Sunday, October 12, 2008

EFL Post Game Coverage October 12

Zephyrs secure playoff spot


Recorder Sports Staff

It took nearly three months, but the Amsterdam Zephyrs finally finished off the Ottawa Deacon Demons and earned the final spot in the Empire Football League Playoffs.

With the Zephyrs leading 26-19 with 9:29 left in the third quarter July 26 at Lynch Middle School, inclement weather forced the officials to suspend the game. After the regular season ended last week and the two clubs were tied for the final playoff spot, league members voted to complete the game Saturday in Amsterdam.

Despite a Ken Schaeffer interception on the second play from scrimmage after the restart that led to Ottawa scoring the game-tying touchdown, the Zephyrs managed to pull out a 33-32 win to set up a playoff date next week with the undefeated Vermont Ice Storm.

"It didn't make me feel comfortable," Manny said of the interception. "It didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy, if that's what you're thinking, but it made the troops rally, and that was an important thing.

Schaeffer's interception led to Chris Wakeman's 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak, but the Zephyrs immediately drove back down the field to take the lead when Schaeffer connected with Josh Newborn on a 12-yard strike.

"It's weird to pick up in the middle of a game, and you really can't set a game plan, per se," Manny said. "But, we made some mistakes, we overcame them and we won."

Ottawa answered again with a nine-play drive capped off by Sean Harkes' one-yard plunge early in the fourth, but the game turned when the long snap on the extra point sailed over Harkes' head and the Zephyrs were able to cling to a one-point lead before their defense took over.

"What was really, really good tonight was the defense's ability to adjust," Manny said. "At the end, in the last seven, eight minutes of the game, we shut them down."

The Zephyrs held the lead using a relentless blitzing attack in the final minutes, bringing eight or nine players close to the line of scrimmage against a Deacon Demons offense showing no desire to throw the ball.

On a night as strange as this, however, things did not end simply. With the Rams trying to run out the clock inside of two minutes, Elijah White fumbled on a sweep and Ottawa recovered. Two plays later, though, Amsterdam's blitz forced Wakeman to stumble and fumble, and Rick Hewlett recovered to seal the win and a playoff berth.

"The series before the last one, that's when we knew it was our's to take, defensively," Manny said.

The win bumped Amsterdam's final record to 4-6 and sets up a league semifinal matchup against the unbeaten Ice Storm, who topped Amsterdam 20-10 during the regular season. Manny, though, was confident his team can contend for a league title.

"We don't want it any other way," he said. "We should've beaten them here, we know it, we have the group that can do it. If we have a good week of practice, we can pull this off."

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