For the Scranton Eagles and the Northeast Pennsylvania Miners, the weekend off for the Labor Day holiday gives players a chance to rest and heal up for a push for the playoffs. But while both teams are in the thick of their respective league's playoff pictures, they each have taken a different path to get to where they are.
For the Eagles (3-4), it was trial by fire for quarterback Ted Wallingford. Wallingford, a Honesdale and Ursinus College product, has been solid all year. But, after a pair of blowout losses to start the season, the Eagles moved some personnel around in their lineup. With these moves, the Eagles were able to establish a running game with converted quarterback Phil Ross and veteran Gary Visnofsky along with Tim Pazienza and linebacker/fullback Nick Parlanti to help take the pressure off the rookie quarterback. They were also able to give Wallingford a second target to augment top receiver Louis Verdetto with free safety Cory Champi pulling double duty at the other receiver slot.
The defense, led by defending Empire Football League Defensive Player of the Year George Romiti, has also been tightened. After yielding 93 points in the first two games this season, the defense has allowed just 63 points in the last five games, with the Eagles posting three victories during that span.
Last week, Rob Wehner, who started the season as a member of coach Mike Arcure's coaching staff before being pressed into service at wide receiver and in the secondary, scored the winning touchdown with three minutes to go to give the Eagles a 10-7 win over Ottawa, a team which beat the Eagles, 49-0, in the second week of the season.
Longtime kicker Scott Perry, who re-signed last week, bolstered a weak kicking game with a 32-yard field goal and an extra point for the Eagles.
The Eagles, currently in second place in the EFL Western Division, will battle the Eastern Division leading Vermont Ice Storm next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
Miners battle Cardinals
The Miners look to rebound from their second loss of the season at the hands of the division-leading Central Penn Piranha as the travel to Chambersburg to battle the Cardinals next Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Trojan Stadium.
The first-year team, under the guidance of coach Dan LaMagna, has posted a 4-2 record in the North American Football League Pennsylvania Division and is 6-2 overall. The Miners jumped out of the gate early with three straight wins, including a 44-14 nonleague victory over the Schuylkill County Coal Crackers in the season opener to capture the inaugural Anthracite Coal Cup. Veteran running back Donnie Jackson-Bey added to the early-season excitement when he surpassed former Eagle Frank Yanik's national minor league career rushing record of 15,301 yards in a 37-0 win over the Hudson Valley Stars on July 14. The team has tweaked their roster since the start of the season. Quarterback Kelvin Robinson, fresh off a tour with the Cincinnati Jungle Kats of af2, nearly pulled off a major victory in his first game. Robinson staked the Miners to a 14-0 halftime lead on the road at Central Penn. The Piranha, owners of a then-118 game home winning streak, rallied in the second half for a 21-14 victory. Robinson has 10 touchdown passes in five games with the Miners.
Also, after being dogged by injuries and inexperience along the offensive line, the Miners signed 6-5, 340-pound Isiah Heyward, who played college football at Middle Tennessee State, at the NAFL signing deadline.
After the trip to Chambersburg, the Miners will go out of the division to play the NAFL Metro Division's New York Panthers in a crossover match on the road before finishing the regular season at home with a Sunday game against the Lancaster Lightning on September 23.