Saturday, September 23, 2006

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage September 23rd

Route 5 Rivals Close out Empire Football League Regular Season
   The 2006 Empire Football League Regular season comes to a close Saturday night as 10 teams
across the Northeast meet in 2 countries and 2 states to close out the leagues 37th regular season, with the playoffs getting underway next weekend.
    Locally the Amsterdam Zephyrs travel Route 5 to the State Capital to take on the defending champion Albany Metro Mallers at Bleecker Stadium, kicking off at 7:30 PM. Amsterdam comes in at 3-6 having been eliminated from playoff contention last weekend by Broome County, while Albany at 8-1 in league play leads the Southern Division and will have a bye in the first round.
    Six of the leagues eleven teams will meet in the playoffs leading up to the Empire Football League Championship Game on October 14th at a site to be determined.    
    The rest of tonight’s schedule includes St. Lawrence Valley (Potsdam) at Ottawa, Lake City (Plattsburg) at Chateauguay (Montreal), Watertown at Scranton, PA, and Broome County visits Tri-State in Torne Valley/Suffern, NY



Kennedy, Romiti to retire



It pains both to admit it, but the clock is striking midnight.

Longtime Scranton Eagles standouts John Kennedy and George Romiti will play their final game tonight — both are retiring from semi-professional football — when the Eagles host Watertown at Scranton Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

“I know that I’m going to miss it,” Kennedy said. “It will have to happen before I realize how much. We have had some tough years and I wanted to be around when we turned it around. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen.”

For Kennedy, the decision to step away from the game closes a career that began 24 years ago out of Scranton Prep High School.

During his career, the 42-year-old was the leader during the glory years of the 1980s, helping guide the Eagles to seven Empire Football League championships with the last coming in 1999, and four national championships. He was the EFL Offensive Most Valuable Player in 1993 after throwing for 2,466 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Kennedy, who had tryouts with the New England Patriots and the Miami Tribe of the Professional Spring Football League, has thrown for 39,556 yards and 387 touchdowns, completing 2,632 passes on 5,158 attempts with just 280 interceptions.

What Kennedy was to the offense, Romiti was to the defense for the past 11 years. He has 704 tackles, 10½ sacks, seven fumble recoveries and five interceptions in his career.

In the last two years, the 45-year-old has led the EFL in tackles with 109 and 122. He has also played 140 straight games.

“We both came to the conclusion that we should retire now,” Romiti said. “I think it’s about time that we step down. I had fun for 11 years. Me and John are two of the last ones to have championship rings, so it’s going to be tough. I had a blast.”

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Lake City heads to Montreal, looking to rebound from loss

Staff Writer

September 23, 2006

PLATTSBURGH — The Lake City Stars, a week after falling to the Vermont Ice Storm, look to regroup tonight against the Chateauguay Titans at 7:30 p.m. in Montreal.

The Stars' defense struggled against the Ice Storm, giving up 257 yards through the air by quarterback Brad Ruderman. He connected with Austin Partain seven times for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Lake City is looking to rebound against a Titans' team that turned the ball over four times to the Stars in a Week 6 loss.

"From what I have seen this week, practice could have been a lot better," Stars head coach Ed McCallister said. "Obviously, we are coming off a big letdown in losing to Vermont, but when you get to this stage there is always going to be a lot at stake.

"The good news is we are in the playoffs, but we are going to Chateauguay and we definitely want to go up there and win. You never want to go into the playoffs on the losing streak. With the win, we would be 7-3, which is a great record."

In their first battle, the Stars knocked off the Titans 38-14, including scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half.

Heath Geiser's punt return and Earl Parks' interception return — both for touchdowns — capitalized an extraordinary second half for Lake City. The Stars caused four turnovers in the game, three interceptions and a fumble.

"If we are going to be a serious contender, then we need to go and win this game and we have to play well," McCallister said. "I hope the guys can stop feeling sorry for themselves and realize that we need to get back on the right track.

"The (Vermont) game is over and done with and we can't change last week. Our goal is still to get to the championship game and there is only one way to get there, and that is through Vermont. They are a good team and we will see what happens."

Against Chateauguay, the quarterback combination of Kevin Wyeth (138) and Zan Symonds (109) totaled 247 yards through the air, including a pair of touchdowns and three interceptions.

"We are going to have to learn to execute better," McCallister said. "The good news is we will get a good test tonight. Both of their quarterbacks are good passers. I think it's a good thing to play them now and be able to get some work for Vermont."

There is still an outside chance that Lake City will host the first round of the Empire Football League Northern Division playoffs. If the Stars defeat the Titans tonight and Watertown loses to Scranton, Lake City will finish in second place and host the third place Red & Black on Sept. 30.

If Lake City loses or Watertown wins, the Stars will head to Vermont on September 30 for the first round of the playoffs, and the Red & Black will receive a first round bye.

"There is only one way to win and that is going through both Watertown and Vermont," McCallister said. "We are definitely going to have to play both of them.

"Tonight is about getting ready to play and we are going to have a real test, but hopefully we will be able to get it done."

Zephyrs wrap up season tonight

By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Zephyrs, technically, have little to play for tonight against the Albany Metro Mallers.

Amsterdam (3-6) dropped out of the playoff race last week with a loss at Broome County. A win over Albany (8-1) won’t affect Albany’s top-seed status. Still, the Zephyrs are taking the field tonight at Albany with every intention of knocking off the top team in the league.

“There’s nothing on the line,” Amsterdam coach Dom Ruggeri said. “We can get a game closer in the standings, but that’s about it. We’re basically trying to end the season on a positive note and build toward next year. We put the organization back on the map. We didn’t have a team in the league last year and this year we were on the door to the playoffs.”

The Metro Mallers boast the Empire Football League’s top-rated passer in Scott Lawson. He has thrown for 2,059 yards, completing 65.5 percent of his passes. They also have Sylvester Cooperwood, who has gained 1,020 yards on the ground for Albany and scored 13 touchdowns. The next closest rusher is Shawn Harkes of Ottawa, who has run for 550 yards.

When they met in Amsterdam, the Zephyrs held Cooperwood in check through the first half, but he broke out in the second. Ruggeri said his defense became tired when the Amsterdam offense spent too few minutes on the field and couldn’t continue to contain Cooperwood.

“He’s an awesome back and he knows how to run downhill,” Ruggeri said. “When he gets outside, he doesn’t go out of bounds, he’ll come right at you.”

The Zephyrs will start the same secondary that held Lawson to 110 yards passing in their first meeting. In that game, the young secondary of Amsterdam grew up more than they did in any game this season and started to click.

While the secondary is back in coverage, Ruggeri said Rick Hewlitt and the rest of the pass rush will attempt to keep Lawson and Cooperwood off balance.

“We’re going to blitz,” he said. “I’m going to tell the guys to blitz and get after him and hopefully we can disrupt them.”

To motivate his players, Ruggeri said he told some of them how he’d like to see them finish up the season. Eric Johnson has been a receiver playing quarterback for the Zephyrs and Ruggeri thanked him for his contribution and told him to have fun tonight. Next year, Ruggeri expects increased numbers and already has his eye on a new quarterback, which will allow Johnson to move back to his natural position.

On defense, Ruggeri wants Hewlitt and Mike Philo to finish on a high note. He expects Philo, and possibly Hewlitt, to retire after the game, but he is trying to talk Hewlitt into staying. Hewlitt currently leads the EFL in sacks with 8.5, ahead of Watertown’s Ben Pritchard’s 8.0.

“We had a talk and I told Rick he has a good two or three years left in him,” Ruggeri said. “I’m trying to talk him into staying around, but it looks like he might be retiring. I told him if he is going to do that, to go as hard as he can and go out on top. That’s the way to finish.”

Philo, who has also taken on punting responsibilities, has been a solid presence on defense, Ruggeri said.

“He’s the heart and soul of our defense,” he said. “He’s worked hard all year and he’s going to retire. He’s 41 now and he played like a 20-year-old all year. It’s amazing. He did a hell of a job for us.”

If all the players step up and play as if it were their last game, the Zephyrs could give the Metro Mallers more of a run than they did last time around. More importantly, they could finish their return to the EFL with a win over a quality opponent and build momentum for next season, when they expect to have more numbers following their February team meeting.

Tall order faces struggling Zephyrs
Recorder Sports Staff

Amsterdam Zephyrs head coach Dom Ruggeri would like to see his team finish the season on a positive note — but it won't be easy.

The 3-6 Zephyrs take on the Empire Football League Southern Division-leading 8-1 Albany Metro Mallers at 7:30 tonight at Bleecker Stadium.

In the first meeting on Sept.12, Albany came away with an impressive 41-7 win. Running back Sylvester Cooperwood took the spotlight with 183 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. On defense, Jeff Turman picked off three passes and returned one for a score.

Cooperwood leads the EFL in rushing with 1,020 yards on 152 attempts (6.7 average) and 13 touchdowns. Culture Branch is the primary receiver hauling in 41 catches for 808 yards (19.7 average) and eight touchdowns.

The veteran Scott Lawson will again direct signals. He's experiencing a banner year with 114-of-174 for 2,059 yards and 16 touchdown passes.

The Mallers come at their opponents in every direction and are tough to defend.

Eric Johnson is the Zephyrs quarterback and has put together numbers like 52-of-190 for 735 yards and seven touchdowns.

Evan DeGeorgio leads the EFL in punting with 38 attempts for 1,306 yards (34.4 average) and defensive end Rick Hulett is tops in sacks at 8.5. Both are bright spots for the Zephyrs.

The Mallers have a two-game lead over the Tri-State Bulldogs 6-3 followed by Broome County 5-4, the Zephyrs and Scranton 1-7-1.

"The guys who went to the game last week (against Broome County) are kind of disgusted. The players met (Thursday) night and wanted to make this game special especially for Mike Philo who will probably retire. Mike is the heart and soul of our defense. We don't know about Rick (Hulett) on whether he's coming back or not. He's got two or three good years left. They want to go out the best they can," said Ruggeri.

Of course, the Mallers will have plenty to say about that as they get ready for the playoffs.

Ruggeri also points out it depends on how many players make the trip, if they can give the Mallers a game.

"We played the year with 40-42 guys but on some road trips we missed some people. This has been a successful year. I'm hoping the guys will fight to the end. I think this year was a learning experience for me," said Ruggeri.

After posting just one win two years ago in its first season, Amsterdam didn't field a team in 2005 and made progress this time around.

"I'm definitely not going anywhere. I will be back," said Ruggeri.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Watertown Red and Black at Scranton Eagles
When, where: 7:30 p.m., today; Scranton Memorial Stadium.
Records: Watertown (7-2); Scranton (1-7-1).
Head coaches: Watertown, George Ashcraft; Scranton, Mike Woodard.
Last meeting: Sept. 24, Watertown won, 34-6.

NOTES: A lot is riding on this game for the Red and Black. Watertown can clinch the Northern Division title and can preserve a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the EFL playoffs. A loss would knock Watertown down to the No. 3 spot, and the team would have to travel to Plattsburgh next week. ... Scranton, once the class of the EFL with 10 championships, has fallen on hard times. QB John Kennedy has as many touchdowns as interceptions (10). ... RB James Todd brought even more depth to Watertown's backfield with 81 rushing yards last week. ... The Red and Black should be able to exploit a Scranton defense that has allowed an EFL-high 283 points (31.4 per game) this year.

St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers at Ottawa Deacon Demons
When, where: 7:30 p.m., today, Ottawa.
Records: St. Lawrence Valley (0-9); Ottawa (2-6).
Coaches: St. Lawrence Valley, Mike Britton; Ottawa, Jim Brunton.
Last meeting: Aug. 12, Ottawa won, 7-2.

NOTES: The Trailblazers didn't suffer a more heartbreaking defeat this season than their last meeting with the Deacon Demons. Gary Pelletier scored on a 2-yard run with approximately four minutes remaining in regulation, which was enough to edge St. Lawrence Valley. ... The Trailblazers' Cheyenne Dashnaw is back to full strength after he recorded a league-best 15 tackles on Saturday in their 21-2 loss to Chateauguay. Dashnaw suffered a knee injury earlier in the year. ... Shawn Harkes racked up 120 total yards in Ottawa's win over the Trailblazers last month. He is the league's second-leading rusher with 550 yards and three touchdowns. ... The Trailblazers' defense has allowed 88 points in the last four games, an average of 22 per game. In the first five games of the season, opponents scored 33.2 points per game (166 total points).

Semipro football

September 19, 2006
The Vermont Ice Storm, coming off a 34-25 victory over the Lake City Stars in their regular-season finale Saturday, await the result of other Empire Football League games before learning if they will have the opportunity to play host to more than one playoff game.

The Ice Storm are 8-2 and sit atop the Northern Division with one home playoff game guaranteed.

Watertown and Scranton have a game remaining this weekend. If Scranton defeats Watertown, the Ice Storm will finish first and clinch a first-round bye and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

If Watertown wins, Vermont will play host to Lake City in a first-round game Sept. 30.

Against Lake City on Saturday, Brad Ruderman threw a pair of touchdown passes to Austin Partain and another to Troy Canada as the Storm took a 20-3 lead at the half.

Ruderman hooked up with Canada for another touchdown early in the third quarter and Aaron Pyer finished the Vermont scoring with a 2-yard plunge.

Ruderman was 11-for-19 for 266 yards and four touchdowns. Partain had seven receptions for 176 yards and the two TDs. John Fahey rushed for 79 yards on seven carries and Jason Young collected 71 yards on 10 carries

Regular Season Standings as of 9/16/2006

Northern Division








Vermont Ice Storm






Watertown Red & Black






Lake City Stars






Chateauguay Titans






Ottawa Deacon Deamons






St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers








Southern Division








Albany Metro Mallers






Tri-State Bulldogs






Broome County Dragons






Amsterdam Zephyrs






Scranton Eagles






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