Saturday, August 15, 2009

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage August 15, 2009

Defense does its part: Red and Black's unit creates havoc, forces turnovers

Rushing the ball against the Watertown Red and Black has proven to be a hard enough task. But there haven't been too many opportunities through the air, either.
That's because Anthony Tyrkala and Adam Bossinger have helped the Red and Bl ack's defensive backfield become the Empire Football League's most theft-happy group. Heading into tonight's game at Quebec, the team's fifth, Watertown has already recorded 10 interceptions.
"Our front seven have been amazing," said Tyrkala, who leads the league with four picks. "Us d-backs know we're going to get tested."
The fact that Tyrkala has enjoyed the most successful season of any EFL cornerback is likely a surprise even to him.
The Tampa, Fla. native never played organized sports before last spring, when he joined the Red and Black. Like millions of football-crazed Americans , Tyrkala watches TV and reads papers to follow the professional game.
But, competitively, he'd only dabbled in intramural leagues. 2008 marked the first time he ever strapped on a football helmet.
"We were both in the same unit out at Fort Drum, and he actually got me to play," said Bossinger, also in his second year. "He's an excellent defensive back, and has great anticipation."
Watertown's formula for creating takeaways is simple. It relies on pressuring the quarterback every play, and plugging running lanes quicker than opposing running backs can find them.
Building comfortable leads has helped, as well. By the time Tyrkala scored last week against Vermont, the Red and Black were already ahead by 23 points.
"When you know what they're going to do, it takes away the guesswork," defensive coordinator Rich Potter said. "The linemen and linebackers are doing a great job against the run, and forcing teams into situations where they have to throw."
If turning the ball over wasn't frustrating enough for opponents, Watertown is also producing plenty of points each time it intercepts a throw or picks up a fumble.
The Red and Black has produced a league-best six defensive touchdowns, four by interception. Mike Dumaw and Jake Smith have also scored directly off turnovers for Watertown.
"We have been fortunate for that," said Bossinger, a 2003 South Jefferson graduate. "You see the open field, make a couple moves, and you're off."
Tyrkala credited coach Potter and assistant coach Brandon Doherty for his quick transformation from casual observer to game changer. Any advantage an opposing wide receiver may have had over Tyrkala's football youth has disappeared.
"They pulled me aside early and taught me some fundamentals," Tyrkala said. "I knew nothing about football until last year, except for what I saw on TV. I just never had the chance to play before."
Published August 15, 2009 12:03 am - The unbeaten Plattsburgh North Stars host Massena tonight.

Stars look to stay unbeaten
Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — For the sixth straight time this season, the Plattsburgh North Stars will enter a game with an unbeaten record.

And if last week's 40-0 victory over Massena was any indictation of what is to come tonight when the Stars host the winless Silver and Black at 7:30 at Plattsburgh High School, that number will likely be seven.

However, head coach Pat Keleher isn't about to let his team take the Empire Football League matchup lightly.

"We're approaching everything the same way — Massena is a better team than the score indicated," Keleher said. "We played very well in that game, but they have very good potential. I do not want our guys in any way thinking this game is in the bag. It could very well come down to a dog fight."

Plattsburgh (7-0 overall) is 5-0 in league play, as an Ottawa forfeit counts on their record.

Quarterback Ken Stay fell into a groove last weekend, tossing three touchdown scores, no interceptions and connecting on 12-of-19 passes for 172 yards. The first-year signal caller had made a habit of starting off slow and getting better later in the in the team's first six games, but that was not the case last Saturday.

Keleher expects less early-game rust and better play out of the gate from Stay as he continues to get comfortable with the offense.

"He understands our offense now and (offensive coordinator) Scott (Aguglia) has done a great job bringing him along," Keleher said. "The other half of it is playing experience. The game is slowing down for him."

Plattsburgh's depth all around has been critical, as well.

Kyle20Nolan's return to the team, along with Elija Parks, gives Plattsburgh two solid fullbacks in front of a 1-2 punch in Brandon Keleher and Zach Blocker at halfback.

Defensively, Kyle Babbie has played more of a linebacker role instead of his prior spot at defensive end. Babbie, however, still moves up to the line in four down linemen sets and is part of a linebacker group that can rush and play coverage.

Plattsburgh also added Shane Racette in to the mix with Jamil McCray and Josh Nephew in the extra-back/strong safety spot.

The defensive blend Keleher has put together demands chemistry and selflessness, both of which the Stars have seemed to have in its front seven and eight.

"The D-line is doing a good job stalling up front," Keleher said. "They're very unselfish, not worrying about sacks." He added that quarterback pressure has still been a good as ever despite fewer sacks than a majority of EFL teams.

The Stars' success has gained them gained national attention — they're in the top 25 in all three major semi-pro football national polls. This week Plattsburgh is ranked No. 11 in the Minor League Football News poll, 18 in the National Football Events Coaches' Poll and 24 in the Semi-Pro BCS Poll.

A win tonight would garauntee Plattsburgh a winning record and f uel the fire in an already anticipated matchup against undefeated Watertown on the road next weekend.

"My message to the team is still one game at a time," Keleher said. "But I'm very pleased about where we're at right now."

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