Saturday, September 16, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage September 16th

 Longobardo's hometown team raises funds for family
The Amsterdam Zephyrs turned the season's final home game into a benefit for the slain Trooper's family Saturday night. The Empire Football League team is donating all the proceeds from their game against the Scranton Eagles.
Organizers, like Jackie Bull, hope every little bit helps the Longobardo family get through this tough time.
"It makes us feel better that we are able to do something for the family, because there is so much that the family will need now, and they won't be able to have right now They miss work, they've had to take time off," said Bull.
The Zephyrs' team president says he hopes Longobardo's family knows just how much support it has from the community.

Amsterdam Zephyrs donate autographed game ball along with a check for $1,300 to the Longobardo Family

 Saturday September 16, 2006                           SPORTS                                                                                           

Dragons looking to lock up playoff spot tonight

From staff reports

The Broome County Dragons can clinch a berth in the Empire Football League playoffs tonight.

The Dragons host Amsterdam in an EFL Southern Division game at 7 p.m. at Binghamton Alumni Stadium. The Dragons (4-4) hold a one-game edge over Amsterdam for the Southern Division's final playoff spot with two games left in the regular season.

The top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with the first-place teams getting byes.

"We win this week, and we're in," Dragons coach Tommy Manny said.

The Dragons won four of their first six games this season, including a 36-0 home thrashing of Scranton on Aug. 19.

But, the Dragons have lost back-to-back games. They lost 31-0 at Albany on Aug. 26 and lost at Watertown last weekend, 25-19. The Dragons are two games behind second-place Tri-State.

Manny said nagging injuries have caught up with players. Plus, the team hasn't been playing as well as it did early in the season.

"Our ground game has not been around, but it's starting to pick up again," Manny said. "Our defense has been spending a lot of time on the field. Offensively, we have not been doing it. I've said all year that the best defense is a good offense. Ball control is the key, and that hasn't happened for us."

Dragons quarterback Ty Fish is third in the league in passing with 1,450 yards. Jonathan Beachy and George Graham both rank in the top-10 in the league in receiving yards.

Tickets for tonight's game cost $7. 

Zephyrs looking for playoff spot; Colonials wrapping up season

By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

Postseason positioning and unpunched tickets to the playoffs are on the line tonight in local semi-professional football action.

The Amsterdam Zephyrs are on the outside looking in, but the door is ajar.

Standing in the doorway are the Broome County Dragons, who the Zephyrs beat in overtime earlier in the season. This time they have to travel to Broome County and win again, or lose by three or fewer points, to steal away the third and final playoff berth from Dragons in the Southern Division of the Empire Football League.

In Johnstown, the Glove Cities Colonials will try to make life harder for the Monroe County Sting, which is already going to the postseason in the New York Amateur Football League, but could slip down the food chain with a loss.

A victory would help the Colonials avoid a winless season and avenge the loss in Rochester to the Sting earlier in the season.

Amsterdam (3-5)  at Broome County (4-4), 7:30 p.m.

Having done it before doesn’t make it any easier.

In fact, beating a team the second time around is harder because both teams know what to expect, but the added implication of a playoff spot should fuel the Zephyrs in this win-or-go-home scenario, coach Dom Ruggeri said.

“They know what we run and we know what they run,” he said. “But this is do-or-die for both of us. We’re fighting for that final spot and the winner goes.”

There is one scenario where the Zephyrs could advance with a loss. By winning the overtime thriller in Amsterdam on a field goal, they have secured a three-point safety valve. Broome County has to win by four or more to get into the playoffs.

The early-season game with the Dragons showed the Zephyrs that they have a strong passing game to defend tonight. Ty Fish isn’t the highest rated quarterback in the league, but he has the third-highest pass yards total with 1,450 yards through the air spread out among his receivers.

In the first game, it took the Dragons jumping out to a 10-0 first-half lead on the strength of their passing to force the Zephyrs to make adjustments in the secondary. That secondary ended up holding Fish to 120 yards on the night.

However, the key for the Amsterdam defense won’t be their secondary, Ruggeri said. It will be a defensive end, and not Rick Hulett, who is second in sacks in the EFL with 6.5.

“Alex McKinsey, I think, will be the key to this game at the left end,” he said. “If he can get pressure and get back to that form he had seven or eight years ago, which he’s capable of, he’s going to be very formidable. They’ll go away from Rick because they know he’s coming, so we need Alex to step up on that other side.”

Aaron Robinson has also been a playmaker for the Zephyrs on the defensive line and Ruggeri expects the entire line will have to come up big against the Dragons.

Offensively, the line will have to play with the same determination it took for them to control that overtime period against the Dragons in their last meeting.

“We’ve got to go right at them with smash-mouth football,” Ruggeri said. “Our offensive line outsizes their defensive front and we’ve got to take advantage of that by running well off-tackle against them. I don’t think we’ll be able to get outside on them. They’ve got two very good outside linebackers.”

The Zephyrs are expected to bring a full roster of around 42 players down to Broome County, Ruggeri said. A win and a playoff berth would be the first for Amsterdam since 1942, he said. His players are excited about the chance to claim the last berth tonight.

“They’ve got to leave it all on the field and just do the best they can,” Ruggeri said. “The guys are really revved up and they feel they can go down there and win and make a statement our first year back in the league.”

Zephyrs eye playoff berth

Recorder Sports Staff

The 2006 Empire Football League season for the Amsterdam Zephyrs will probably come down to just one game.

The Zephyrs journey to Binghamton for a date with the Broome County Dragons at 7:30 tonight with a playoff berth at stake.

In their first meeting on Sept. 5, Alvaro Montes kicked a 38 yard field goal to give the Zephyrs a 13-10 overtime win at Lynch Field.

The EFL Southern Division race shows the Albany Metro Mallers on top with a 7-1 record followed by the Tri-State Bulldogs 6-3, Broome County 4-4, Zephyrs 3-5 and Scranton 1-6-1.

After a two-week layoff, the Zephyrs knocked off Scranton, 13-8, last Saturday and now control their own destiny.

"We came out of the Scranton game in great shape. Injury-wise, Terry Coleman suffered a broken bone in his thumb when he intercepted a pass but he will play. They're (players) nervous. They know what they have to do," said Zephyrs head coach Dom Ruggeri.

If the playoff picture isn't decided tonight, both teams have tough battles the following week as Broome goes to Tri-State and the Zephyrs make a short journey to Albany.

The Zephyrs' defense will again have to contend with Broome County quarterback Ty Fish, ranked third in the EFL. Fish has completed 105-of-212 passes for 1,450 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

"Fish is just phenomenal. We have to get to him because they have two outstanding receivers in #84 (Johnathan Beachy) and #81 (George Graham). They were leading us at halftime and then we made some adjustments in the third quarter," said Ruggeri.

The Broome County receiving corps consists of Beachy (29-487, 16.8 avg.), Graham (25-408, 16.3 avg.), Sam Whitney (22-175, 8.0 avg.) and Sam Ragsdale (21-269, 12.8 avg.).

Fish's counterpart, the Zephyrs' Eric Johnson is 47-of-169 for 671 yards, seven touchdowns but 12 interceptions. In the last couple of games, John Marotta has filled in admirably coming off an injury. With Marotta calling signals, Johnson moves to his familiar spot at wideout.

"After watching film, we're going to change our secondary a little bit mostly in the alignment. We don't want to get burned with those two big receivers," said Ruggeri.

Jemall Johnson is the Dragons top rusher with 65 attempts and 312 yards (4.8 avg.). Andre Gilmore has reached the end zone four times to lead the scoring parade.

The Zephyrs will start Johnson at quarterback with Penta Thomas (50-279, 5.6 avg.) at tailback and Ken Hudson, fullback. Charlie Castro and Mike Herrington are the main receivers.

One of the weapons for Amsterdam is its punter Evan DeGeorgio rated number one in the league with 32 punts for 1,050 yards (32.8 avg.).

"I've had a lot of people say to me keep plugging. It's just great to see. The deck is stacked against us. We have to go down there and jump on them early. Let's put the nail in the coffin and bury them. We have a big opportunity. Everything is on the line in just one game. It's do or die for both of us," said Ruggeri.

Throughout the season, Ruggeri has relied on his defense to come up with big plays and this time around is no different.

"I think we have three cogs on defense. End Rick Hulett, tackle Aaron Robinson and outside linebacker Mike Philo. Hulett has 6.5 sacks, second in the EFL.

"Mike is the heart and soul of our defense. For a guy who's 41, I'd like to see us go out a winner," said Ruggeri.

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