Eagles' Zoltek thrives
BY MARK COONS
When Pete Zoltek was a child, he never dreamed that he would be playing American football. But after a life-altering move, Zoltek found himself embracing the sport in his new home.
Zoltek, a 24-year old two-way lineman for the Scranton Eagles, was born in Poland. His father was a member of the Red Berets, the Polish equivalent of the U.S. Special Forces, or Green Berets. The Zoltek family also had a farm in their native land.
Originally, Pete and his parents, Jozef and Maria, came to the United States when he was 3. But, after three years, the family returned to their homeland to bring Pete's older sisters, Eva and Ursala, back with them. The Zolteks had to endure four years of political red tape before the family could return to the United States.
"We came here to find a better life," Pete said. "It's hard over there; there is just farming. Then there was a lot of paperwork to be filled out."
Upon returning to the U.S., the family settled in northern New Jersey. Not long after, Pete took an interest in American football, but found that he wasn't able to play on any organized teams until he got to high school.
"I was in fifth or sixth grade and wanted to play," Pete said. "But I was too big to play in the youth leagues."
So, Zoltek had to wait until he reached high school before he could play organized football. But once he got there, he was able to maximize his talents.
At Sussex County Tech, he set a team record with 13 sacks in just eight games in his senior year, while playing most of the year with a broken thumb.
"It was under the meaty part of the hand and I had to wear a cast," Pete said. "I couldn't even make a fist with my hand."
Originally, Zoltek planned to attend Syracuse University before a paper snafu pushed Zoltek and his family into another life-changing event.
"My transcripts between schools became messed up and I was unable to go to Syracuse," Pete said.
About a year later, in 2002, the Zolteks moved to Lake Ariel, where Pete and his father operate a construction business. Being his own boss allows him to make just about all of the Eagles' practices and games. His wife, Michelle, and son, Anthony, who is one of the team's waterboys, are regulars at most home and away games.
"I'm just lucky I'm in my own business and can adjust my work schedule," Zoltek said. "A lot of guys aren't that fortunate."
The Eagles travel to Watertown to take on the Western Division-leading Red and Black tonight. This is the second straight week the Eagles will take on a division leader, dropping a 37-10 decision to the Eastern Division kingpin Vermont Ice Storm. Scranton looks to avenge a 44-9 season-opening home loss to Watertown. The Eagles complete the regular season with a home game against the Lake City Stars on Sept. 22 at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
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©The Times-Tribune 2007
PREVIEW: EMPIRE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Scranton Eagles vs. Watertown Red and Black
When, where: 7:30 p.m. today, Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Head coaches: George Ashcraft (Watertown); Michael Arcure (Scranton).
Records: Watertown (7-1); Scranton (3-5).
Last meeting: Watertown won 44-9 on July 14.
NOTES: Based upon points for and points against figures, Watertown's offense (247) and defense (66) remain the league's best. ... Scranton's George Romiti could give Watertown some trouble, as his 106 total tackles leads the league. ... The Red and Black has controlled its opponents by creating timely turnovers. Truth Napier, who recently deployed, is responsible for 4 of the team's 15 picks. Mike Dumaw and Bryan Harris each have three. ... Anthony Noel's 114 yards last week was the league's top rushing total. ... Watertown closes out the regular season next week at home against the Amsterdam Zephyrs, who beat the Red and Black 17-13 in the preseason.
St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers vs. Ottawa Deacon Demons
When, where: 7:30 p.m. today, Joan of Arc School, Ottawa.
Head coaches: SLV, Offense, Mike Britton; Defense and special teams, Jim Compeau: Ottawa, Jeff Pinck.
Records: St. Lawrence Valley (0-8); Ottawa (2-5-1).
Last meeting: Ottawa won 20-13 on July 14.
NOTES: The Trailblazers were mathematically eliminated from postseason play after losing to Lake City, 31-7, last week in Plattsburgh. St. Lawrence Valley's lone score came on a James Compeau 1-yard run. ... The Deacon Demons are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but are a win away from putting themselves in better position in the EFL's West Division. Ottawa was upended by Amsterdam, 32-25, last week. ... In the first game against Ottawa, Joe Hutchinson hauled in eight catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Danny Staton also added a TD reception for the Trailblazers. ... As the Trailblazers continue to make their passing game the primary option on offense, they must be prepared for Ottawa defenders Dan Lariviere and Filippo Flocco . The two have combined for 11 interceptions this year. ... Hutchinson ranks eighth in the EFL in catches (24) and sixth in receiving yards (412) in 2007.
Copyright 2007. Watertown Daily Times, Inc., Watertown, NY. All rights reserved.
R&B treads lightly
SCRANTON UP NEXT: Watertown knows loss could tarnish season
By MATT CORDOVA
Saturday, September 15, 2007
The Watertown Red and Black is approaching the point where it can consider this season a success.
Brian Williams, however, said right now is not the time to do so.
As it prepared Thursday to host 3-5 Scranton tonight, the Red and Black didn't seem to take much solace in its own 7-1 record. The team knows the Eagles could prove to be a dangerous opponent.
According to reports in the Times-Tribune of Scranton, the Eagles' existence is in jeopardy. An Aug. 25 story stated that the once dominant franchise was experiencing major financial problems, and was in danger of not being able to finish out the 2007 schedule.
A win in Watertown would likely do wonders for Scranton's morale — and playoff aspirations — as the season draws to a close.
"Any team can have a good game and beat us," Williams said. "Coach hasn't really let us get to the mindset where we're too complacent."
If the thought of being knocked off at home isn't enough to motivate the local semiprofessional football team, a quick look back to Aug. 4 might. After a 17-16 loss to the Vermont Ice Storm, that one-point difference seems to separate the Red and Black from a completely different outlook for the remaining two regular-season games.
"We treat these late season practices the same as we have all season," quarterback Todd Kiechle said. "Our goal is to win a championship, and execution is key. You can't have a good offense without it. Every night, we're working hard on run blocking and pass blocking because we haven't played a perfect game. There's always room for improvement. Especially with this team."
The Red and Black, which crushed Scranton 44-9 in its EFL season debut on July 14, must win to keep alive any hope of playing the league title game at home for a second straight season. The Ice Storm isn't likely to lose one of its final two games, but a late-season slip up for the Red and Black would definitely kill its chances of being home for the Oct. 13 final. Either way, the team seems to already have plans to play that night.
"If we get to the championship and lose, it's not a successful season for us," Williams said. "We're not overconfident at all, but in years past we might have been. Right now we're focusing on the things standing between us and a championship."
Copyright 2007. Watertown Daily Times, Inc., Watertown, NY. All rights reserved.
Zephyrs thinking home field
BY TONY PASTORE
Recorder Sports Staff
The Amsterdam Zephyrs clinched an Empire Football League playoff birth two weeks ago, but are now looking to secure a home game in the first round with a win over the Lake City Stars tonight in Plattsburgh.
The Zephyrs' trip to the post-season is already historical. It will be the first playoff game the Zephyrs will play since the 1950's.
Despite the accomplishment, Amsterdam needs to host a first round home game since they will probably play the Montreal-based Chateauguay Titans. On July 28, the Zephyrs suffered a 34-18 defeat to the Titans, due largely to the fact that nearly 20 Amsterdam players could not cross the Canadian border. Those same players still can't cross the border so a Titans home game puts the Zephyrs at a severe disadvantage.
"This is a big game for this organization," said Amsterdam coach Dom Ruggeri. "To go through what we've gone through, getting things together and to make the playoffs is a big deal. We've clinched it and looking to play in front of our home fans. Our minds are on the game. The guys aren't looking past Lake City into Watertown."
Amsterdam defeated Lake City at home 35-21 earlier in the season, but both teams have significant changes on offense. Elijah White who has been sizzling of late, is coming off a three-touchdown performance in the win over Ottawa last week. White will start at tailback. He started at fullback in the first meeting.
"We're going to go right at him this time," Ruggeri said. "If they stop the run, then we are going to put the ball in our quarterback, Ken Shaefer's hands."
Lake City also lost their starting quarterback from the beginning of the season when he moved out of state. Despite the change, Ruggeri says their new quarterback is more than capable.
"We know they're capable of moving the ball," Ruggeri said. "They have a new quarterback and they can run the ball. Their new quarterback has been doing a nice job for them. We know he can throw up to 20 times a game but I don't think they are going to take a chance in the air unless they have to. It's hard to key on a balanced team like Lake City."
Defensively for the Zephyrs, Rick Hulett will sit out this game. Hulett is one of the league's top linebackers. He returned in the second half last week and got two sacks. Ruggeri says Hulett will be resting his injuries until Watertown next week where he will see some action and hopefully be at full health for the playoffs.
"We concentrated a lot on our defense since our secondary did not play well against Ottawa," Ruggeri said. "Hulett is sitting out waiting for Watertown and the playoffs. I'm not going to push him. We want him ready for the playoffs."
Ruggeri also commented on his team's aggressive defense.
"Our defense is going to attack," Ruggeri said. "We're going to put pressure on that new quarterback and test him. We are an aggressive team and will put pressure on him early."
Stars host final home game
— PLATTSBURGH -- The Lake City Stars close out the home season tonight, looking to avenge an early-season setback at the hands of the Amsterdam Zephyrs in the Empire Football League.
Kickoff at Melissa Lahtinen Penfield Park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Amsterdam spoiled the Stars' season opener, winning 38-21 back on July 14. The host Zephyrs capitalized on four Lake City turnovers to pull away after a 7-7 first quarter. Amsterdam built a 31-7 lead before Lake City rallied to within 10 in the fourth.
Both teams are coming off victories last weekend.
Lake City walloped winless St. Lawrence Valley 34-7 to snap a five-game winless streak while Amsterdam defeated Ottawa 32-25 to improve to 5-3.
Lake City, out of the postseason picture, will close out the season next Saturday at Scranton, Pa.
Lake City will continue its food drive tonight with anyone bringing two canned items entitled to a free raffle ticket. The drawing will be held at halftime tonight with items including gift certificates for area restaurants, membership to the Court Club, two sets of 5-speaker Surround Sound Systems donated by Tuners.
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