Saturday, July 15, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage June 15th

Colonials, Zephyrs return to gridiron tonight

By ERIC FONTES, The Leader-Herald

The way Frank Van Skiver and Dom Ruggeri look at it, things can only get better from here.

In their season openers, the two local semi-professional football teams each played one of the top teams in their respective leagues.

So with level of competition most likely not exceeding what they faced last week, Van Skiver’s Glove Cities Colonials can only improve off their 58-0 loss to the Central New York Express. Same with Ruggeri’s Amsterdam Zephyrs, who lost 37-7 to the Tri-County Bulldogs last Saturday.

Their chance at redemption comes tonight when the Zephyrs host the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers in Empire Football League action and the Colonials visit the Mohawk Valley Vikings in a New York Amateur Football League tilt.

Ruggeri said the Zephyrs hope to rebound from last week with a victory, while the Colonials have their sights set on a rebuilding process that should get better with each passing week.

“We have a very tough road ahead of us,” Van Skiver said. “Each week you’ll see a young team improving. We are a young team [average age 20]. For a lot of these guys, this is their first experience at semi-pro football. We’re going to go through some growing pains. There will be good moments and bad moments. But as long as we stay upbeat and positive, in a few years the Colonials could be back to where they were in their hey-day.”

Eagles head to Ottawa in search of victory

Buoyant Stars host Orange County tonight

PLATTSBURGH — The Lake City Stars enjoyed an impressive opening to their 2006 Empire Football League season last Saturday. The Stars, who had never won in Watertown under head coach Ed McCallister, defeated the Red & Black 12-9.

"We found out last week that we can play with these teams," McCallister said. "That is a really good thing. Last week was a real quick wake-up call for our team and they realize now that they can play with these teams. Last week's victory was just huge."

The Stars look to continue the early-season success tonight in the home opener with the Orange County Bulldogs at Melissa L. Penfield Park. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Tonight's game will mark the lone cross-over contest for the season as all Northern Division teams will be playing a Southern Division opponent.

A season ago, the Bulldogs came to Plattsburgh and led Lake City 12-0 before the Stars attempted a late comeback. Orange County, however, was able to hold on 12-7.

"I think last season that they might have come to Plattsburgh and overlooked us a bit," McCallister said. "As a result of that I believe that we have gained their respect. This year, though, I think they will try to prove that they are much better than we are.

"If we play the way we can play and give 100 percent — the way we played last weekend — then we will give ourselves a chance. It is going to take as good a game as we played against Watertown and maybe a little more to stick with them."

In their opening game last weekend, the Bulldogs knocked off the Amsterdam Zephyrs, 37-7 in Amsterdam.

Orange County did most of its damage through the air as Jay Hawes completed 12-of-18 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Collis Martin hauled in six passes for 90 yards with two touchdowns and Paul Reed five receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Running back Andre McCloud also got into the act, as he hit Kelvin McKinney on a half-back pass for a nine-yard touchdown.

The Bulldogs' return game was also plenty busy in their victory over the Zephyrs. Hence Perdue fielded five punts for 100 return yards, including a 72-yard touchdown return.

The ground game picked up just 119 yards on 25 carries, led by Raheem Ridley's 30-yards on seven attempts.

The Stars' defense, which played as a full unit for the first time against Watertown, will need to play as strong as they did last week's game, a game in which they impressed even their head coach.

"We have a lot of new personnel on defense this year," McCallister said. "A lot of them are new to our team and hadn't seen this league before. But they stepped up last week and did a good job.

"It was so impressive to me that we, maybe, had one arm-tackle the entire game. We hit hard and we wrapped up after we hit. After the receivers made the catch we penned them in and did a great job of handling their fakes. We just made solid tackles and swarmed to the ball.

"They did exactly what they were supposed to do and worked very well as a unit."

Lake City, which has been mostly a ground-oriented team over the past few years, stretched things through the air against Watertown as new quarterback Kellen Nolan tossed a pair of first-half touchdown passes. The first, to Chris Verkey, gave the Stars a 6-0 league and the second to Matt St. Clair proved to be the game-winner.

But, when Lake City needed its running game, it was right there waiting.

"I think that Watertown has a very talented football team and their defense is going to be very tough in this league," McCallister said. "We moved the ball well and were able to catch them a few times. And we were also able to hold the ball for a good eight minutes in the fourth quarter.

"We turned the ball over on downs a few times where we had the opportunity for 3 points, but we were missing Ryan DeCamp, or I know we would have come away with more points."

McCallister expects his team to be ready for tonight's game, despite an unbelievable victory against Watertown. He doesn't expect the team to come in overconfident.

"I think it's a good thing that we have such a strong opponent after a big victory like we had," McCallister said. "This way there is no letting up.

"I seriously wouldn't be surprised if Orange County was the last team standing in the Southern Division and that is taking nothing away from Albany. The Bulldogs got Norm Mann back as their head coach this year and that man just demands respect.

"Orange County was a strong team last season, but I think that Mann is what they were missing. They are going to be even tougher now."

A season ago, Mann was the head coach of the 2005 EFL Champion Albany Metro Mallers. Before that he was head coach at Orange County, where he returns this season.

"Every team want to win a championship," McCallister said. "And to win we are going to have to go through either Orange Country or Albany, and I think it's nice to see what they have now.

"We excelled in every aspect of the game last week and I am hoping that it can continue tonight. Tonight's game isn't going to be the tell-tale sign of the season for us, but we still want to come out and play well, and hopefully if we do that we can come away with a win."

 Saturday July 15, 2006                                                                                                                                            

Dragons back home for EFL showdown
From staff reports

Fresh from a season-opening Empire Football League win over Scranton last week, the Broome County Dragons make their home debut at 7:30 p.m. tonight against the Chateauguay Titans at Binghamton Alumni Field.

The site is a familiar one for the Dragons--it served as their home field last season--but a switch from the planned use of the indoor Greater Binghamton Sports Complex for this season's five home games fell through.

"Basically things weren't adding up to what the league needed, as far as needing showers, locker rooms, and goal posts" said team owner Karol Cronin.

Bahij Kashou, owner of the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, called it "a matter of logistics."

Also at issue was seating. Neither the team nor the complex were able to secure bleachers. Each side said the other was responsible.

Kashou said the team was to lease bleachers. Cronin claimed the team was to get estimates on quantity and cost but the ultimate responsibility was with the complex.

"Possibly in the future we may be able to add shower facilities and bleachers to handle such an event," said Kashou.

Dragons coach Tom Manny said his team will be looking for a quick start against the Montreal-area Titans (1-0).

"We'd like to break out and get out on top quick," he said. "We're looking to put points on the board."

Manny said the team is looking to build on last Saturday's 21-14 win.

"We are just starting to click on offense," he said. "Guys are getting the offense down--quarterbacks are making the reads, receivers are crisper with their routes. We had a good practice (Thursday). We were able to drive when we needed to last week against Scranton, but again, we need to break out offensively."


Only something special could draw more than 11,000 fans to Scranton Memorial Stadium.

During a time when semi-professional football was extremely popular in the city, the Empire Football League championship game featured the hometown Eagles against their bitter rivals, the Tri-City Jets. The title game was on the same night as a professional boxing card at the Catholic Youth Center, yet the game packed the stadium to near-capacity.

Thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns the Eagles hoisted the trophy in their first season with a 26-13 victory.

With the game tied, Tri-City's Al Klump boomed a punt that pinned the Eagles and quarterback John Rogan at the 4. On the very first play, Rogan hit Rich Solan down the sideline for 56 yards, electrifying the crowd.

Frank Survilla picked up 15 yards and Rogan added two running plays, moving the Eagles to the Jets' 19. Three plays later, Rogan found Allen Keller, who would coach the Eagles in their glory days of the 1980s, down to the 5. He then hit Bill Lazor for the game-breaking score.

On the Jets' next series, Stan Kucharski intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for the final touchdown.

Tri-City, the defending champions, tried to get back in the game, driving to the Eagles' 7, but Grant Watkins intercepted a pass in the end zone to halt the drive.

As time was running out, the Jets again drove into Eagles' territory.

This time Mike DeFrancesco picked off a pass in the end zone to seal the victory.

Deep in their own territory, the Eagles grabbed all the momentum they needed when John Rogan hit Rich Solan for a 56-yard pass that ignited the two-touchdown fourth quarter.

Turnovers the Eagles forced including picking off four passes
Members of the Scranton Police Force were on hand including two detectives for crowd control
Estimated number of fans already packing the stadium two hours before kickoff
Total yards for the Eagles

"We're No. 1."
- the huge partisan crowd chanted mid-way through the fourth quarter

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