Saturday, July 23, 2005

Lake City Stars, Watertown fill void in EFL slate

By KEITH KANE Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — For the second straight week, the Lake City Stars will not have their home opener in the Empire Football League.

The Green Mountain Gladiators, like the Amsterdam Zephyrs before them, have folded for the 2005 season, forcing coach Ed McCallister to scramble for a replacement team to play.

With teams like Orange County, Scranton and Broome County on the schedule in the coming weeks, the Stars were looking for a team to to help prepare them for those tests, and they found one in their Watertown rival the Red & Black.

"It’s definitely going to be a very physical, non-league game for sure," McCallister said. "It’s not like we are playing a team that isn’t very good; Watertown has proven themselves."

The Red & Black head into tonight’s exhibition contest at Melissa L. Penfield Park at 7:30 p.m. in the same predicament as Lake City. They are coming off a bye week with Amsterdam on their schedule, which would have translated into another bye week had they not picked up a game against the Stars.

Watertown is 1-0 in EFL play with a 20-3 victory over the Ottawa Deacon Demons July 9. All of the Red & Black’s points were scored in the first half and on three rushing touchdowns. Al Countryman, Eddie Berube and Vince Williams each found the end zone for scores.

Earnie Walsh led Watertown with 68 yards receiving on six catches while quarterback Doug Black completed 12-of-22 pass attempts for 110 yards through the air.

"Doug Black (quarterback), Al Countryman (running back) and Lynn Patrick (linebacker) are the core of the Red & Black," McCallister said. "Their window of opportunity is now and they want to make a run at the championship. Right there they have three solid players to build around; that is a great nucleus. With Countryman on the field it is a huge plus for the Red & Black.

"Countryman is what every guy in this league should strive to become. No one in this league will say a bad thing about Countryman. He plays the whole game and plays without any cheap shots. He is a natural leader and people around him aspire to pick up their level of play. He adds so much more to what they already have."

The Stars head into tonight’s game after a week off from their first win in the EFL season, a 22-13 win over the Montreal Titans on July 9.

Heath Geiser had a strong rushing attack for Lake City with 172 yards on just 16 carries. Kyle Nolan scored a touchdown for the Stars with 53 yards on the ground on nine carries while Vern Harrison added 42 yards on eight carries.

Eddie Castine only completed two passes for 62 yards in what was a rain troubled game, but did manage to hit James Blocker on a 41-yard touchdown strike for the go-ahead score

Defensively, Lake City dominated in the second half as the Titans were unable to find the end zone, while Earl Parks made a key interception.

"Offensively we seem to be solid as far as everyone who has been playing will be playing tonight, a theme I hope to continue all season," McCallister said. "We should be at full strength and have addressed those missing already with our game in Montreal."

The main problem the Stars have been facing this season is that they have been unable to string together games as teams have folded the past two weeks from the league.

"We can’t get on a roll," McCallister said. "Right now we will play two physical ball games in a row, so to have a bye after that is OK.

"When you play Watertown, no matter the score, you always expect a good football game. If it isn’t, I hope it is because we are running away with it.

Lake City has had a strong week of practice according to McCallister after a week before of being a little lackadaisical due to the bye week.

"It was a lot easier this week for the guys to focus knowing that they are playing Watertown this weekend," McCallister said. "We are a young ball club and a lot of players aren’t aware of Watertown and the physical football game. We have some players on this team that I have a great deal of respect for that are leaders and heading into tonight’s game that leadership is important.

"Watertown definitely has our respect."

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