Friday, March 25, 2011

Greenjackets return 'home' to Empire Football League

Greenjackets return 'home' to Empire Football League
By PETE TOBEY -- | Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:42 pm
MOREAU -- The prospect of increased travel and expenses prompted the Glens Falls Greenjackets to return to the Empire Football League earlier this month.
After six seasons in the North American Football League, the Jackets have returned to the semipro league they helped found 42 years ago.
Hank Pelton, the co-owner and general manager of the Jackets, said several factors - primarily travel and finances - contributed to the decision to return to the EFL.
"The way we look at it, we're home," Pelton said Thursday at the Greenjackets' new headquarters in the Chase Sports Complex. "It's a good move for us. A lot of us are former EFL players, so it was a no-brainer for us."
As part of the Empire Division of the NAFL, the Jackets were in a centrally run super-league that encompassed about 100 semipro football teams from across the country at its peak. The EFL has always been a regional league run by the team owners.
The far-ranging NAFL has apparently been reduced significantly in the wake of a mass exodus of teams. Only a handful of teams were listed on its website, and it's Facebook page announced a "major restructuring" coming soon.
"The (NAFL) had good ideas, but a lot of the teams didn't like the direction it was going, so they went back to their regional leagues," Pelton said.
Once a number of teams started leaving, others followed, including the entire Empire Division. Four of the teams - the Greenjackets, Albany Metro Mallers, Elmira Evolution and Syracuse Shock - were admitted into the EFL at a league meeting on March 12. Glove Cities and Finger Lakes switched to the Northeast Football Alliance.
Pelton said NAFL teams were so spread out, that when teams started pulling out, the travel would have been impossible for many teams. Returning to a regional league was the Jackets' only option.
"It left us no choice, really," he said.
The Jackets are charter members of the EFL, one of the teams that founded the league in 1969. They took a one-year hiatus in 1997 to play in the New York Amateur Football League, but returned the following season.
In 2005, after winning back-to-back EFL championships, the Jackets left for the NAFL under former owner Charles Adams, citing a desire to play stronger competition.
In 2008, Pelton and Craig Matuszak purchased the team from a group headed by NAFL commissioner Rob Licopoli.
"When Craig and I took over the team, it was in the contract that we had to keep the team in the NAFL for two more years. The third year was on us," Pelton said.
The EFL will have nine teams for the 2011 season, which is scheduled to begin on July 9. The top six teams make the playoffs, with the league championship game set for Oct. 22. Teams would also be eligible for postseason invitational tournaments.
For the Jackets, the longest trips this season will be to Syracuse and Burlington, Vt.
"I'm glad to be back in the EFL, having played my entire career in the EFL," said Jackets head coach Bob Fish, who returns after taking over the team midway through a 5-6 season. "We'll renew some old rivalries, like Watertown and Plattsburgh. It's a positive for guys to not be traveling hours and hours to away games."

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