed to score."

The Trailblazers kickoff the 2005 Empire Football League regular season on July 9 at Amsterdam.

Express rolls to victory vs. Red and Black

Express rolls to victory vs. Red and Black
by John O'Donnell, Times Sports Writer
First published: Sunday, June 19, 2005

A football rivalry dating back to the turn of the 20th century resumed Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds when the Central New York Express of Syracuse defeated the Watertown Red and Black 28-12 in a semipro exhibition game. The Red and Black has played several different semipro teams representing the city of Syracuse over the years.

Billed as a preseason game, the two teams treated it more like a regular-season encounter. The Red and Black wanted to prove it could hang with the 2004 National Football Events national champion. And for a very short time, Watertown did. For 39 seconds, the Red and Black held the lead.

It didn't take long for Express quarterback Chris Bresnahan to show his talents, as he threw for three touchdowns in a 28-12 victory.

"The Express had a couple of big plays for scores on our defense,'' said Red and Black coach George Ashcraft. "I think we learned a lot tonight. We knew coming into the game that the Express had a heck of a passing game.''

Ashcraft was pleased, for the most part, with his team's performance in the exhibition game.

"In the next three weeks before our Empire Football League opener in Ottawa we can change some people around,'' he said. "If everyone comes to practice in the next three weeks I really believe we could do very well this season.''

Vince Williams, who had a successful career at Watertown High School in the late 1990s, put the Red and Black ahead 6-0 with a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The extra-point try failed.

Bresnahan quickly put the visiting Express, a member of the New York Amateur Football League, on the scoreboard with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Ed Perry that covered 51 yards and tied the score at 6-6. The extra-point try failed.

Bresnahan made it 12-6 later in the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion pass from Bresnahan to wide receiver Rychard Dykes gave the Express a 14-6 lead at halftime.

The teams played a scoreless third quarter that was highlighted by numerous penalties. In the fourth quarter, it was all Bresnahan and the Express offense.

Bresnahan, a former University of New Hampshire quarterback by way of Corcoran High School in Syracuse, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dykes. The Express increased its lead to 22-6 on a two-point conversion pass from Bresnahan to Perry.

The Red and Black, having trouble moving the ball on offense after its first touchdown, roared back shortly after the Express score with a pass play from quarterback Doug Black to receiver Brian Beltz that covered 49 yards to the Express 2-yard line. But on the next play from scrimmage, Black's pass into the end zone was intercepted by Mike Grenton.

Bresnahan quickly drove the Express to its final score of the night, a play that was set up with a pass to wide receiver Steve Scott. The play covered 60 yards. Bresnahan culminated the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chico Hale.

Al Countryman, returning to the Red and Black after retiring following the 2003 season, saw action on both offense and defense. The veteran, who scored the Red and Black's final touchdown, late in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run, wasn't surprised that the teams played a physical game.

"We stayed with them in the first half,'' he said. "We just made a couple of key mistakes on both sides of the football tonight. I am sure we will build on this.''

Trailblazers post preseason shutout

Trailblazers post preseason shutout
by By Max DelSignore, Times Sports Writer
First published: Sunday, June 19, 2005

POTSDAM - Before kicking off the team's fourth season, head coach Mike Britton gathered the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers into a team huddle and told them to start 2005 on a roll.

The team responded with a 13-0 victory over the Glove Cities (Johnstown) Colonials in a semipro preseason football matchup Saturday at Sandstoner Park.

The Trailblazers defense shut down the overmatched Colonials all night, holding them to just two first downs and forcing three turnovers.

"We knew we had to win with defense," defensive back Jim Compeau said. "We were hitting hard all game. Our defense really came through."

Linebacker Cheyenne Dashnaw led the Trailblazers with seven tackles. Defensive back Eric Saunders each recorded an interception. Saunders also recovered a fumble for St. Lawrence Valley.

"The front four of Joule Robinson, Justin and Norm Martel, and Rob Sunday along with our subs are just what we need," Britton said. "Their job is to contain the holes, and our front line is going to continue to help our secondary."

While the defense stifled the Colonials, the offense countered with the running combination of Ernie Miller and Rob Scott.

Miller rushed 19 times for 205 yards, and Scott had nine carries for 20 yards.

"Because of our other talent, this year we can keep (Ernie) at one position," Britton said. "Our tandem did a nice job."

"The offensive lineman are big, fast and strong," Miller said. "Basically, the holes opened up and they did a great job."

The Trailblazers missed several opportunities to expand the margin, struggling in the red zone throughout the game. Britton said two missed field goals on their first two possessions showcased the team's pregame jitters.

"It was just a lack of concentration inside the 20-yard line," Britton said. "We were great outside it. The guys just got anxious."

St. Lawrence Valley broke the scoreless tie as Jeremy Dunning nailed a 21-yard field goal before halftime.

The Trailblazers, however, broke the game open in the third quarter. Dunning capped a 32-yard drive with an 18-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the quarter. On the following Colonials possession, Dashnaw pressured quarterback Nick Shepard and forced the fumble recovered by Saunders deep in Glove Cities territory.

But with fourth down and 20 yards to go, Britton gambled and decided to go for it. The gamble paid off.

Quarterback David Currier's screen pass to Miller on the opposite side of the field caught the Glove Cities defense off-guard and gave the Trailblazers their biggest lead.

"In many games, you run a strong percentage of your plays to a certain side of the field," Britton said. "Once the pressure came on Dave, we knew it'd be the perfect play. So we ran the screen back."

The touchdown ended the quarter and put St. Lawrence Valley in total control.

Glove Cities threatened to score on its final drive, making it to the Trailblazers' 38-yard line. But Saunders's interception ended the drive and completed the shutout.

While the Trailblazers enjoyed their first victory of the new season, Miller expects more to come.

"Coach said it'd be a five-year program," Miller said. "Year four we see a big difference. We expect to win more. We're thinking playoffs because it's our goal."


Saturday, June 25, 2005

(no subject)

Mallers play tonight: The Albany Metro Mallers will play an Empire Football League preseason game tonight at 7:30 against the Mohawk Valley Vikings at Bleecker Stadium.

Admission is $6 for adults and field seating is $10. Children younger than 12 are admitted free of charge. This is the final preseason game for the Mallers, who beat Hudson Valley Saints 16-8 last week.

The Mallers open the season against the Scranton Eagles on Saturday, July 9, at Bleecker.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dragons, Green Machine fight to survive in same market

Dragons, Green Machine fight to survive in same market

Finding enough fans, players to support two teams in Broome a challenge

Press & Sun-Bulletin           

BINGHAMTON -- Two times a week, Binghamton's two semi-pro football teams practice for the coming season.

The Southern Tier Green Machine works out at Otsiningo Park. The Broome County Dragons practice at MacArthur Park. Both teams have been practicing for more than a month, and both begin their seasons in the next few weeks.

Semi-pro football has had a near-constant presence in Broome County since 1970. For a brief time in the 1970s, there were two teams -- the Triple Cities Jets and the Broome-Tioga Bengals.

But that was 30 years ago. The population of the Broome County has decreased by more than 9 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. The local economy isn't what it used to be. That means there's a limited pool of players, sponsors and fans -- and money. Then there was the acrimonious way the

Green Machine's season ended last year, as the team abruptly withdrew from the playoffs and its league amid rumors of financial woes and discord between players, coaches and management.

So how will two semi-pro football teams co-exist in this market?

"In the long term, I don't think two teams can survive," Green Machine coach Dan LaMagna said. "To get the community support you need, to get the players you need, at some point the community is going to choose one direction or the other."

The Green Machine opens on June 25 with an exhibition game against the CNY Express (the defending National Football Events national champions) at Union-Endicott High. The BC Dragons' first home game is July 16 against Montreal at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.


Finding enough players is the biggest challenge that comes from having two semi-pro teams in the same city.

According to the roster listed on the Green Machine's official Web site, the team has 63 players.

The BC Dragons don't have a set roster yet, but team owner Karol Cronin and coach Tommy Manny both said the team has more than 60 players signed up. Cronin showed off a stack of 61 signed player agreements at recent practice.

Those robust-sounding numbers haven't translated to the practice field for either team.

At the Green Machine's practice on June 7, there were 29 players dressed and working out. Several more, team owner Maurice Battisti said, were hurt and unable to practice.

At the Dragons' workout on June 9, there were 21 players taking part in the two-hour session.

"Usually , we have 30-35 guys," Manny said. "Tonight was one of the worst ones (in terms of turnout)."

Only six players returned to the Green Machine from last year's squad, according to the roster on the Web site. Cronin said that about 15 of her players were on the Green Machine last year -- though without a set roster, those numbers are impossible to verify.

Last season, the Green Machine began with a roster of 58 players. By October, the team dressed less than 30 players for games.

Cronin estimates that nearly half the players who have signed up for her team are from this area. According to the roster on its Web site, the Green Machine has 19 players (a third of the roster) from Broome County and other surrounding counties. The Green Machine draws heavily from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, where LaMagna, 28, coached last season.

The players on the Green Machine were drawn to the team by its membership in the North American Football League, which has more than 100 teams nationally and plays its championship and all-star games at the Disney Sports Complex in Florida and has been around since 1999.

The players on the Dragons are drawn to its membership in the Empire Football League, which has been in existence since 1969 and has its commissioner, Dave Burch, based in Endicott. The EFL is a regional league, featuring teams in upstate New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania and Canada, and doesn't participate in a national championship.

Numbers have been a problem for Binghamton teams in the past. The BC Jets, who began play in 1997, folded in 2002 due to a lack of players.

That was when there was just one team in town.

"We have a good nucleus; if we weren't competing with another team, we'd be great," LaMagna said.

Neither coach seemed fazed about his team's numbers.

"I've seen teams with 34 guys win championships," said Manny, an 18-year veteran of the Empire Football League who had been coach and owner of the Albany Maulers for the past several seasons. "So it can be done."


Battisti, 62, an Endicott businessman, formed the Green Machine in 2004. The team joined the Empire Football League after a unanimous vote by team owners in January 2004.

That first vote was about as smooth as things ran for the Green Machine. Battisti initially hoped for crowds of between 5,000-10,000 per game. But the team drew, by Battisti's count, only 2,200 fans per game. Battisti said he lost $100,000 last season. The team finished 8-5 but withdrew from the EFL Playoffs in October. The reason given by the league and the team was a lack of players due to injuries.

At the same time, the team left the EFL. According to minutes of league meetings provided to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, the team was voted out of the league at its Oct. 3 meeting in Johnstown. Battisti has denied this, saying he left the league of his own volition and described the move by saying only: "I've always driven a Cadillac."

In January, the Green Machine accepted a spot in the NAFL.

"Maurice is kind of like a grandfather figure who had really good intentions but didn't have the help he needed," said LaMagna, who replaced Jud Blanchard, the longtime area high school coach who left after one season with the Green Machine. "I think last year, the team's intentions were good but they had some growing pains."

A week later, Cronin -- who worked for the Green Machine last season and whose son, Josh, was a linebacker for the team -- announced the formation of the Dragons in the EFL.

"The biggest thing, and biggest deciding factor, was the fact that I didn't want the players to go through what they went through last year," said Cronin, 44, a Johnson City resident who is retail manager for Sears Optical at the Oakdale Mall.

Neither Cronin nor Battisti would talk specifically about last year's experience.

Battisti spent a good portion of practice interacting with his team, talking and joking with players and coaches as drills went on.

"Last year, those guys wouldn't let me do this," he said. "I mean, I love these guys. I love this so much. It's great."

Cronin said that at the team's first preseason meeting, the players peppered her with questions.

"They wanted to know if there were going to be buses and transportation to all the games," she said. "They asked if we were going to leave them high and dry."

Both Cronin and Battisti are going ahead with plans for the coming season. Despite his financial losses last season, Battisti ordered new uniforms for the team.

"I'm not doing this for ego," Battisti said. "I'm doing this for the community. We need something like this."


With the season starting soon, the work has intensified on and off the field for both teams.

The Green Machine is practicing in full pads and helmets twice a week, ending each session with simulated games between the offense and defense.

"We're just starting to really gel," LaMagna said. "We've seen a handful of good individual performances. We're getting there."

The Dragons started practicing in early May. Players still practice in T-shirts and shorts. At the June 9 practice, players were being measured for equipment.

"We're about on pace," Manny said. "We started a little later, but the offense has picked up the verbiage of our plays."

Both teams are holding fundraisers. Players are busy selling ads for both team's respective programs.

The players, coaches and owners of both teams say they're eager to put the past behind them.

"I don't want to say anything negative," Battisti said, watching 29 of his players run through seven-on-seven drills. "I want this to be a positive thing."

"I wish (Battisti) well and his team well," Cronin said, as her 21 players worked out in position groups. "I hope they have a great season."

(no subject)


Byline:    Max DelSignore
Times Sportswriter

It's been eight months since Bob Cowser's memoir, "Dream Season," chronicling a year with the Watertown Red and Black, was published. Now he's attracted the attention of a major sports publication.
A photographer from Sports Illustrated visited the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers practice on June 7 to take a team photo for an upcoming magazine photo essay centered on athletes who play "for the love of the game," which will be published in the fall.

The magazine did a full-page review of Cowser's book last November and contacted him once the photo-essay project was under way.

"They remembered reviewing my book ..." Cowser said. "They wanted to pick guys driven by sports."

After playing for the Red and Black in 2001, Cowser, now playing for the Trailblazers, wanted the book to bring attention to an overlooked Empire Football League.

"There's some great players and coaches in this league who've been involved with the sport for years," Cowser said. "These guys play practically in obscurity. It's an arduous schedule with a lot of traveling. I wanted to celebrate the commitment of these guys because people across the country don't know about it."

"It's exciting for Bobby and especially for the league," said Trailblazers head coach Mike Britton. "All of these guys play because they love football. It's a complete lift for the league."

Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft agreed that the recognition is a positive.

"It's nice to be recognized by any major publication," Ashcraft said. "Bob's making great leaps with what he's done. It's great for semipro football and the Trailblazers."

Cowser, a Canton resident, said all of the players were excited about the photo opportunity. Each player attending practice took home a Polariod of the team photo.

"We were all on cloud nine," Britton said.

The night of the shoot was important to Cowser in another fashion. Upon taking the photo, he decided that he would play his fifth season in the EFL, the fourth with the Trailblazers, who play a preseason game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Glove Cities at Sandstoner Park in Potsdam.

"I wasn't sure at first," Cowser said. "But once I got back into my pads and took the photo with the guys, I wanted to return and play again."

As far as what position he'll play, Cowser doesn't have a preference.

"I played mostly defensive end, but I may play offensive guard," Cowser said. "Who knows though. We'll see where coach (Britton) wants me."

While Cowser doesn't plan on writing another sports book, he is in the early stages of writing his next book.

"It's a true crime piece about a murder and execution that takes place in Tennessee in 1979," said Cowser. "I'm just getting started conducting interviews. It's going to take several years of work to finish."

The paperback edition of "Dream Season" will be released in November.

Sunday, June 05, 2005
Woodward Named Eagles' Head Coach

The Scranton Eagles have a new leader.

It's a familiar face as semipro football veteran Mike Woodward, who has played with the Eagles since 2000, was named head coach on Saturday.
"I'm very optimistic if we get the players I think we can, we will win some games," he said at a tryout session at Riverfront Sports Complex after his hiring was announced.

Although this is his first head coaching job, Woodward feels he has the experience and knowledge needed to return the Eagles to the paths of glory in the Empire Football League. Since joining the club in 2000 he has played linebacker, but in the past has spent time at just about position and also helped coach. Last year he coached the special teams.

"There's just about a month before the season and we have much work to do,'' Woodward said. ''We're going to go with what we have, put the best players in the positions that best suit them. They will be ready."

Woodward, a native Virginian who played at Germania Colllege and had tryouts with the Miami Dolphins in 1990 and 1991, will direct his first practice Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at McDade Park. He hopes to practice there on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at McDade during the season.

"There will be some growing pains and we will make a few mistakes, but I'm very happy with what I saw here today," Woodward said.

The Eagles will travel to Albany on July 8 for their EFL opener against the Mallers. The home opener will be against Ottawa July 15 at Scranton Memorial Stadium, where they will play all five of their home games.

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