Monday, April 24, 2006

Amsterdam Zephyrs ready to rejoin EFL action

Sunday, April 23, 2006
— Time: 12:13:23 AM EST

Amsterdam Zephyrs ready to rejoin EFL action

By JAMES A. ELLIS, The Leader-Herald

AMSTERDAM - In 2004, the Amsterdam Zephyrs semi-pro football program was revived, but struggled to a 1-9 record.

In 2005, due to a low number of participants, the Zephyrs disbanded prior to the start of the Empire Football League season.

With a renewed outlook, a swelling roster and a new head coach, the Zephyrs are back in 2006.

Dom Ruggeri takes over the reins as head coach of the Zephyrs, which boast a 58-man roster for the upcoming EFL season.

"Tony Marotta [Amsterdam Zephyrs' president] contacted me and asked if I would be interest in coaching the team," Ruggeri said. "I agreed to coach because of the challenge and being able to work with a great organization like the this."

Joining Ruggeri, who will be in charge of the defense, on the coaching staff are offensive coordinator Joe Hall, quarterback and receivers coach Mike Finocchi, line coach Dave Nicosia, defensive backs coach Alex McKinsey, speciality teams coach Rick Sager and conditioning coach Wayne Marotta.

Ruggeri said being a former player in the Empire Football League helped him as the team reorganized for the upcoming season.

"Being a former player in the EFL, I had some connections and that put us in touch with some of the players," he said. "The Amsterdam school district and the community has been great. The field [the Lynch Middle School FieldTurf field] was a big drawing point for the team."

Ruggeri played for the Glove Cities Colonials, as did many members of his coaching staff.

"Many of the coaches and players on this team are also involved with the Little Giants football program," Marotta said. "They know football and want to keep the tradition alive for the kids coming up through the programs."

The Empire Football League is split into two divisions. Amsterdam plays in the Southern Division with the Albany Metro Mallers, Scranton Eagles, Broome County Dragons and Tri-State Bulldogs. The Northern Division is comprised of the Ottawa Deacon Demons, Chateauguay Titans, Lake City Stars of Plattsburgh, St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers, Vermont Ice Storm and the Watertown Red & Black.

"The EFL is as competitive as ever," Ruggeri said. "The Albany Metro Mallers are the team to beat. We will play on natural grass only once or twice this season. Most of the fields in the league are now artificial turf. When we play Broome County, it will be played indoors [Greater Binghamton Sports Complex]. We have some excellent players on this team."

The Zephyrs will be looking to the talents of running back Wayne Thompson and quarterback Jon Marotta to lead the teams offense.

Also listed on Amsterdam's pre-season roster are veteran semi-pro players Joe Hall Jr., Eric Johnson, Chris Wiltey, Jorge Rodriquez, Mike Philo and Rick Hulett.

The Zephyrs have their first pre-season game scheduled for June 3 in Massachusetts with the Blitzin' Bears.

"This is a championship-caliber team," Marotta said.

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