Saturday, September 09, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage September 9th


Eagles looking to end four-game losing skid



The struggling Scranton Eagles hit the road on Saturday hoping to climb out of the Empire Football League cellar by snapping a four-game losing streak when they meet the Amsterdam Zephyrs, the only team they’ve beaten this season.

In an earlier meeting at Memorial Stadium, Scranton quarterback John Kennedy threw four touchdowns and the defense picked off four Amsterdam passes in a 38-6 victory.

With three games remaining in the regular season, Scranton stands last in the Southern Division with a 1-5-1 record, while Amsterdam is fourth with a 2-5 mark. The Albany Metro Mallers lead the pack with a 6-0 mark and trounced the Eagles 45-9 last month in Scranton.

On the threshold of the worst season in team history, the Eagles have struggled since the second game of the season when they lost most of their offensive line to injuries. The only veterans surviving up front are All-EFL center Jeremy Schaffer and Carlo Ciotoli.

A mid-season addition to the offensive line was Chuck Chulada, who helped the Eagles win championships in the 80s. Chulada, who played at Coughlin High School and Syracuse University, traveled from Florida to offer his services and has seen action against Albany and the Tri-State Bulldogs. At 55, he is the oldest active football player in the country.

Lake City Stars control their fate

Staff Writer

September 09, 2006

PLATTSBURGH — The Lake City Stars remain in control of their own destiny. With four games left, the Stars are four wins away from the Northern Division championship in the Empire Football League.

Lake City will head to Ottawa to take on the Decon Demons tonight for their second meeting of the season. The Stars picked up a 21-0 victory over Ottawa in the first meeting. Tonight's kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.

"Ottawa still has an outside chance of making the playoffs," Lake City head coach Ed McCallister said. "So, I expect them to be ready to play.

"If we win one game then we are assured a playoff spot, but if we win all three remaining then we will be able to win our division.

"The bottom line is we have to take one game at a time, but our destiny is in our own hands."

The Stars had a bye last week after beating the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers, 30-14, on Aug. 26.

Quarterback Johnny LaPlante, who was 2-for-4 passing last and rushed for 41 yards, will be under center tonight.

"LaPlante will get the start," McCallister said. "He looked really good against St. Lawrence and has done really well in practice this week.

"We have a long trip to Ottawa and, hopefully, once we get off the bus we will be ready to play. We look pretty healthy coming off a bye week, which I hate, but luckily the entire league had a bye last week. The good thing is we were able to get some guys back who have been dinged up."

In the first game against the Decon Demons, the Stars did most of their damage on the ground as Heath Geiser rushed for 64 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown run, while Brandon Keleher finished with 60 yards and a touchdown.

"Keleher has 371 yards on the season and Geiser has 350," McCallister said. "To me it looks like the running game is doing pretty well. I would like to be able to spread the ball around a little more because we have so many weapons on our team. Hopefully, we will be able to do that tonight."

Ottawa's main offensive weapon this season has been running back Shawn Harkes, who has rushed for 510 yards and also has 148 through the air.

In their first meeting, the Stars limited Harkes to just nine yards on seven carries. The Decon Demons as a whole rushed 16 times for a total of one yard.

"The first time our defense did an excellent job against the run," McCallister said. "But, we will still have to make sure to contain Harkes. They also have a couple of pretty good receivers, so they have the ability to put points on the board. We will have to step up against them defensively."

The Stars find themselves in another trap game as tonight's contest falls one week before their showdown with Northern Division leader Vermont. The Ice Storm knocked off Lake City in overtime in their first meeting, so the Stars might be looking past the Decon Demons to Vermont, a thought that scares McCallister.

"I don't care about the final score tonight," McCallister said. "We just have to figure out a way to win. We beat them 21-0 the first time, but I am apprehensive about this — we cannot get caught looking ahead.

"We have Vermont next week and if we for a second are thinking about Vermont tomorrow night, we could be in trouble."

Lake City also finds itself in a place the Stars haven't been since McCallister took over 10 years ago — in control.

"We are in unfamiliar waters," McCallister said. "We control our own destiny. We haven't had that before in the 10 years I have been here.

"What we need tonight is 60 minutes of good, hard football and hopefully be able to get on a role heading down the stretch."

Colonials still looking for first win, Zephyrs hope to clinch playoff spot

By JAMES A. ELLIS, The Leader-Herald

With the semi-pro football playoffs looming in the near future, the Glove Cities Colonials and Amsterdam Zephyrs figure to be factors in them.

The Colonials (0-8) are playing the role of spoiler for the Mohawk Valley Vikings, while the Zephyrs are in a “win and in” situation.

“This is a very winnable game for us,” Coach Dom Ruggeri said of Amsterdam’s game with the Scranton Eagles. “We know that if we win, we will be in the playoffs. It would be the first time for the Zephyrs organization since 1942.”

It is the second time this season that the Empire Football League rivals have squared off. The Eagles (1-5-1) came out on top in the first meeting, 38-6.

“We were missing about six of the starters from our roster when we made the trip to Scranton,” Ruggeri said. “We stayed close to them in the first half, but in the second half we gave up five turnovers. We will need to take care of the ball this time and be alert because they are very good at executing on both sides of the ball.”

Amsterdam (2-5) has had two weeks off and that time gave some of the players a chance to let injuries heal before the final stretch run.

“Having a couple of weeks off really helped us heal up some minor injuries,” Ruggeri said. “Of course, we are still missing Brian Thompson, [bicep] but we should be back to full strength for Saturday night. We need to have a full roster.”

Tonight’s game will be played to benefit the family of State Trooper Joseph Longobardo, a former Amsterdam resident, who died earlier this week of a gun shot wound suffered in the line of duty.

“We have had inquiries from all over,” Ruggeri said. “This is also our last regular season home game and I would not be surprised to see 2,000 people here.”

The Colonials are looking to build momentum for next season with their final two home games of the season on their home turf.

“We have added a couple more players to our roster and that is a positive sign,” Colonials coach Frank VanSkiver said. “We had a good week off and the Tuesday and Thursday practices were decent. The guys still seem upbeat, eager and hungry to play.”

The Colonials are coming off a 22-0 loss to the defending New York Amateur Football League champion CNY Express.

“Defensively, the past three four weeks, we have been looking better,” VanSkiver said. “The offense has shown signs that it is coming out of its scoring slump. We have been able to move the ball into the red zone but have been making mistakes that keep us out of the end zone. It is a very young football team but I think this is one of the weeks where we can be extremely competitive and play the role of spoiler. Mohawk Valley is playing to get into the playoffs and with our record they may overlook us. They may be focused on the next game and not take us seriously and that could be an advantage for us.”

Zephyrs control own destiny

Recorder Sports Staff

When Amsterdam Zephyrs head coach Dom Ruggeri talked to his team at Thursday night's practice he delivered one simple message.

"We control our own destiny (for playoffs)," he said.

After a two-week rest, the Zephyrs are 2-5 and fighting for a playoff berth in the Empire Football League.

The Zephyrs will entertain the Scranton Eagles (1-5-1) at Lynch Middle School field at 7:30 tonight.

The Albany Metro Mallers lead the EFL Southern Division with a 7-0 record followed by Broome County Dragons at 4-2, Tri-State Bulldogs 5-3, Zephyrs and the Eagles.

In the first meeting, Scranton had its own way, 38-6 as the Zephyrs commited six turnovers. Louis Verdetto caught four passes for 101 yards and quarterback John Kennedy completed 8-of-19 passes for 198 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

A couple of weeks ago, the Zephyrs were banged up and needed the time off to recover from injuries.

"We needed those two weeks off. We had a good practice (Thursday) tonight. John Marotta is ready to go at quarterback and that will help us out. He'll back up Eric Johnson and probably will see some time on Saturday. Eric has had a long year. We're a young team and sometimes it takes a whole season for a team to jell," said Ruggeri.

Johnson is 42-of-157 for 582 yards with five touchdowns, but 12 interceptions. On the other hand, Kennedy's statistics read: 56-of-113, 778 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Evan DeGeorgio bolsters the Zephyrs punting game with 29 attempts for 911 yards (31.4 average). End Rick Hulett is second in the EFL in sacks with 5.5.

Scranton's defensive leader is George Romiti with 38 solo and 53 assisted tackles for 91 and that ranks first league-wise.

The Zephyrs will have tailback Penta Thomas back in the lineup along with fullback Ken Hudson. Tim Stewart is still recovering from an injury and listed as questionable.

"This is a big game. We didn't play well down there. We really beat ourselves bad. I told the guys we control our destiny. We have to win," said Ruggeri.

"Gabe Young has also been a big addition to our team. He's really helped us on both sides of the ball. We really don't need help from anybody. I know we have playoff implications and hope we have a special game for the trooper. The guys are really psyched for this one," said Ruggeri.



Saturday, September 09, 2006

Broome County Dragons at Watertown Red & Black

When, where: 7:30 p.m., today, Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Head coaches: Watertown, George Ashcraft; Broome County, Tommy Manny.

Records: Watertown 5-2; Broome County 4-2.

Last meeting: Watertown won 31-20, Aug. 20, 2005.


NOTES: Watertown is coming off last weekend's leaguewide bye. Starting running back Anthony Noel is expected to return after suffering several broken ribs during a loss to Albany on Aug. 9. ... At 5-2, Watertown is currently tied with Lake City for second place in the Northern Division, a half-game behind Vermont (6-2). ... The Dragons appear to be Watertown's toughest test for the remainder of the regular season. The team faces Ottawa and Scranton — with a combined win total of three — in its final two games. ... Broome County is a passing team, as Johnathan Beachy is tied for second in the league with 29 receptions, and QB Ty Fish is third in passing yards (1,137). ... Watertown forced three interceptions in its previous win, over Chateauguay.

Trailblazers' future appears in doubt

FRUSTRATION BUILDS: Winless season, shrinking roster takes toll on coach Britton




Saturday, September 09, 2006

POTSDAM — The past five years have been more about heartache than happiness for Mike Britton.

The St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers head coach collected a group of relative strangers in life, and some to football, to compete in the Empire Football League in May 2002. Pouring all his knowledge and passion into an entity many felt was doomed from the start, Britton and the Trailblazers have survived. For now.

Promises of playoff berths and an easing their way into contention have dissolved. The only numbers that are counted are the mounting losses. With a 0-8 record in 2006, a trip to the playoffs by default in 2005, and four legitimate wins in nearly five seasons, one looming question remains:

Will Saturday's home game against Chateauguay be the last for St. Lawrence Valley?

"I am worried," said Ricky Delaney, veteran linebacker and captain. "Once the losses started piling up, people started leaving. We've all been concerned about whether this team will fold or not."

Where other EFL franchises have fallen, the Trailblazers have pressed on. Discouraging defeats never dampened their spirits. In the first seasons, the best athletes always played both ways. Sometimes only 25 players would show up for road games. Britton said it was players such as Delaney and defensive teammates Cheyenne Dashnaw and Norm Martel who have earned league wide respect and kept the franchise afloat.

"Those three guys know they don't want to see this end," Britton said. "If you're not winning, there are a lot of teams that will fold. This team has a nucleus that doesn't want that to happen."

By checking Britton's wallet, you can tell he's paid his price. Most EFL teams are able to corral sponsorships in support of their respective franchises. Britton and his wife, among others, financially supported the Trailblazers, knowing they'd never see a dime in return.

Britton called the past five years "hectic." From the removal of his gallbladder to battling chronic aches and pains, digging out of the doldrums has only lightened the gray in his wispy mustache.

"It's like each time you lose a game, a part of you inside dies," Britton said. "I realized midway through this season that I was living my life, my playing days, through these guys."


St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers coach Mike Britton talks with players during practice Thursday night.

Delaney hoped this would be the year in which everyone would see the change. Perhaps it was blind ambition following a 34-7 preseason victory over Glove Cities. After season-opening losses to Vermont and Amsterdam, numbers dwindled as the Trailblazers barely had enough bodies to practice with an offense and defense.

"A lot of guys that left were accustomed to winning," Delaney said. "They didn't know how to handle the losing."

Countless attempts to secure a crucial win in the past two years have been dashed by disruptions, distractions and injuries.

Winning one of the final two games in the next two weeks could change the direction of the program.

"We all have to step up and play football," said Joe Hutchinson, a veteran wide receiver. "We have to come together as a team. It's something we haven't done all year."

Several Trailblazers are recruiting players in the neighboring high schools, hoping to spur any interest. Britton is trying to find solutions in funding the team. Doubters may be waiting for their demise, but the Trailblazers have a few plays left.

"It's kind of stressful," Delaney said. "Some of us have been here since day one and love the game. We want this team in this area. We're going to make it happen one way or another."

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