Saturday, August 23, 2008

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage August 23

Ice Storm face rival

August 23, 2008

COLCHESTER -- The Vermont Ice Storm semiprofessional football team will play its longtime rival, the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) North Stars, at 7:30 tonight in Empire Football League action.

Vermont, ranked 10th in the nation in the coaches' poll published at, is one game ahead of the North Stars in EFL play. The Ice Storm (5-0, 8-0 overall) are coming off a 57-0 win over the Massena Raiders and have averaged 46 points per game through the first half of the season.

Plattsburgh (4-1, 6-1 overall) is led by quarterback Kellen Nolan. Nolan is second in the league in passing yards and touchdown passes. The North Stars receiving corps features league all-star Matt St. Clair and speedsters Kelly Gordon and Chris Verkey.

Desperation looms for Red/Black

TIME TO GET GOING: Team's hopes for playoff run hinge on ability to overcome shortcomings





The Watertown Red and Black works on drills during Wednesday's football practice at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.


The Watertown Red and Black is in a rather precarious situation as it opens the second half of the Empire Football League season.

The nation's oldest semiprofessional team has seen better years, but it clings to the hope, however slim it may seem to be, that October will bring yet another postseason berth.

The first task on that journey is certainly tall, as the Quebec Titans, who defeated Watertown 35-14 last month, visit the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds tonight.

"We're a young team, and we've had a rough first half of the season," veteran offensive lineman Aaron Brown said. "The second half has to define us going into the playoffs."


Yes. Even at 1-4, a second-half surge would likely ensure a spot in the EFL playoffs, for which the top four teams qualify.

Head coach George Ashcraft said the key will lie in the team's practice habits, which, he said, have been inconsistent.

"It's up to these men to show up, and play their butts off," he said. "Then we'd be fine. You do play like you practice. You don't win football games by just showing up on Saturday."

Here's a brief outlook on where the Red and Black stands at the year's midpoint.



Things started off great when Brian Green found Lester Cole for a 50-yard touchdown strike on the team's first play from scrimmage during an exhibition against Massena.

But that's proven to be the highlight of the team's air attack.

The shoulder injury Green suffered against Vermont thrust Anthony Noel into the starting quarterback role. Noel filled in for the first two regular-season games while Green was on leave, but he is otherwise inexperienced at the position.

His signal-calling youth has been evident. Even though Watertown put up 31 points last week against Amsterdam, he finished 2-for-8.

During a 47-6 regular season win over Massena, Noel attempted just eight throws, completing three. Cole, the team's No. 1 receiver, has zero scoring catches in the regular season.

The efforts of Joe Brennan, Warren Spies, and Noel have given the Red and Black a dominant running game, however. The team gained 315 and 226 yards on the ground in its last two games.

If Watertown makes the postseason, it will do so running. And with even a semithreatening passing game, the lanes to rush through should get bigger.

"Offensively, we're the best we've been," Ashcraft said. "Anthony's getting more comfortable throwing. It's coming together. Hopefully fast enough so that it shows Saturday."



Allowing 27.4 points per game, Watertown's defensive unit still faces its toughest stretch.

The league's second-leading passer, Kevin Wyeth (79-144-3-1,116, 12 TDs) is in town tonight, and there's still another date with the Ice Storm, too.

The Red and Black has shown vulnerability in the secondary, giving up 246.3 yards per game against opponents not named Silver and Black.

In spite of Brian Williams's league-best five interceptions, defensive coordinator Rich Potter said his unit has to become less predictable.

"We're doing some different things up front, to keep from letting our defense get broken down. We have to put some pressure on the ball," Potter said.

Laced into its schedule down the stretch are two games against Ottawa, which should be winnable. The Deacon Demons are also 1-4.

Brady Nix leads the defense with 26 tackles, followed by Demetric White's 25. Ben Pritchard has three sacks.

If the playoffs began today, the Red and Black would be out — one game behind Amsterdam. The Zephyrs come to Watertown Sept. 27 for what could prove to be the most important game of 2008.

The team, though, hopes it won't have to be.

"We can't lose again. If we come out here thinking we can breeze through the second half of the season and still make playoffs, we might as well hang up our pads now," Brown said.

"We're 1-4 right now, and we haven't broken apart yet as a team. We're still sticking together. Still fighting through games."


Published August 23, 2008 12:30 am - The Plattsburgh North Stars visit the Vermont Ice Storm.

Stars look to stop Ice Storm
PLATTSBURGH -- It takes a lot of discipline to stay in the game with a team that averages around four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns per game.

So far, no team in the first five games of the Vermont Ice Storm's schedule has been able to accomplish that -- except for one.

And Quebec, who lost to Vermont by a touchdown, beat the Plattsburgh North Stars two weeks ago.

The Stars look to challenge the Ice Storm when the travel to Vermont tonight for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against one of the American Football Association's 2007 National Champions.

In Plattsburgh's last meeting with the Ice Storm in 2007, undefeated Vermont shut out the Stars.

The Ice Storm, however, managed to score just 10 points itself in that game.

Both offenses haven been firing on all cylinders so far this season.

Plattsburgh hopes the return of starting wideouts Matt St. Clair and running back Brandon Keleher will bolster a Plattsburgh offense that scored only eight points in the team's most recent game, despite averaging 34.5 points in its first six.

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