Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stars in favorable position

September 29, 2010

Stars in favorable position

PLATTSBURGH — It's good to be home.

For the first time since Pat Keleher has been head coach of the North Stars, Plattsburgh will host an Empire Football League semifinal game Saturday when Amsterdam comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

With a victory, the Stars would host the EFL Championship for the first time ever.

"The mentality of the team has been good the past few weeks," Keleher said. "We're very excited and we understand the position we're in. And we're happy to be home."

Plattsburgh's last game was a colossal home victory over the Vermont Ice Storm to clinch the regular-season league title, but that was Sept. 11 — over two weeks ago.

By Saturday, it will have been 20 days without a game for Plattsburgh.

"I'm not crazy about not playing for three weeks, but we've practiced well," Keleher said. "We've had decent attendance and have scrimmaged a little more than we probably would have during a regular week."

The long break has given the Stars a chance to rest some injured bodies after a physical game against Vermont that followed a road win against Oneonta and a dogfight when the Stars ousted Watertown, 21-7, at home.

"We had a couple guys dinged up who have now had a chance to heal," Keleher said. "That part of it has been good."
Role Reversal
As the No. 1 seed this year, Plattsburgh will face a team very similar to the North Stars of 2009 in the Amsterdam Zephyrs.

"We're kind of looking at it in reverse," Keleher said. "Last year we were like Amsterdam. We had a decent midseason but ran into better teams at the end. We had to kind of turn thing around, and we did."

Last season, Plattsburgh captured a semifinal victory against Quebec in Montreal, catapulting the team to a hard-nosed 6-0 loss at Watertown in the EFL Championship.

"Amsterdam is much better than 5-5," Keleher said. "They had rocky start to beginning of year, missing some guys. But by midseason, most of the old guys came back and they picked up a few bodies here and there.

"They're like us last year, coming here knowing if they win one game, they're in the championship."

Watertown will host Vermont in the other semifinal game. If Plattsburgh wins, either the Red and Black or the Ice Storm will have to travel to Plattsburgh for the second time this year.

"It's human nature to look ahead, but I'm not doing it," Keleher said. "We can't look past Amsterdam.

"I made it very clear to the guys that we need to have a couple very focused practices this year, with 100 percent focus on Amsterdam."
Cracking the rankings
National Football Events released its national coaches poll Sept. 22, and the Stars made an appearance.

Plattsburgh is ranked 25th in the nation out of about 700 teams and sixth in the Northeast Region.

The Poll impacts selections made for the National Bowl Weekend in Deland, Fla. in January, so the Stars will have a shot a bowl game selection if they win the championship.

Plattsburgh has made big strides over the last three years. In 2008, the Stars made the playoffs and lost in the first round, tallying eight wins overall.

Last season, Plattsburgh made it all the way to the championship game on a road playoff schedule, totalling 11 victories on the season.

This year, the Stars captured the regular-season title and could go 10-1 with the league championship.

"Every aspect of the organization has grown each year," Keleher said. "Because of the success, we've had some new ball players come out and that has raised the overall talent level.

"Also, the board of directors and people working behind the scenes have gotten better. Now, we have a good routine and good people who do a lot to make my job easier."

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