Friday, August 10, 2007

Gritty performances spark optimism in Eagles camp

Gritty performances spark optimism in Eagles camp

In sports, it is said that long road trips can be an important tool in bringing a team together in order to promote a winning attitude. Getting away from the responsibilities of home life and creating a bonding experience within the team can go a long way in determining if a team is cut from championship timber.

But in the throes of a 1-2 season and only 17 players making the trip due to family or work commitments, for the Scranton Eagles, the prospect of riding a bus for nine or 10 hours on a Saturday can be an understandingly daunting task to perform.

After winning their first game of the season the previous week, the Eagles boarded that bus, headed to Montreal, Canada, on Saturday and held serve with the Chateauguay Titans before a field goal with 1:40 to play gave the home team a 15-14 victory.

"I've never been so proud of a team," coach Mike Arcure said "Those guys just played their hearts out."

Quarterback Ted Wallingford, despite missing his favorite target — Louis Verdetto, who did not make the trip — was 19-for 25 for 223 yards with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Cory Champi. Champi (77 receiving yards) and Phil Ross (80 yards) each had six receptions.

"With just 17 guys and after a long trip, the team just stepped it up and played a great game," Wallingford said. "Champi just came out of nowhere and Ross played a great game for us as well."

This week, the Eagles take to the road Saturday for the second of three straight road games as they battle the Amsterdam Zephyrs.

Coached by Dom Ruggeri, the Zephyrs come in to Saturday's tilt at 2-2. Quarterback Ken Schaefer has thrown for 894 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. Schaefer has also run for 122 yards, tied with Elijah White for the team lead. Schaefer's favorite targets include Cedrick Pearman, who leads the Empire Football League with 30 catches, 503 receiving yards and five scores, and Evan DeGeorgio, who has hauled in 19 passes, second most in the EFL, for 287 yards and a pair of scores. Amsterdam is coming off a 35-7 victory over St. Lawrence Valley.

"(Schaefer) is a very good quarterback," Arcure said. "He was a backup with Albany for a couple of years and a lot of players there thought that he should have been the starter."

The Eagles hold a 4-1 advantage over the Zephyrs, including last year's 38-6 home victory for the Eagles' only win of the season. The Zephyrs returned the favor by nipping the Eagles, 13-8, at Amsterdam. The next home game for the Eagles will be Aug. 25, when they battle the Ottawa Demon Deacons, 7:30 p.m. at Scranton Memorial Stadium.

Miners' holiday

After surviving a shaky first-half performance to hold off a pesky Chambersburg Cardinals squad last weekend, the Northeast Pennsylvania Miners walk into their first bye week of the season firmly entrenched in second place in the North American Football League's Pennsylvania Division, but looking looking to overcome adversity and injuries.

"I suppose it's the growing pains of a first-year team. We were a little out of sync," coach Dan LaMagna said. "We have some injuries in the offensive line. Sometimes, you just win ugly."

Defensively, the Miners registered five sacks as well as a pair of interceptions, including a key pickoff by Rasheen Smith, who returned it to the Cardinals 46 yard-line to set up the Miners' second score, giving the local team a 15-7 advantage.

After the off week, the Miners return for back-to-back home games with a pair of formidable opponents. On Aug. 19, the Miners will battle the South Central Yard Dawgs in a 4 p.m. matchup at Scranton Memorial Stadium before meeting the undefeated Central Penn Piranha on Aug. 25 at Lake-Lehman's Edward Edwards Stadium.

The Yard Dawgs (4-3, 2-2 NAFL) gave the Miners all that they could handle during the opening week of NAFL season before falling, 13-7, while Central Penn (5-0, 4-0) handed the Miners their only loss of the season, a 21-14 reversal on the road two weeks later.

"We have a great opportunity going into the second half of the season," LaMagna said. "We are looking forward to seeing how far we can go this season."

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©The Times-Tribune 2007

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