Saturday, September 06, 2008

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage September 6

Zephyrs to host Vermont tonight

By MIKE ZUMMO, The Leader-Herald

POSTED: September 6, 2008

AMSTERDAM - The last time the Amsterdam Zephyrs took the field, they came from behind to top the Watertown Red & Black with a last-minute victory.

Then, they got two weeks off after having a bye Aug. 23 and the entire league was off last week for Labor Day weekend.

Tonight, the Zephyrs will face their toughest test so far when they host the Empire Football League-leading Vermont Ice Storm at Lynch Field, starting the second half of their season.

"The guys were upbeat knowing that our destiny is in our own hands," Zephyrs coach Tom Manny said. "If we win out, we could still end up in second place. They all realize that and their attitudes are upbeat."

The last time the Zephyrs faced off with the Ice Storm, the game left them anything but upbeat as they were torched by the Vermont's passing game in a 62-35 loss. Brad Ruderman went 12-for-16 with four touchdowns and his backup Matt Paul was 8-for-10 with one touchdown.

Ruderman had another strong game Aug. 23 against the Plattsburgh North Stars where he completed 21 of 29 for 234 yards and five touchdowns.

He hooked up with Rob Joy the most, six times for 88 yards and three scores. He also had touchdown throws to Austin Pertain and Mike Jabour.

However, Manny pinned the Ice Storm's gaudy offensive numbers on mental mistakes by the Zephyrs.

"That's what killed us up there. We fell behind quickly and they got up 24-7. The worst that score should have been at halftime was 24-14," Manny said. "A goof here and a goof there and a team like that will make you pay dividends. They will jump on you if you make a mistake."

However, the Zephyrs do have some help on the way on the defensive side of the football as Rick Huelett returns at defensive end, shoring up the Zephyrs' pass rush. Manny also said the Zephyrs will use some nickel packages in the secondary to clamp down on the receivers.

"Getting Rick Huelett back is going to be a big help because he'll man our pass rush," Manny said. "You have to get pressure on Ruderman and in the secondary, we have to nullify their wideouts if we're going to be successful. We're not overly concerned about their ground game. We did OK with that, but it was the passing attack that we fell down on."

Despite concerns about the defense, Manny also has plenty of confidence in his offense, which averages 26.4 points per game.

However, that number is skewed by a 12-point performance in a 15-12 loss to the Chateaugay Titans. In the other four games, they haven't scored less than 24 points.

The Zephyrs also are going to be reloaded on offense as they'll get some players back from injury such as Kelvin Vasquez. Manny also said the Zephyrs will have their full complement of wide receivers.

"We're also picking up some receivers for [tonight] so it's looking very positive," Manny said.

The one thing that doesn't look very positive is the weather forecast, which shows the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna could heading into the area, throwing a possible aerial game plan into disarray if it rains heavily.

"We do have a contingency plan, but we haven't put a lot of practice time in because we don't have a lot of time on the field," Manny said. "Knowing what we're capable of doing, that's where the adjustments will come to us. We'll rely on Elijah [White] and we'll lean toward the situations with him."

Published September 06, 2008 01:00 am - Massena game moved to Plattsburgh in Empire Football League play.

North Stars at home tonight

PLATTSBURGH -- The Plattsburgh North Stars, looking to get back on track, were happy to see the winless Massena Raiders next on their schedule. Now, they won't have to leave home to catch Massena.

The luckless Raiders, 0-6, ran into field problems this week and, as a result, had to move their game with the North Stars to Plattsburgh and Melissa Lahtinen Penfield Park. Kick-off is set for 7:30 tonight.

The schedule switch means the North Stars will play three of their last four games at home with only a trip to Quebec remaining. Plattsburgh will need all the help it can get; the North Stars have lost their last two to fall to 4-2. They have been idle since a 34-14 setback at the hands of the Vermont Ice Storm on Aug. 23. The game before they fell to the Quebec Titans 23-8.

Plattsburgh had no trouble with Massena the first time around, sacking the Raiders 56-7 at Penfield Park.

Massena has managed just 21 points in six games while giving up 304. Plattsburgh has outscored its opponents 156-119.

A win tonight not only would snap the mini losing streak, but assure the North Stars of at least a .500 record. In all likelihood, it would also give Plattsburgh a solid shot at finishing third and avoiding the Ice Storm in the first round of the playoffs.

The North Stars also could use some momentum heading into the stretch run. Next week, they host the Ottawa Deacon Demons, a team they defeated 34-17 on Aug. 2.

Then Plattsburgh takes on Quebec and Vermont to close out the season.


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