Saturday, July 18, 2009

EFL Press Coverage July 18th

Stars take on cross-lake rival Ice Storm today
Staff Writer

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Plattsburgh North Stars begin the road portion of their 2009 Empire Football League schedule today when the team travels to Burlington, Vt. to face the Vermont Ice Storm at 1 p.m.

For Stars offensive coordinator Scott Aguglia, it will be a return to his old stomping grounds, where he spent eight seasons with Vermont.

"Being a founding member there, I was proud in what we accomplished. But (Plattsburgh) is still my hometown, and I wanted to be part of my hometown team," Aguglia said prior to the start of the season.

Vermont (0-1) dropped its season opener to the 2008 EFL Champion Quebec Titans (1-0) last weekend in a 13-6 decision, while Plattsburgh (1-0) ousted Broome County (0-1), 21-13.

Plattsburgh running back Brandon Keleher put in a workhorse performance against Broome County, rushing for 103 yards on 22 carries, including a touchdown. He may again have to shoulder a big load today if things get slippery during possible afternoon showers.

The Stars defense will get a crack at Vermont quarterback Matt Paul, who replaces EFL standout Ken Ruderman behind center.

"Ruderman was an exceptional quarterback for this league," Stars head coach Pat Keleher said of the former Vermont signal caller, who threw 34 touchdowns last season. "Paul is a solid quarterback, but in many ways he's also a rookie."

That should provide plenty of excitement for a Plattsburgh pass -rushing group that has a knack for getting in the quarterback's face when the opportunity presents itself.

Linebacker Jamil McCray recorded one-and-a-half sacks the last time the teams met. McCray played a limited role in Plattsburgh's defense last year but is now a consistent fixture at linebacker.

Kyle Babbie, who led the league in sacks for the past two seasons at defensive end, also showed the defense's potential in the pass rush with fellow end Kevin Gibson last weekend, when the two teamed up to force a big, late-game interception.

However, the Stars will be wary of a veteran receiving corps and a game-breaking backfield in Vermont that has the ability to take some of the pressure off of Paul.

"They still have some very good players on offense in Austin Partain, Rob Joy, Zack Howe and Akeem Williams," Keleher said. "Williams is a very good running back. He's fast, and we definitely don't want to let him get in some open space."

Keleher added that he expects the Vermont defense to be solid up front.

"I always felt the strength of their defense in last couple years was very athletic aggressive linebackers and very solid front four," Keleher said. "They've been able to shut us down in years past.

"We're excited for the game; they're our arch rival and we always seem to play e ach other tough."
Clouds loom over Ice Storm
Football team features new faces, two homes
By Alison Wells • Free Press staff writer • July 18, 2009
Matt Paul has taken over as the Vermont Ice Storm's starting quarterback and will be a key figure on this year's inexperienced squad.
The Vermont Ice Storm have more than their opponents to worry about this summer.
A variety of obstacles from the sidelines impede the semi-pro football team.
In five of the last eight years, the Ice Storm rented the football field at Colchester High School. This year, due to the inability of the field to endure wear and tear in the high school offseason, the Ice Storm were sent packing.
"The field issue has just been crazy all year," said board member, assistant
coach and player Russell Humphrey. "I've talked to everyone, from Missisquoi to Rutland. Everyone is cutting back."
As a result, the Ice Storm will be forced to play many of their home games in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Burlington High School also consented to play host to the team for a limited number of games.
"One of the major concerns about playing our home games in two different places," head coach Darren Haynes said, "is how the fans will react."
The team routinely draws between 1,500 and 2,000 fans a game, a major source of revenue. However, with home games in Plattsburgh, even the most avid supporters might have trouble traveling the distance.
Less than a hundred fans were on hand for Vermont's regular-season opener, a 13-6 loss to Quebec in Plattsburgh last weekend.
The start time has also shifted for some of the Ice Storm's home games.
"With the schedule so crazy, we just want the fans to check the Web site to know where and when we are playing on a particular week," said Haynes, pointing to
Today, the Ice Storm will play at Burlington High School against the Plattsburgh North Stars. The game begins at 1 p.m.
"We've always been an organization that has the philosophy that we'll play
anywhere," said Haynes, a former Ice Storm player. "Any field we play on we consider to be our field anyway."
The Ice Storm's record is 0-2, 0-1 in Empire Football League play.
"There is still quite a lot of work to do," said Haynes. "But we're only a few weeks into the season. The defense is close to being perfectly balanced while the offense is still having some trouble finding their rhythm. Once they do, we'll be able to run the ball more."
Another unexpected challenge for the Ice Storm includes a colossal turnover in personnel. Head coach Doug Perez retired after Vermont went 15-1 and won the national championship last season, and many players followed suit or decided to play for other teams.
The Ice Storm were left with five returning starters.
"I figured there would be a lot of turnover," said Haynes. "I didn't expect the players to leave in the numbers that they did. That was shocking."
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Many of the players who defected from Vermont are now playing for Plattsburgh.
"I think a lot of the players were resting on the fact that before we had so much experience," Haynes said. "They thought that it would be effortless to win, like winning was easy. This year, winning is going to be hard."
As a result, a younger, less experienced squad will take the field.
"We need to focus on not making mistakes." Haynes said. "We've already calmed down since the beginning of the season, and if we continue to, our level of play will only rise. Effort and consistency is what will make the difference."
"The key to Saturday is keeping Matt Paul, our quarterback, on his feet," Humphrey said. "Our defens e, as always, is lights out; they just fly to the ball. If we can give Matt a chance to throw the ball, we have a good chance of competing with Plattsburgh."
Wide receivers Rob Joy and Austin Partain join Paul to conduct the offense while leaders in the defensive lineup include linebacker Kevin Fournier and safety Corey Belida.
"They are the guys who have been here a while," said Haynes. "Every player looks up to them. They are the ones to look to this weekend. If those guys play well, then the team will, too."

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