Saturday, July 07, 2007

Vermont football on dislay

Vermont football on dislay

By Steven Frank
Free Press Staff Writer

July 7, 2007
Vermont's semi-professional football landscape is undergoing major renovations.

Evidence of that is on display tonight when the Vermont Ice Storm play host to the first-year Vermont Ravens in a preseason game at Colchester High School at 7:30 p.m.

The Ravens join the University of Vermont this season as expansion teams in the Northeast Independent Football League (NIFL), a seven-team Class-A group in its second year of existence.

The Ice Storm, a Class-AAA squad in its seventh season, plays in the Empire Football League.

There is also a team based in Bennington, the Class-A Southern Vermont Storm, who played last year in the NIFL but recently switched to the New England Football League.

"As late as 16 months ago, there was one team in the state and now there are four," Ice Storm coach Doug Perez said. "We're going to fight to be first and foremost in everybody's hearts. This is the battle of Vermont."

The squads are familiar with each other.

Ravens owner and coach Mike Salmon played two seasons, coached and was a part-owner with the Ice Storm. Perez said about a half-dozen Ravens are former Ice Storm players.

"I was content to be with the Ice Storm for a long time but then over the last year, things changed in the Vermont sports scene," Salmon said. "You have the Frost Heaves come in, the Mountaineers, so many things going on, but Vermont football was not there. We had Ice Storm players come from the farthest reaches of the state to play football. I thought we could use another team."

Salmon is excited about the game but plays down the battle of Vermont theme.

"Let's say the Battle of Vermont next year. This year is going to be about us hanging on for dear life, trying to stop a freight train," Salmon said. "The game for us going in is mostly to see where we stand and show the guys what we'll be like in a few years with work and dedication."

The Ice Storm begin their 10-game league schedule north of the border July 14 against the Chateauguay (Quebec) Titans. The Ravens, whose NIFL schedule starts Sept. 1 against the Massachusetts Fury at Applejack Field in Manchester, play an eight-game schedule highlighted by two meetings with the UVM Catamounts: Sept. 8 at Burlington High School and Oct. 21 at Spaulding High School in Barre.

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