Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dragon to battle today at Memorial Stadium | Mallers open Saturday night

Dragon to battle today at Memorial Stadium
by Chris gill

CORNING | Break out the 20-sided die.

In something out of a fantasy role playing game, two teams of Dragons will throw down at Memorial Stadium today.

The Crystal City Dragons will try to rebound from their season-opening 33-12 loss to Albany last week at Memorial Stadium, welcoming the second-year Broome County Dragons at 7 p.m. in a nonleague semi-pro football game. The Binghamton-based team will be playing its season-opening game today, strengthened by the demise of Broome County's other semi-pro franchise, the Southern Tier Green Machine.

The B.C. Dragons signed almost 10 of the ex- Green Machine players, but are still playing their first game of the season.

“I think that will work to our advantage,” said Crystal City coach Dave Belknap.

First, Corning's Dragons have to get their offensive line together.

Last week against defending Eastern League champion Albany, Corning managed 174 yards of total offense, and of that only 54 yard were gained in the second half while down by two touchdowns. Quarterback Danny Giannone was sacked four times and seven different runners mustered just 85 rushing yards.

“We worked on a lot of those areas that killed us,” Belknap said. “The O-line in the first half was better in the first half than in the second half (last week). We've got a couple new guys that came in, one just showed up at practice. Starting off (today's) game, I'm going to stick with the same schemes and see how it works. We did a lot of work with the O-line this week.”

The kicking game cost Crystal City, too.

A blocked punt was recovered for a touchdown by Albany to put the Mallers up by three touchdowns, another punt was muffed, the opening kickoff went out of bounds and one extra point was shanked. Belknap said Friday he would put veterans Mike Mawhir and Roy Webb on the special teams line to help protect kicker Fred Cosier.

Belknap said he has offered more practice time this week for a defensive backfield that was torched by Albany's passing game to the tune of 246 yards and two touchdowns.

The Dragons do have some things to build on after their opener.

In the first half, Crystal City's new offensive playcalling showed some signs of expressiveness. On a first-and-10 play late in the first quarter, and the Mallers' secondary stacking the line, Giannone threw a perfectly-placed 61-yard bomb to Hausani Sessions for a score and tight end Ryan Stroman made crucial first-down grabs, catching passes for 28 and 18 yards underneath. Additionally, the Dragons' kick returners, led by Eddie Winfield, consistently brought the ball to the 40-yard line or beyond.

Now the Dragons in the west hope to have a crowd like last week's reported 484 spectators, and give them something to get excited about.

“It was down a little bit on Tuesday, but it picked up and they're ready to go,” Belknap said. “We really need to win one of these nonleague games before going into league play.”

NOTES | The Crystal City Dragons will admit Little League baseball players free to today's game, if they bear a shirt or hat from their uniforms. Parents of the players will be admitted for $4 and there will be a halftime ceremony for the kids. ... Fullback Jeff Rodriguez was Crystal City's most efficient runner last week, picking up 34 yards on six carries. ... Brad Hyranko sat out last week's game and his status for today is unknown

Mallers open Saturday night

Staff reports
First published: Friday, June 9, 2006

The Albany Metro Mallers' semipro football season starts at 7 Saturday night in Holyoke, Mass., in a nonleague contest against the Western Massachusetts Blitzin' Bears at Roberts Sports Complex.

Following his time at HVCC, Manion was the head lacrosse coach at Siena from 2000-04 and was an assistant coach at RPI the past two seasons.

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