Saturday, October 02, 2010
EFL Pre Game Press Coverage October 02
Protect the ball, R & B stresses
EFL PLAYOFFS: Vermont invades Watertown for key semifinal contest
By MATT CORDOVA
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2010ARTICLE OPTIONS
George Ashcraft needed only to look at the game tape from Aug. 21 to see the No. 1 obstacle standing between the Watertown Red and Black and the chance to play for another Empire Football League championship. And it doesn't wear an opposing jersey.
The memory of a trio of red zone turnovers that night against Plattsburgh, which happened to hand Watertown its only defeat this season, should be enough to remind the Red and Black to take care of the ball, win the turnover battle.
Sure, such phrases are so commonly uttered in the football world they've become cliché. But Ashcraft's squad can attest to their importance.
In the eight games, Watertown (9-1) actually played this season, it enjoyed a plus-7 (13-6) turnover ratio. The only outing in which the Red and Black was negative in the turnover column was against the North Stars, and that setback cost the team a chance to enjoy home-field advantage throughout the EFL postseason.
"One bad game this year we turned the ball over," Ashcraft said Thursday. "It was on the one-yard line, the three-yard line and the 15. The rest of the year those were scores for us. It was unusual for us that it happened. We cannot turn the ball over."
The Red and Black played five games without a turnover this season, and equally important, quarterback Brian Williams' only interception of the year turned out to be inconsequential during a blowout victory over Amsterdam.
Those statistics could come into play tonight, when the Red and Black hosts the Vermont Ice Storm in a semifinal at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
During a victory and a tie against the Ice Storm, Watertown, which didn't make a turnover of its own, forced three fumbles and picked off quarterback Brad Ruderman twice.
Vermont managed just one touchdown and a pair of field goals two weeks ago against Watertown, and Ruderman, one of the league's top passers, threw for just 246 yards in the two regular season meetings.
"Our coaching staff has really put together some great game plans, and the guys have been responding to them," Ashcraft said. "I feel really good about that going into the playoffs."
While mistakes with the ball clearly cost Watertown against the North Stars, Ashcraft said the way the team responded was different than in the past, during seasons that didn't end nearly as successfully as this one and last.
He said the team has bought into the idea that once something is done, it can't be changed.
"We're playing well together, and when somebody makes a mistake, they shake it off," the coach added. "Then it's on to the next play. Whatever happens they roll with it, and come back with a positive attitude. There's been no lashing out."
Top-seeded Plattsburgh is hosting No. 4 Amsterdam in tonight's other semifinal game.
Zephyrs ready for showdown at Plattsburgh
By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
After playing their best game of the season last week, the Amsterdam Zephyrs head to Plattsburgh today to take on the top-seeded North Stars in the first round of the Empire Football League's playoffs.
"This is do or die now," said Bob Reynolds, the Zephyrs' defensive coordinator.
Amsterdam (4-5) defeated the New York (Oneonta) Stallions (3-6) last week to clinch the EFL's fourth and final playoff spot, and did so in impressive fashion. The Zephyrs topped the Stallions, 38-17; the 38 points were the most scored by the Zephyrs in a single game this season, besting their previous high of 27 by nearly a dozen.
The 38 points scored were a far cry from when the Zephyrs tangled with the North Stars at Lynch Literacy Academy in late July. Then, the North Stars emerged with a 6-3 victory after the Zephyrs missed a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.
But good luck holding the current Zephyrs to such a paltry figure; head coach Joe Hall and offensive coordinator Dom Ruggeri have their offense clicking in recent weeks, bringing the unit's production up to snub with the defense's.
"We've got to really establish the run early," Ruggeri said.
The coordinator has several options at his disposal, ranging from the lightning quick Alex Heath to the powerful duo of Penta Thomas and Elijah White. The trio combined for 163 rushing yards on only 18 carries last week.
"We're going to go right at [Plattsburgh] and force them to stop us on the run," Ruggeri added. "And, hey, if they do, all the credit to them -- but then I'll just tell Scotty [Lawson] to open it up."
Lawson, a veteran quarterback who was a late-season addition to the Zephyrs, has been able to open up the Zephyrs' offense. In two games with the Zephyrs, Lawson has thrown for 396 yards and seven touchdowns. A former Albany Metro Maller, Lawson is closing in on 40,000 career passing yards at the semi-professional level, currently sitting at 39,828 yards.
In order to get the final 172 yards, Ruggeri said Lawson will need his offensive line to help him out more than they did last week when Lawson was forced to throw on the move with regularity.
"Our pass protection has to be much better against [Plattsburgh]," Ruggeri said. "They have a very good group of linebackers."
But if the North Stars do bottle up the Zephyrs' attack, that's OK with Reynolds, the team's defensive guru.
"I've got something up my sleeve [for Plattsburgh], something they're not expecting," he said.
Reynolds has played his hunches well in the past, including last week when he switched up his defense's front seven for a small, but quicker, unit. Going against New York quarterback Noble Chapen -- a converted wide receiver who looked often to run -- Reynolds' strategy paid off, his defenders putting constant pressure on Chapen. The speedy quarterback was sacked multiple times behind the line of scrimmage and hurried throughout the night. It showed in his statistics -- Chapen finished a paltry 8-28 for 88 yards with two interceptions.
However, working against the Zephyrs will be a lack of practice. Weather and a lack of an available field cost the team both of its practices this week, sending the group in cold for tonight. Still, the team's head coach isn't worried.
"The guys are ready, they all said they're ready," Hall said. "We should be all right."
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. The game will be played at the Plattsburgh Athletic Complex.
Colonials, Zephyrs ready for playoffs
By PAUL WAGER, The Leader-Herald
Amsterdam (4-5) at Plattsburgh (8-1)
Coming off a four-week layoff, Amsterdam (4-5 overall) played its way into the postseason with a 38-17 win over the New York Stallions of Oneonta last Saturday at Lynch Literacy Academy.
Quarterback Scott Lawson completed 9 of 20 pass attempts for 175 yards and three touchdowns against the Stallions. Lawson now needs 173 passing yards to eclipse the 40,000-yard career passing mark.
Alex Heath returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown and gathered in a 30-yard pass from Lawson for a touchdown. Ace Barnhill and Gary Moring also caught touchdown passes of 10 and 18 yards respectively. Elijah White scored on a 21-yard touchdown run, while John Totzeck connected on a 30-yard field goal.
White carried the ball seven times for 98 yards as the Zephyrs turned in 351 yards of total offense.
In their one meeting this season, Amsterdam dropped a hard-fought 6-3 decision to Plattsburgh on July 31 at Lynch Literacy Academy.
Plattsburgh scored its points on field goals in the first and fourth quarters, while Totzeck had a 27-yard field goal for Amsterdam's only points.
Totzeck had a field goal attempt blocked in the second quarter and a 47-yard attempt fall short in the fourth quarter.
Nick Shepard was 4-for-12 for 72 yards for the Zephyrs, while Hasan Welsh had two catches for 56 yards.
Heath added 17 carries for 72 yards for Amsterdam, while David Lumpkin had four solo tackles and an interception.
Tim Sweeney had two solo tackles and three assists for Amsterdam, Ron Pierce had three solo tackles and a fumble recovery, Bob Deming had three solo tackles and Totzeck had two solo tackles and an interception.
Plattsburgh (8-1 overall) hasn't played since a 21-20 win over Vermont on Sept. 11 after accepting a forfeit win over Massena on Sept. 18.
The winner will advance to face the Vermont Ice Storm or Watertown Red and Black in the championship game next Saturday.