Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lake City Stars get new look

Lake City Stars get new look

Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH -- There is a new sheriff in town.
The Lake City Stars have a new look this season, not only on the field, but on the sideline as well.
Pat Keleher has taken over for Ed McCallister, who retired at the conclusion of last season.
"It's good to be back in football," Keleher said. "I have been with the game for 25 years on and off, but I have been out for the last three. I am excited, there is no question about that.
"I don't know a whole lot about last year, but Coach Mac said that he wasn't going to return after the season. He did this for a long time and I respect all that he did for this team -- he really held things together.
"I came on around the holidays after sitting down with the board. I was very pleased that I would be able to handle just the football part of things. Jen (Klaers) and Lucy (St. Clair) have done a great job of marketing and fund raising."
The Stars are coming off two consecutive successful seasons, but have yet to reach their overall goal of playing in, and capturing the Empire Football League championship.
A season ago, Lake City fell at the hands of their rivals, the Vermont Ice Storm, 34-14.
Lake City has lost some of its key members from the past few seasons as Mike Archer, Jeff Way, Mike Lawyer, Keith Bushey, Shane Cheeseman and Don Tambini, to name a few, have all retired.
A new batch of young players have the Stars and their coach very excited for the upcoming season.
Former Peru and St. Lawrence quarterback Matt Bezio will be taking snaps this season for Lake City. He'll be throwing to a group of standout receivers like returners Chris Verkey and Matt St. Clair, as well as newcomer Kelly Gordon.
"I am very excited with this group," Keleher said. "They are all here because they want to play. I am concerned about depth -- we are trying to not have to play guys two-ways, but we are not thin talent-wise.
"Losing players like Archer, Lawyer, Way, Cheeseman and Bushey will be tough. I mean those guys were multi-year starters and multi-year all stars. The new guys have big shoes to fill, but we have players who are capable of doing that. There will be growing pains, though, I am sure."
The Stars will have to overcome their youth, but will look to players like Verkey, Kyle Nolan and Heath Geiser for leadership.
"We're young," Keleher said. "I don't think there is a player on the team over 28 and we average between the ages of 20-23.
"It bodes well for the future of the team if they can stay with it. We have some talented guys, especially in the skilled positions and up front they are starting to come around."
Another hold up for Lake City this season, is learning an entirely new offense.
"This is a completely new language and system," Keleher said. "There will be growing pains, a lot of these players have been with Coach Mac for a few years so there will be an adjustment period to learning the new system."
Another wrinkle in the new season will be the schedule.
The Empire Football League lost a handful of teams, including Albany and Tri-City.
This year, the Stars are located in the Eastern Division and will play Montreal, Vermont and Amsterdam two times apiece, home and away. Lake City will also play against each of the Western Division teams once, including a home game against Watertown.
"We are back into a more balanced schedule," Keleher said. "We will play Vermont, Amsterdam and Montreal twice. I haven't seen Amsterdam or Montreal play so I am not sure what to expect, but I caught the last few Vermont games and they are a very good team."
The season kicks off on July 14 as the Stars head to Amsterdam.
Street drive today
Today, Lake City will be holding a street drive starting at 9 a.m. to raise money for the season and to meet their fans.
"We have good, new corporate sponsors this season. It's a good start and we are making great strides. We have received a lot of help from the City Recreation Department, who have let us use the Crete Center during bad weather and have lined our practice field.
"(Plattsburgh) Mayor (Donald) Kasprzak has also been onboard with us. It has been terrific and I'm overjoyed."
With new blood and a fresh look, the Stars are hoping for a strong season and a return trip to the EFL playoffs.
"I think we are going to be pretty good, barring any huge injuries," Keleher said. "The goal this season was to get structure financially and I think we are getting there.
"We are looking to generate some new excitement to the community. These are good kids that play a good brand of football -- they are responsible and respectful.
"Hopefully we can get some excitement back and we'll win some games. I am excited to see this guys in action for real."

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

New Lake City Stars head coach Pat Keleher (middle) goes over strategy with his offense during Thursday's practice. The Stars kickoff their season on July 14, but are holding a street drive today to raise money and meet their fans

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