Thursday, July 05, 2007

Numbers, expectations, on rise for Zephyrs


Recorder Sports Staff

Coming off a 3-7 record and just missing the Empire Football League playoffs, the Amsterdam Zephyrs knew they had to improve for the 2007 season.

So, head coach Dom Ruggeri took advantage of the offseason to bring in more players and talent.

"Last Saturday, we suited up 60 players, and that can be tough to manage. I think we're going to see probably 50-52 which is fine," said Ruggeri.

The Zephyrs will take part in their second preseason game Saturday when the Adirondack Greenjackets come to Lynch Middle School at 7 p.m.

The game is also a benefit for Jeremy Trumble of Canajoharie, who lost a leg in a farm accident.

He will be an honorary captain and join the pre-game festivities at midfield.

"The coaches are doing an excellent job, and we all evaluate what we see. They make my job easier and it's a real blessing this year. If we jell, we're scary. I think they (players) know we have great ownership and coaches," said Ruggeri.

Zephyrs president Tony Marotta sized up the season in a simple message.

"A championship year, a championship year. We have a lot of players on the roster — 58 right now — and we're still growing. I think it's our atmosphere here and players like it. Everybody gets along so good. All of a sudden it's (team) growing. It's a work in progress. We came from nothing to maybe taking the championship," he said.

Marotta, who starred for the Glove Cities Colonials semi-pro team and earned Hall of Fame honors, has seen the Zephyrs grow in a short time.

"A chance to have a team to put Amsterdam on the map. The Empire Football League spreads a long distance. We have a benefit for Jeremy Trumble on Saturday and that's what we're here for. We consider ourselves a community, for people who need us. If it's a worthwhile benefit, we'll do it. I love doing it and it feels good. It comes from the heart and that's the bottom line. The players love it and always come up to the plate," said Marotta.

Defensive coach Rod Schur also played for the Colonials, and has plenty of experience on the sidelines.

"I'm quite impressed,"Schur said. "This organization really has its stuff together. The defense is really coming along, starting to jell real well. I have some real, real good guys and have guys that need a little bit of work. The biggest thing is the guys, they don't do this for a living. They work all day long and they're here. It's a family team. We love the game."

In the early part of the season, Schur has worked with the defensive unit with focus on the secondary.

"They're one-on-one out there and these guys know that. I need to jell a little more. I have to get my stuff together with these guys. I'm hoping to see more out of the scrimmage this week," said Schur.

Offensive coordinator Mike Finocchi is really excited about this season and has more players to work with.

"The biggest difference from last year to this year is depth, especially in the offensive line,"Finocchi said. "We have two different formations in line. We have a thunder and lightning. We picked up some new guys. One of our biggest improvements is the quarterback with Ken Shaffer and that allows Eric Johnson to go back to his normal position at wide receiver," said Finocchi.

Besides Shaffer, the Zephyrs have some talent in the backfield and in the receiving department.

"Last year we went 3-7, but right now we need to make the playoffs. Then you take it one game at a time. They're helping each other out. We have more people in the backfield. I can't say enough about Josh Newborn. He's more focused and playing at wide receiver. I've never been more excited about a season because we have the personnel," said Finocchi.

As the assistant coaches were supervising drills on the Lynch turf, Ruggeri was talking to different players and watching with a close eye.

"At this level, you play for the fun of the game. I'm glad we're doing the benefit for Jeremy. I heard he's a wonderful kid. I recruited some top-notch talent in the offseason and don't forget this field is a big draw. We have to thank superintendent Ron Limoncelli and the school for allowing us to use the field," said Ruggeri.

The Zephyrs will open the EFL season on Saturday, July 14 when they host the Lake City Stars at Lynch at 7:30 p.m.

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