Saturday, July 26, 2008

Zephyrs host Ottawa tonight in home opener

Zephyrs host Ottawa tonight in home opener

By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald
POSTED: July 26, 2008

AMSTERDAM - After a one-point loss on the road in Plattsburgh last week, the Amsterdam Zephyrs open their home schedule in the Empire Football League tonight against Ottawa.

The Zephyrs lost 25-24 to Plattsburgh, thanks in no small part to a few long plays that put the North Stars in the end zone.

"They did not run the ball well against us and did not have a sustained drive against us," Amsterdam coach Tom Manny said. "They scored on long plays that they nailed us on."

Plattsburgh scored on a 53-yard pass and an 80-yard kick return in the third quarter. There was no scoring in the fourth.

The Zephyrs (0-1) have been working this week in practice on shoring up the secondary and improving the play of the special teams unit.

The offense moved the ball well against Plattsburgh, Manny said, except for during the fourth quarter, when the skies opened up and soaked the field.

That was unavoidable, Manny said, but he changed up the plan of attack and his team kept fighting.

"They never quit. They always fight," he said. "We had a chance right until the end and winning on the road is a big deal in this league."

Amsterdam received a bye through the first week and traveled for its Week 2 match-up. Tonight's game against Ottawa will be the team's first game in front of its home crowd.

Ottawa (1-1) has quite a hike to get to Amsterdam. They bring a strong running game and mobile quarterback, Manny said.

The defensive ends will play a key role in slowing the scrambling signal-caller and forcing him to throw. After that, Manny will see how much his secondary has improved from last week.

"He's a mobile individual and can throw accurately while running," he said. "Once again, the job of keeping them contained in our pass rush will fall on our ends. We have to stop their ground game, which I believe our front four can do, and we want to force them to pass."

Amsterdam's Cedric Pearson scored twice on passes from Nick Schaefer. Schaefer connected once with Josh Newborn and Tarquan Pearman scored the game's first points on an 8-yard run.

Elijah White is the big fullback for the Zephyrs. Manny said with White's ability on the ground, he wants to run first, pass second.

"We are more than certain we will be able to pound the ball at them with our offensive line slides and Elijah being there," Manny said. "We picked up on some tendencies they do. I think we'll be able to stretch them with Cedric once the ground game gets going."

He said he expects his team to put up another 25-30 points and move the ball over 300 yards.

That would be about what the Zephyrs have done so far in the preseason and early season. Manny said he believes the home field advantage at Lynch Middle School will give his team an added advantage.

"This is our first home league game and having the people there will really help," he said. "I'll tell you this, if Plattsburgh comes to our back yard, they won't win 25-24. I can tell you that."

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