Friday, July 08, 2005

Dragons ready for run at EFL title

 Dragons ready for run at EFL title
Press & Sun-Bulletin

Tommy Manny has high hopes and higher expectations for this season.


Manny, head coach of the expansion Broome County Dragons, has lofty goals for his semi-pro football team, which begins play this weekend.

"A successful season would be a championship," Manny said after his team's practice on Thursday. "Might as well set the bar high."

The Dragons open their inaugural season at 7 tonight when they travel to New Hampton to take on perennial Empire Football League power Orange County.

The Dragons, the brainchild of Johnson City resident Karol Cronin, took the Southern Tier Green Machine's spot in the EFL. The Green Machine is playing in the North American Football League this season.

A good portion of the Dragons' roster played for the Green Machine last season. Manny, a longtime EFL veteran who has spent most of his career in Albany, was named head coach in February.

Even though the Dragons are the new kids on the EFL block, Manny thinks they can compete right from the start.

"We have to execute," Manny said. "We have to stay smart, we have to stay strong."

The Dragons got off to an impressive start last week by beating Scranton, 42-6, in an exhibition game Saturday at Sidney High School. The contest was more of a scrimmage than an actual game, and no official statistics were kept. But that didn't diminish what the Dragons accomplished.

"We were able to execute multiple sets on offense,"" Manny said. "It's something we've been working on, and I was impressed that they were able to show it off in a game situation and were able to make adjustments when some things went wrong."

Leading the way for the Dragons this season will be veteran quarterback Ty Fish. Fish was an All-Metro quarterback with Windsor in 1990.

"I think Ty is one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league," Manny said.

Along with all the requisite physical tools (good size, strong arm), Manny said he's most impressed with Fish's on-field intelligence. That allows the Dragons to run a more varied offense.

"The last thing you want to be is (predictable)," Manny said. "You always want to keep the other team wondering what you're going to come out with."

Manny hopes to have the kind of balanced offensive attack his team displayed against Scranton. Matt Pares, Jimmy Armstrong and Jamal Johnson give the Dragons a solid ground game. Brad Mister and Rob Stokstad each caught touchdown passes against Scranton, and tight end Joe Hashey played a solid game.

Up front, Keith Hardenze will play on the line both ways to start the season. He'll anchor the defense at nose tackle.

"We've got a lot of young guys -- and when I say young, I mean like 20 years old, 19 years old -- who are coming along real nicely."

In Orange County, the Dragons are facing a squad that went 9-3 last season.

"Like I told the guys just now, we can send a very powerful statement throughout the entire league with this game."

What kind of statement is Manny looking for?

"Victory, my man," Manny said with a smile. "Victory."

The Dragons' home opener is scheduled for July 16 against Montreal at Binghamton Alumni Field.

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