Saturday, July 08, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage July 8th

Dragons aiming high in return
By Brian Moritz
Press & Sun-Bulletin

Tommy Manny will settle for nothing less than making a run at the Empire Football League title this season.

"Championship game," is what the second-year coach of the Broome County Dragons said would be a successful season for his team. "We do have the talent to get there."

The Dragons are scheduled to begin their second season today at Scranton. Their home opener is scheduled for July 15 against Scranton.

This season, the Dragons are the only semi-pro football team in the area. The Southern Tier Green Machine folded, and the Dragons inherited several players from that squad. The Dragons also have a new home field, the indoor Binghamton Sports Complex on Airport Road. The team played its home games last season at Binghamton Alumni Field.

But the Dragons also return a good core of players from last year's team that went 6-4 in the EFL and lost to Lake City in the first round of the EFL playoffs. The Dragons also made the Harvest Bowl National Championship tournament, losing in the first round to the Boston Bandits.

Manny said that 28 players return from last season's team.

"Numbers-wise, we're up from last year," Manny said. "You do get your core people back from year to year, which is usually between 20-30 people, and then you have the people who come in each year."

One of the key cogs back for the Dragons this year is starting quarterback Ty Fish. Fish was a second-team EFL All-Star last year. He threw for an EFL-best 1,800 yards last season and had 16 touchdown passes. Manny said he felt his quarterback should have been the league's Most Valuable Player.

"To have that kind of experienced starter at quarterback is huge," Manny said. "Guys know who the leader is on the field. That's important. The quarterback needs to be an extension of the coach on the field. He was outstanding last year."

Also back from last season's team is tight end Jonathan Bechy, who led the league with 553 receiving yards. Jemall Johnson, the team's leading rusher last season, also returns.

"If anything, we've gotten deeper at some positions," Manny said.

The Dragons have also added several players at new positions. Matt Willis, who was a wide receiver at Hartwick College, joins the team. Manny said Willis will be the team's punter.

George Graham, a Binghamton High graduate who played for the Green Machine last season, joins the Dragons as well.

"He's going to be a big help for our air attack," Manny said. "George was a nice find."

The Dragons won their only preseason game, cruising to a 37-19 victory over the Crystal City Dragons of Elmira Heights on June 24. Fish threw for 133 yards, 101 to Bechy, and Broome County's defense held Crystal City to 145 total yards. But Manny wasn't happy with his squad's special teams, which gave up punt return touchdowns of 85 and 92 yards.

Manny said the biggest challenge his team will face this season will come from the Albany Metro Mallers, the defending league champions.

"We have to get over the hump with Albany," said Manny, who spent years as a player and coach with Albany. "I think last year, some of my younger players were a little in awe of them. This year, there's a different attitude. They believe."

Lake City Stars kick off campaign tonight

Lake City gridders still looking for first win in Watertown

PLATTSBURGH — The Lake City Stars kick off their Empire Football League season tonight in Watertown, hoping to at least make it back to the semifinals, where they lost to the eventual league champs, the Albany Metro Mallers, 23-0.

The EFL returns to two-division play for the 2006 season, a move that pleases Lake City Coach Ed McCallister.

"I like being able to play everyone in our division twice," McCallister said. "I think it creates more fun for the fans, especially those that travel. They are able to get to know some of the teams a little better as we play them twice. And with gas the way it is, it will definitely help with the travelling."

Lake City will play in the North, along with the Vermont Ice Storm, the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers, the Montreal Titans and the Ottawa Deacon Demons. The Watertown Red & Black will be a floater team and will be included in the Northern Division for the playoffs.

"The Northern Division will be very tough," acknowledged McCallister. "Ottawa is going to surprise a lot of teams. The Ice Storm and Montreal will be tough to play and St. Lawrence is a vastly improved team.

"We will have to fight to make it to the playoffs," he continued. "It's going to be an interesting season. I feel if we stay healthy and mature quickly that we will be okay."

The top three teams in each division will make the playoffs with with the first-place team receiving a bye in the first round.

Lake City, like the EFL, has undergone some significant changes this season, the biggest being at quarterback. Kellen Nolan, a standout cornerback for the Stars, takes over for the recently departed Eddie Castine, who had been under center the past three seasons.

"Kellen is going to be our new quarterback," McCallister said. "He has looked very good in practice and is definitely a competitor. He also has the luxury of some good targets to throw to."

The wide receiving corps will consist of starters Matt St. Clair and James Blocker, as well as deep threat Chris Verkey. Brian Talley and Calab Clark will also be in the mix. Starting at tight end will be Trevor St. Clair while Jean Mirville and Blocker could also see some time there.

The offensive line will be a six-headed monster as Nolan and his backs protected by Mike Archer, Keith Bushey, Nick Moore, Jeff Way, Mike Thwaits and Frank Rooney.

Heath Geiser returns as the team's starting tailback while Kyle Nolan will again be the lead-blocker.

"Again this season, we will be a running back by committee," McCallister said. "We have five backs who will be in the rotation and all will carry the ball."

Cory Lawyer, Brandon Keleher and Jedidiah Randall join Geiser and Kyle Nolan in the offensive back field.

With Kellen Nolan moving to the offense, it creates an opening in the defensive secondary. Brandon St. John will join Earl Parks at starting corner, but don't count out an occasional appearance by Nolan in the defensive scheme.

"I think he will be done at cornerback," McCallister said. "That's not to say that if we needed him to go both ways — say in a playoff situation — that he isn't capable. But, that's not what I want to do."

Travis Tipton and Tom Brindisi will be the starting safeties.

The linebacking corps returns nearly intact with captain, and new defensive coach, Mike Lawyer leading the way. Shane Cheeseman also returns while Ryan Carey figures to be a new starter in the mix.

Don Tambini will return from last season's injury to start on the defensive line, along with Mike Stafford and Jeremy Dowler. Thwaits and Way could also see time on defense in certain situations.

Ryan DeCamp, who has the leg to kick the occasional 50-yard field goal, returns as the team's reliable kicker.

"Things will most likely be changing throughout the season," McCallister said. "Once I can see what we can do on the field and how good we can be.

"Some players will definitely be getting their money's worth in playing time."

Lake City opens against Watertown, which lost to the Stars, 27-12, last year in a non-league affair in Plattsburgh.

However, Lake City has yet to beat the Red & Black on their home turf in Watertown.

"It starts for real Saturday. And our franchise has never won a game in Watertown," McCallister added. "This is going to be a good early test for us.

"I feel if we don't get too caught up early on and are able to play through our mistakes, then we should be okay.

"But I don't feel that we are where we should be as a team right now. We are lucky to have guys with experience, who should help out, and hopefully the youth will be able to catch up.

"We will have to realize that the season is a marathon and not a sprint. We aren't where we want to be, but that doesn't mean we can't get to where we want to be come playoff time.

"This is a long season and Saturday will be a real character test for us," McCallister continued. "Hopefully, we can play well, come away injury free and in the end, on top."

Home Opener Give Mallers Last Chance to Gear Up
Saturday Evening at 7:30, the Empire Football League kicks off its 37th season just as it did last year for its 36th, minus the leagues defending champion.  In 2005, the defending champion Glens Falls Greenjackets abdicated the throne by jumping ship to the larger North American Football League. Their successors, the Albany Metro Mallers haven’t departed for “greener field turf”. They have an unlikely bye week in the first week of league play. 

But rather than take the week off the Metro Mallers are back on the local gridiron with their home opener, as they take on the Rockland County Bruins in a non league contest at Union College’s Frank Bailey Field. 
The Mallers, who racked up 16 straight wins last season including an 11-0 run through the powerful Empire Football League enroute to their third EFL Championship, come in with a 2-1 record on the young season. Having already endured three road games the team has bounced back from a disappointing end to 2005 when they lost their only contest of the year in the Semi-Final round of the Harvest Bowl Championship Tournament which crowns the minor league champion of the Eastern U.S. Coupled to this loss, was team dropping its first game of 2006 at the hands of the Western Mass Blitzen Bears. The talented Albany semi-pro squad has rebounded with 2 wins in a row at Crystal City and Kingston leading into tonight’s home opener.
A mix of seasoned veterans laced with All EFL and All-American Talent, the Mallers have had to reload for the new campaign by supplementing a roster that includes All Americans  and Co EFL Players of the Year Sylvester Cooperwood & Greg Woodward and EFL All Stars  Scott Lawson, Maceo Clinton,  Anthony DeChairo, Andrez Morris,  , Brian Northern, Farid Baaklini, Jeff Turman, Brian Domingo, Bo Gaudreau, Drew Sickels, Mo James, Damon Walker, Carmen Danielle,  Sal Ivarone and Athan Schindler. Despite this strength and experience the team lost an additional 8 members of the 2005 EFL All Star Team to various events ranging from retirement, injury, and defections, including Head Coach and EFL Coach of the Year Norman Mann to the Tri State Bulldogs. Former Capitaland Thunder Boss and Maller Defensive Coordinator Luke Posniewski takes the reigns as the Mallers still have an abundance of top flight returning talent including former Albany Conquest OS Gabe Young, and veterans Alvin Foy, Joe Logsdon, Lawan Cancer, David Rushford, Camillo Ferraro, Norman Lewis, Rick Fish, CT Barker, George Miller,  Justin Ned, Carson Johnson, John Mulino, Terry Cumberbatch, June Mitchell, and the Seniors, Larry and Derrick, among others. Additionally, EFL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Culture Branch is expected to dispel any ideas of a sophomore jinx with a  strong showing at Wide Receiver. Plus there are the newcomers, who include former Greenjackets Defensive All Star Lineman Anthony Vignola and WR Brian Hahn, along with Matt Callahan, Steve Kowalczak, Wayne Hansbury and George Amobi. Next the Mallers add in the Falcon Factor, The Albany High School Rookie Trio of Tay Tay Rama, Ryan Van Tull and Dr J.jr. Julius Irving, who has already tallied 3 Touchdowns in Maller Blue and Gold.
The Bruins come to the Electric City with a 1-0 record on the season from Hillcrest NY, and are members of the Gardens State Football League. They share the home field at the new Torne Valley Sports Complex in Ramapo, NY with Maller EFL Arch Rival Bulldogs.
The Mallers will start their defense of their EFL Title next week as they return to the road and head to the Green Mountains to face the Vermont Ice Storm on Saturday July 15th.    
Kick off at Union College is Saturday at 7:30 PM. 

Metro Mallers Football is family/fan friendly football, bringing the Capital District big league action at small town prices

Members of the media are invited to cover the game. Contact Communications Director Jim Malone for media credentials prior to 1pm on game day either by return e-mail or by phone at 459-4915.

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