Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Zephyrs won’t field team this season
Zephyrs won't field team this seasonBy BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald POSTED: July 1, 2009
AMSTERDAM - There will be no semi-pro football this summer in Amsterdam. It wasn't a money issue that sank the Amsterdam Zephyrs just two weeks before their regular-season opener, team President Tony Marotta said, but a low number of dedicated players. Last season's head coach, Tom Manny, went back to the Broome County Dragons. Offensive coordinator Mike Finocchi took a job with Catholic Central in Troy. Then some players started backing out. "It was just a series of events where people were planning on playing for these guys and they weren't there, so they decided not to come," Marotta said. "Our quarterback backed off because our offensive coordinator wasn't there. There were some guys who decided not to play because he wasn't going to play. It's just a whole sequen ce of events." Zephyrs Vice President Rick Sager approached the Empire Football League and told them Amsterdam would be unable to play. It was unanimously voted to grant Amsterdam a leave of absence. This means it will maintain its league franchise. If the Zephyrs were to fold and re-enter the league next season as a new team, they would have to reapply, pay an entry fee and a performance bond. With a leave of absence, they can re-enter the league without those financial obligations. "I think the reason they were so forthcoming with granting the leave is that our organization is very stable," Sager said. "We've got a solid coaching staff, a great board of directors, the guys who work the chain crew, the ambulance service is at every home game, we've got sponsorship, we practice on the same field we play on all that is in place, but for some reason, we weren't able to draw enough players." The Zephyrs are one of three teams in the EFL on a leave of absence. Sager said the Scranton Eagles started having problems attracting volunteers and raising money a few years ago and took a leave of absence. He said the Eagles then organized an alumni organization to help out and may return next summer. Ottawa will be moving to Joliet, Quebec, which is north of Montreal. There was not enough time before the start of the season to make the move, so that franchise also took a leave of absence. The remaining six tea ms include Watertown, Vermont, Massena, Quebec, Binghamton and Plattsburgh. Marotta said the Zephyrs had 40 players on the roster, but were seeing only 15 to 18 at practices and around 25 at pre-season games. In the final pre-season game, a few players were injured, he said. "Rick and I decided, before more of them get hurt, let's end it now," Marotta said. "Without enough players, you can't be competitive. With 18 or 20 guys, you can go out there and get beat up and injured. It's not worth it." He said the coaches were disappointed, but understood the decision. The players who had held to their commitment were "heart-broken," Marotta said. Sager said the team set last Thursday as the deadline for a decision. When fewer than a dozen players showed up, he recommended other teams they could play for, including the Glove Cities Colonials in the North American Football League. "At Thursday night's practice, the 10 loyal guys who were there night-in and night-out, we handed them their release," he said "I know for a fact, four out of the 10 did come up here. Whether or not they'll stay with [Colonials owner] Mark [Capano] remains to be seen, but these guys are just looking to play football." Capano said several of the Zephyrs have come to the Colonials, some of whom are former Colonials who had decided to play in Amsterdam this summer. He said even though the Colonials benefit from the additions to20their roster, it's regrettable when a local team has to pack up shop for the season. "With Amsterdam's guys coming over, we obviously feel it will make our team stronger and add some much-needed depth to the Colonials, so we're excited about it," he said. "On one side, we're excited, but on the other, we're disappointed to hear Amsterdam has to take a leave of absence. We went to a couple of their games and noticed a light player count, so we fully understand." The Colonials have had seasons with low numbers in the past and Capano said he understands the concerns for the players' safety. "A lot of the younger players think they can go both ways for all four quarters, but especially on these hot summer days, that's very difficult," Capano said. "Being young and in shape, it still wears on you." Capano said he and the Zephyrs ownership had spoken recently about starting a Mayors' Cup game to be played between the two local semi-pro teams for a trophy to be displayed in the office of the winners' mayor. He said the game seemed a possibility and something the Zephyrs was interested in starting, but about a week later they had to take their leave of absence. Marotta said because of the leave of absence, he will refund the money to his sponsors, but their loyalty to the organization makes him believe they will be there waiting to sponsor the Zephyrs again next summer. Also, he said new head coach Joe=2 0Hall will be asked back, as will Mike Philo as offensive coordinator and Bob Reynolds as defensive coordinator.
That is, if the team is able to draw more players. Marotta was optimistic, but said only time will tell if the Zephyrs will be able to return to the EFL next season. "Next year, we plan on coming back, I guess," Marotta said. "It's too early to tell, but we're going to see what happens."
POSTED: July 1, 2009