Thursday, March 13, 2008

Zephyrs reload for '08 season

Zephyrs reload for '08 season
Recorder News Staff
The Amsterdam Zephyrs are coming off their most successful season in 2007 as they finished second in the Empire Football League's East Division and made the playoffs before losing, 19-17, to the Chateauguay Titans in the first round.

Since that loss, the team has gone through substantial changes, but the team hopes tonight's signups at the Crystal Ristorante, starting at 7 p.m., will stimulate interest and attract new players to fill in holes in the lineup.

The biggest team change starts with the head coach. Dom Ruggeri resigned as head coach just one month after the loss in Canada. Ruggeri said he resigned mainly to spend more time with his family.

Recently, the Zephyrs added Tom Manny as their new head coach. Manny has extensive semi-pro football experience. He played for 18 years at the semi-pro level all over the Capital Region. He played for four teams from 1974 to 1992. During that time he played for the Troy Uncle Sams, Albany Metro Maulers, Glove Cities Colonials and Electric City (Schenectady) Chargers.

Prior to his semi-pro career, he played high school football for Catholic Central on two undefeated state-ranked divisional champions before today's sectional championship tournaments existed. He then played at Hudson Valley Community College and Utica College.

Manny has known Zephyrs owner Tony Marotta and vice president Rick Sager for 30 years as both a teammate and opponent.
Most recently, Manny was the head coach for the Broome County Dragons, an EFL franchise currently taking a leave of absence from competition. Last season, Manny returned to the area and became a part-time offensive assistant under Ruggeri before accepting the Zephyrs vacancy.

"Tommy was ready and happy to accept the position," said Sager. "What makes him right is his ability to work one-on-one with the player in a teaching mode rather then negative reinforcement."

"The organization is great, with great ownership," Manny said. "Everyone is easy to work with are they are knowledgeable. With the core guys coming back with recruiting, we can win the EFL title."

Manny and Sager will be at the Crystal Ristorante tonight to talk to potential recruits.
"People have an opportunity to continue their football career," Sager said. "You only have so many years of athletic ability given to you. This is a great way to continue your playing career. It has to be fun, but we're going to practice and play hard while having good times."

"Our job is to keep the dream alive," Manny said. "If you're a young guy who continues to want to play, this is for you. You will be taught and coached. There are more avenues to continue to play football in this era. We aren't looking at players from just Amsterdam. We don't want one group in one area. We want diversification."

One area the team does have a core unit in is offense. Amsterdam received 24 all-star awards for the 2007 season, nine of those were first-team selections. Seven of those nine first-teamers are on offense and include tight end, Evan DeGeorgio, wide receiver, Cedrick Pearman, Guard/Punter, Kelvin Vasquez, tackle, Bob Van Hoesen, running back, Elijah White, kicker, Alvaro Montes.

White was also the EFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year and is confirmed to return. Also confirmed for a return is quarterback Ken Shaefer, a second team EFL all-star who was voted the team's Offensive Most Valuable Player.

"We don't plan on changing much offensively," Manny said. "We will be changing a few things to feature our wide receivers and make them bigger parts of the offense. We will have different motions and sets. This is an intelligent group. This is the third year for this offensive group playing together. I'm excited about this core. The sky is the limit."

Defensively, the Zephyrs will be losing a number of their defensive unit though the team did not specify who at this point. The team struggled on defense at times in 2007 and team officials know that is the focus of off-season recruiting.

"Tommy knows the defensive as well as the offense," Sager said. "He was a linebacker and defensive lineman in his playing days."

"We're going to keep the 4-3 defense with a different style," Manny said. "There 1,001 ways to do things with the 4-3. If there was only one way, we'd all do it. We still have very viable returners as well as recruits."

Manny says announcement on these recruits will be announced once they officially sign 2008 Amsterdam Zephyrs contracts.

The Zephyrs will open the season in mid-July but the 2008 EFL schedule has not been released. The team plays on Saturday nights and their home games at Lynch Middle School.


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