Saturday, August 05, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage August 5th

Colonials, Zephyrs looking to regroup at home

By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

The shadows are growing long on the playoff chances for both local semi-professional football teams.

Both the Glove Cities Colonials (0-4) of the New York Amateur Football League and Amsterdam Zephyrs (1-3) of the Empire Football League are in dire need of a win this week in front of home fans to keep hope alive. Coaches Frank Van Skiver of the Colonials and Dom Ruggeri of the Zephyrs have addressed their team’s apparent weaknesses in an attempt to put together 60 minutes of solid football tonight.

The Colonials defense has been reliable when rested, but spotty play by the offensive line and shortened drives have meant more turf time for the defense as games wear on. A string of key injuries has also been an issue.

Amsterdam’s defense has excelled against the run, but their secondary has proved problematic. Combined with an offense that has had a big bullseye on its foot and a smoking gun in its hand, wins have been hard to come by.

A win this week for either team would provide the necessary momentum for the mid-season run both teams need. It would also make motivating the players infinitely easier for the two head coaches as the season moves forward.

Amsterdam Zephyrs vs. Broome County Dragons, 7:30 p.m.
A lopsided 38-6 loss at Scranton last week only helped emphasize Ruggeri’s point when he addressed his team this week before practice. Things have to change.

Four turnovers on offense and four touchdowns through the air propelled Scranton to the rout in a game Ruggeri said his team should have won.

“We played way below our level down there in Scranton,” he said. “That team was not better than us and we just shot ourselves in the foot constantly with penalties and turnovers. We just got off the bus and played horrible.”

This week against Broome County, Ruggeri said his team is in yet another must-win situation if they want to stay in the thick of things in the EFL. The Zephyrs are looking to atone for their recent play with a win in front of their home crowd.

To pull off the win, the Zephyrs will have to clip the Dragons’ wings. The Amsterdam pass defense has been a major weakness and Broome County quarterback Ty Fish will try to exploit a young secondary.

But Ruggeri has told his young players that it is time to grow up.

“Our secondary is young, they’re learning each game and they really need to step it up this game and grow up in a hurry,” Ruggeri said. “We cannot afford to give up any big pass plays this week. The defense has been working too hard and I think leading the league against the rush. We just can’t seem to stop the pass and that’s our Achilles’ Heel right now.”

The Dragons do have a ground threat in tailback Jemall Johnson, who averages 6.3 yards per carry. Ruggeri touts him as one of the top backs in the league, but expects his defense to handle the run as well as they have all season.

The key, much as it is with the Colonials, will be to finish off offensive drives. But with the team backed into a corner in the standings, Ruggeri expects to see the Zephyrs come out swinging this week and put more points up on the board.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” Ruggeri said. “When we get inside the 20, we have to put points on the board. We’ve had three or four missed field goals in the last couple weeks and we’ve turned the ball over when we’ve got a potential touchdown, or we score a touchdown and there’s a flag that calls it back. We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot right now.”

Struggling Zephyrs in a must-win situation


Recorder Sports Staff

A must win.

How many times have you heard those words?

That's where the Amsterdam Zephyrs are in the Empire Football League Southern Division standings.

The struggling Zephyrs, 1-3, will host the Broome County Dragons (2-1) at 7:30 tonight at Lynch Middle School field.

The Albany Mallers lead the South with a 3-0 record followed by the Tri-State Bulldogs 3-1, Broome County, Scranton 1-2-1 and Amsterdam.

Zephyrs head coach Dom Ruggeri delivered a simple message.

"We have to beat them (Broome County). If we don't beat them, our season for the post season is basically over. We have to beat them in order to be in the thick of it. You got to figure, it goes Tri-State, Albany, and then Broome Co. or else," said Ruggeri.

The Zephyrs have lost two in a row and hope the friendly confines of Lynch and fans will help turn things around.

Last week, the Zephyrs fell to Scranton, 38-6.

"We play down to the level of competition. We were a much better team than Scranton. The guys just didn't show up to play. I told them this week you have to show up every week in this league or you're going to be in trouble," said Ruggeri.

Eric Johnson will again start at quarterback. He's completed 25 of 87 passes for 342 yards, four touchdowns but six interceptions.

"Offensively, Eric's doing a great job. The running game is starting to jell a little bit now. We made a big switch in the backfield last week which paid some dividends. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We got inside their (Scranton) 20-yard line six times last week and wound up getting two touchdowns called back because of a penalty. Or we get a stupid penalty, that just gets us out of field goal range. When you get down there, you have to put points on the board. You can't come away with no points, when you get down there that many times," said Ruggeri.

Unfortunately, the Zephyrs top runner, Tim Stewart is sidelined for about three weeks with a strained knee suffered against Scranton. Stewart was averaging around eight yards per carry.

Newcomer Ken Hudson, who played at Columbia High School, is expected to start at fullback and Penta Thomas gets the call at tailback. Thomas had a big effort last week rushing 14 times for 132 yards plus an 82 yard score. Jared Brown will also see playing time in the backfield.

"He (Thomas) runs about a 4.6 40 so he's well-equipped to play that position. He showed it last week right around the end of the third quarter. He broke about an 80 yard run for our score," said Ruggeri.

Jeremiah Newborn didn't play a week ago because of a hamstring injury and should be on the playing field this time around.

"The offensive line right now is doing a nice job, pass protection. There are some holes on the run game but they have to get that consistency. You can't go 60 yards down the field and come away with no points," said Ruggeri.

While the offensive unit is finding ways to improve, Ruggeri is making some adjustments to the defense.

"Defensively, we got the top rush defense in the league, nobody can run on us. Our problem is they throw the ball on us. We had to make some changes and made some moves in the secondary, coach (Rick) Sager and I got together and went over some stuff. It's going to be a different defensive formation out there," said Ruggeri.

Rich Johnson moves from safety to corner and the defensive front is playing very well and that includes ends Rick Hulett and Alex McKinsey while Bob Oddy, Brian Thompson, Aaron Robinson and Michael Castrello rotate at tackle. Hulett leads with three sacks.

Broome County features quarterback Ty Fish with a 35-for-64 effort, 583 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

His favorite targets are Johnathan Beachy (14 catches, 231 yards) and George Graham (seven catches, 147 yards) and three touchdowns. He also throws to Matt Willis and Sam Whitney.

"The key for us is ball control. We use seven running backs a game so fatigue is not a factor. Our quarterback has a baseball background. He showed up for a tryout last year and now look. He keeps cool under fire and that's what you want back there," said Broome County head coach Tom Manny.

Broome County's running game focuses on Jemall Johnson (29 carries, 183 yards), Sam Barksdale (21 carries, 137 yards) and Andre Gilmore (35 carries, 122 yards) and four touchdowns.

Defensively, Pasquale Iacono leads the way with 10 solo and 15 assisted tackles with Jamie Hoover right behind at 11 solo and 12 assisted tackles.

"Our offense is a little deeper than our defense. We're coming off a bye week and I'm a little concerned. On defense, we're definitely a unit, you can underline that. They all have great speed and we don't have a lot of size," said Manny.

Ruggeri hopes the Zephyrs can put together their first solid game on both sides of the ball.

"I can't play for them. All I can do is put them in a position to win. The coaching staff has done that. The captains had a meeting with the team Monday night on their own and told them we need to be 2-3 to be back in the thick of the playoff hunt. We'll need a lot of help if we fall 1-4," said Ruggeri.

Saturday August 5, 2006              SPORTS             


Following agonizing loss, Dragons look to rebound
From staff reports

Just 2 more yards and the Broome County Dragons, fresh from a bye week, might still be undefeated.

However, Ty Fish's potential game-tying pass against the division leading Albany Metro Mallers was incomplete giving the Dragons their first loss of the season on July 22.

"I hope they're still mad," coach Thomas Manny said. "I know I still am."

The Dragons (2-1) will look to rebound at 7:30 tonight against the Amsterdam Zephyrs (1-3) at Lynch Middle School in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam lost last week 38-6 to the Scranton Eagles. Running back Penta Thomas racked up 132 yards with a touchdown.

"We know if we stop the running game, we stop them," Manny said.

Broome County's efficient running game will be without Andre Gilmore who sprained his ankle against Albany. Gilmore leads the team with four touchdowns. Also sidelined will be starting middle linebacker Brandon Franklin with a shoulder injury. Outside linebacker, Daniel Jennings will take his place. Both injured players are expected to play next week.

"Anytime you lose two starters, it's difficult," Manny said. "But it's not crippling."

Jemall Johnson will be forced to carry a heavier load with his running mate Gilmore out. His 182 rushing yards leads the team as well as his average of 6.2 yards per carry.

"I've always hated bye weeks because it usually makes a team flat," Manny said. "I wish we would've played last week."

Following tonight's game, the Dragons return home a week from tonight to play the Tri-State Bulldogs.

Stars-Ice Storm rivalry intensifies

Teams meet tonight in Vermont for the first time as Empire Football League foes

Staff Writer

August 05, 2006

PLATTSBURGH — The Lake City Stars, in the past five seasons, have held a decisive advantage over the Vermont Ice Storm, their rivals from across Lake Champlain.

The Stars have captured four victories during that time.

The Ice Storm, however, grabbed their lone victory in five tries just a season ago with a 26-6 decision.

Vermont had been in the New England Football League since 2001, so the previous meetings between the two squads have been for pride more than anything else.

That changes this season, as the Ice Storm have entered the Empire Football League and lurk just behind the Stars in the Northern Division standings.

Tonight, first place will be on the line at Colchester High School in Vermont at 7:30 p.m.

"We've played them each of the past five years now," Lake City head coach Ed McCallister said. "There have always been a lot of emotions with nothing other than practice at stake. Even though we play them twice this year, this first game is very important halfway through the season. It can get us a nice solid lead for first place.

"There will probably be a little less emotion this year and more of a football game as both teams have a greater goal on their mind instead of just knocking each other out."

The Stars had another impressive showing on both sides of the ball last weekend as the offense received scores from both the passing and running games and the defense kept the Ottawa Deacon Demons out of the end zone in a 21-0 victory.

Heath Geiser led the ground attack with 76 yards on eight carries, including a 55-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter to close out the scoring. Brandon Keleher added 70 yards on 10 carries, with a two-yard touchdown to open scoring.

Quarterback Kellen Nolan completed 7-of-14 passes for 96 yards and hit Matt St. Clair for the second score of the game with a 30-yard pass.

The Stars' kicking game also received a shot in the arm last week with the return of kicker Ryan DeCamp, who was a perfect 3-for-3 in point after attempts.

On defense, Mike Lawyer, Don Tambini and Elija Parks led the way with five tackles apiece. Tambini and Wesley Reed each added a sack.

The Ice Storm, who have an identical 3-1 record on the season but have given up 106 points compared to the Stars' 40, are also coming off an impressive victory in a 29-21 win over the Chateauguay Titans.

Quarterback Brad Ruderman completed 13-of-21 pass attempts for 255 yards and three touchdowns, but was also intercepted twice.

Vermont possesses two deep threats in receivers Troy Canada, a former Star, and Austin Partain. Partain finished with 147 yards on six catches while Canada added 101 yards on five grabs, with two touchdowns.

John Fahey, who last season was in the running back mix for Lake City, picked up 40 yards on nine carries.

"Playing over there (in Vermont), I expect them to be predominantly a throwing team," McCallister said. "So far this season, that's what they have been. Ruderman is a good quarterback who throws the ball 25-30 times a game — we know what he has done against us. Canada and Partain are two guys we don't want to let get off. Those are two guys we have to keep in check.

"No disrespecting their running game, but if they are going to beat us, it's going to be on the ground because I want to take away their throwing game."

In last season's battle between the Ice Storm and Stars, Lake City fell as Canada pulled in three catches for 36 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown.

"We have run the ball well so far this year and we have been able to add the pass a little bit more," McCallister said. "It was an extremely physical game against Ottawa and we were able to run the ball 32 times for 234 yards. That is almost eight yards per carry. That's a pretty good stat.

"As much as we are going to have our hands full with their passing game, they are going to have the same problem with our running game.

"We have a lot of young guys on defense and we have done a pretty good job of keeping teams out of the end zone. In the last two games, teams threw the ball well and made advances, but we were able to make adjustments at halftime and pretty much shut them down in the second half."

Despite being a regular season EFL game, it has started to become a bit more because of the small distance between the two teams in both locality and in the standings.

"This game has sort of taken on its own persona from the get go," McCallister said. "Because our teams are so close, there is bound to be talking. I may have been instrumental in that as well as I was defending our team.

"The bottom line is they have brought their play to where it isn't just talk. They beat us last year. It took five years, but they came in here and they earned it.

"I have six or seven guys that hail from Vermont and these guys want to show they can play football.

"This is not just a once a year match-up anymore. There is going to be some emotion, but that should create for a real good game."


Eagles looking to keep momentum

Staff Report--The Scranton Eagles face a major challenge coming off their first win of the season.

On Saturday, the unbeaten and Southern Division-leading Albany Metro Mallers visit Scranton Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m. in an Empire Football League game.

Albany, the defending EFL champions, defeated Tri-State last week to improve to 3-0. That’s the same Tri-State team that throttled the Eagles, 70-0, two weeks ago.

The Eagles are 1-2-1 after beating Amsterdam last week and Coach Mike Woodard hopes the newly found momentum carries into this clash.

“We’re not the same team that lost to the Bulldogs by 70 points three weeks ago,” Woodard said. “If we play against Albany the way we did against Amsterdam — and we’re capable of playing even better — we can win this game.”

Quarterback John Kennedy, who missed the Tri-State game with an injury, returned against Amsterdam, throwing four touchdown passes. The veteran is now ranked third among EFL quarterbacks, having completed 40 of 72 passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns.

Two of his favorite targets, Louis Verdetto and Thad Witek, are ranked among the EFL’s top 10 receivers this week. Verdetto is third with 17 catches for 277 yards and two TDs, while Witek is ninth with 13 snares for 165 yards and two TDs.

A former Old Forge standout, Verdetto has 277 yards receiving that ranks him third for most receiving yardage, just behind Collis Martin of Tri-State with 20 catches for 325 yards and Culture Branch of Albany with 301 yards on 18 receptions.

Another new weapon in the Eagle arsenal is kicker John Vitovsky who accounted for six of the points chalked up against Amsterdam. A former soccer player at Western Wayne who never played football, Vitovsky booted a field goal and three extra-points against Amsterdam.

Scranton Eagles face a major hurdle

                The Scranton Eagles face a major hurdle on the comeback trail when the unbeaten and Southern Division-leading Albany Metro Mallers, conquerors of a team that beat the locals 70-0, roll into Memorial Stadium Saturday night.

                The defending Empire Football League champions are 3-0 after knocking the Tri-State Bulldogs from the unbeaten ranks, 17-13, in a game at Albany last Saturday.

                The Eagles are 1-2-1 after beating Amsterdam last week and Coach Mike Woodard hopes the newly found momentum carries over against Albany.

                "We're not the same team that lost to the Bulldogs by 70 points three weeks ago," he said. "If we play against Albany the way we did against Amsterdam--and we're capable of playing even better--we can win this game."

                Quarterback John Kennedy, whose absence with an injury was one of the reasons for the Bulldog debacle, returned with a vengeance against Amsterdam, throwing four touchdown passes. He now is ranked third among EFL quarterbacks, having completed 40 of 72 passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns.

                Two of his favorite targets, Louis Verdetto and Thad Witek, are ranked among the EFL's top 10 receivers this week. Verdetto is third with 17 catches for 277 yards and two TDs, while Witek is ninth with 13 snares for 165 yards and two TDs.

                Verdetto's 277 yards also rank him third for most receiving yardage, just behind Collis Martin of the Bulldogs with 20 catches for 325 yards and Culture Branch of Albany with 301 yards on 18 receptions, setting up a Verdetto-Branch showdown Saturday night.

                Another new weapon in the Eagle arsenal is kicker John Vitovsky whose boots accounted for six of the points chalked up against Amsterdam. A former soccer player at Western Wayne who never played football, Vitovsky booted a field goal and three extra-points against Amsterdam.

                Woodard made the surprise discovery one day during the off-season when the Eagles were working out at The Sports Dome in Jessup, where Vitovsky was doing the same, only on the soccer field.

                "I heard this boom, boom, boom," Woodard said. "It was the sound of him kicking the ball. I asked if he ever kicked a football. He said never seriously, so I told him if he wanted to play semipro football, I'd teach him to kick a football. Never mind his field goal and extra-points," Woodard added, "Did you see his kickoffs? Every one was either in the endzone or inside the five."

                Kennedy, too, had words of praise for Vitovsky. "John finally got his confidence. He's going to be great."

                Vitovsky, who also punts, is eighth among the leagues top 10 punters with five for 178 yards, an average of 35.6 yards.

                Another standout, kickoff return specialist Nelson Rasheed, racked up 91 yards in three times and set up Eagle scoring drives.

                Woodard said he once again will  be counting heavily on his defense, anchored by veteran linebacker George Romiti, currently leading the league in tackles with 55.

                "Our secondary also a great job against Amsterdam, Champi (Cory), DeJoseph (Jim) and Brady (Joe)," he added, "and we'll  be looking at them to play as good or better against Albany."

                Champi and DeJoseph stole two passes each, killing Amsterdam threats. Champi returned one for a TD.

                Albany is powered by quarterback Scott Lawson and receivers Macio Clinton and Branch, each of whom caught scoring passes in the win over Tri-State.

                In that game, the Bulldogs made a run for it in the waning minutes, but were stopped on a forced fumble by Albany's Carson Johnson that was recovered by Mo James.

                On the ground, Albany is sparked by Sylvester Cooperwood, the league's No. 2 rushers with 53 rushes for 289 yards, a 5.5-yard average and three TDs.

                After Albany the Eagles will have a week off to get ready for a road trip to Binghamton for a return match with the Broome County Dragons on Saturday, Aug. 19. On Aug. 26 they'll be back at Memorial Stadium with the Bulldogs and a chance to avenge the 70-0 drubbing.


Some Phone Contacts:

Coach Woodard 894-3230 or 894-1342

John Kennedy 499-1728 or home 341-0174

George Romiti 313-7892 or home 969-4064

Louis Verdetto 793-9730

John Vitovsky 488-6803

Gar Kearney 347-4877


Saturday, August 5, 2006                                                                                                                                                            

Vermont roundup

Ice Storm play at home: At Colchester, the Vermont Ice Storm will pit their 2-1 record in the Empire Football League against the Chateauguay (Quebec) Titans tonight at 7:30 at Colchester High School.

The Storm are tied for first place in the Northern Division.

"Not a bad start," said Ice Storm head coach Doc Perez in a news release.

"If we keep working hard and can limit mistakes on game day, this team could have a very successful first season in the Empire Football League," offensive coordinator Scott Aguglia said in the release.

The Ice Storm have scored 77 points, most in the division.

Chateauguay (1-1) is coming off a bye week.


Saturday, August 05, 2006


When, where: 7:30 p.m., today, Torne Valley Sports Complex, Ramapo.

Head coaches: Watertown, George Ashcraft; Tri-State, Norman Mann.

Last meeting: Tri-State won 25-7, Oct. 15, 2005 (EFL playoffs).

NOTES: The Red and Black has won its past two games, after an opening week loss to Lake City. ... The backfield tandem of Anthony Noel and Ernie Miller combined for 180 rushing yards last week against St. Lawrence Valley. Noel ranks third in the EFL with 213 yards (5.8 average). ... The offense has not yet committed a turnover, and the Red and Black has a plus-6 turn over ratio. ... Tri-State, led by former Albany coach Norman Mann, has scored 36.0 points per game. But that includes a 70-0 win over Scranton. ... Bulldogs wide receiver Collis Martin leads the league in receptions (20), yards (325), and touchdowns (4).


When, where: 7:30 p.m., today; Billings High School, Chateaugay (Montreal).

Records: St. Lawrence Valley (0-4); Chateaugay (1-2).

Head coaches: St. Lawrence Valley, Mike Britton; Chateaugay, John Mouland.

Last meeting: Chateaugay (then Montreal) won 20-14 on July 30, 2005.

NOTES: The Titans dropped a 29-21 decision to Vermont in a EFL Northern Division matchup last week. ... St. Lawrence Valley has given up a league-worst 125 points in four games this season. ... One of Chateaugay's top defensive threats, Mike Bagnato, has recorded a team-high 2.5 sacks in three games. ... Trailblazers quarterback Dave Currier has found a better touch with the team's new passing game. He's completed 51 percent of his passes and thrown for 513 yards. He has thrown seven interceptions, however, which is tops in the EFL. ... Wide receivers Lamont Lane and Joe Hutchinson have combined for 28 catches and 372 yards.

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