League News

League News

Busy football start for new Bradner

Busy football start for new Bradner

While sharing the field with the NYCBL’s Olean Oilers, amateur football’s Southern Tier Diesel opened its season on the new Bradner field with three consecutive home games, starting its season Saturday at the revamped field with a 21-20 win against the WNY Dragons.


The Diesel, of the Northeastern Football Alliance, enters the season following its best in team history, going 8-4 and reaching the NFA’s AA championship game, followed by two more home at home as the team returns to night games.

“We haven’t practiced at Bradner due to the construction,” coach J.R. Bennion said before the opener. “(But) Bradner Stadium looks nice. It’s come out well.

“With the Oilers starting Friday night with a home game, we’re in there Saturday, then they’re back Sunday, it’ll be a real test to the stadium. That’s a lot of athletic use.”

Sharing the field presents some small challenges, but nothing the Diesel can’t handle, according to Bennion.

“I think everybody, the Oilers, myself, the Rally (in the Valley), is going to have some hardships with the stadium layout,” he said. “But our mindset is to roll on in. There’s no real hindrances.

“Minus the base circles, I’m looking forward it having a football field without the big rock patches in the middle of it.”

The Diesel boasts a 43-man roster, a comparable total to last year’s, according to coach J.R. Bennion, but with heavy turnover.

“Offensively, we lost talent as a whole, two starting guys at receiver, a running back, three offensive linemen, but we did replace them with first-year guys,” he said. “They’ve got to get some game experience under their belt.”

Bennion said the team’s turnaround in 2013 helped replenish the roster.

“I think it helped bring in new players,” he said. “It got the word out. We just, unfortunately, lost so many returning players.

“I think we look OK. We don’t have the offensive weapons we had last year. We just have to work with what we’ve got, but at the same time we’re going to be OK.”

Bennion hopes a new conditioning program, installed before the 2013 season, will aid the transition, while playing in a conference with teams from Buffalo, Lockport, Lyndonville and Jamestown.

“The team’s in good physical condition,” he said. “Last year, I conditioned the guys hard through the preseason, so I know they’re in better shape. I know they can play 60 minutes of football and in the occurrence of last year, 90 minutes of football. We have to rely on that because we play teams from bigger-city markets, Buffalo, the Rochester area.”

“When you’re standing at the game, you see that we’re playing teams with 65-man teams and on average with peoples’ work schedules, we’re dressing 30.”

Among the Diesel offense’s top returning players are quarterback Zach Smith, running back Fred Knight and receiver Jason Folland.

“(Folland) had some talented guys with him and around him. Now he’s at the top of the receiver depth chart, so he needs to step up, be a leader and produce,” Bennion said. “Fred Knight is taking over the reins at running back.

“I think Zach is a great talent, a quiet leader and I’m looking for him to have an even better year than he had last year.”

Dave Filighera and Kirk Rowland lead the Diesel’s defensive front. Bobby Meyer, a former Diesel star, returns at safety.

“He lays the wood,” Bennion said of Meyer. “He lays the wood: fast kid, big safety.”

Jason Kaszynski and Kiel Liddell lead the Diesel linebackers.

Following the opener, the Diesel plays each Saturday, hosting Lyndonville June 14 and Nickel City June 21, each at 7 p.m.

“The downside to so many home games is the other foot drops and you’ll have so many road games (four straight in July and August),” Bennion noted. “It is nice to go into the revamped stadium and have three home games, to help these guys get experience playing at home. It’s good, but the other shoe drops at some point.”

Impact go for 3-0

Impact go for 3-0

By JOSHUA DeSAIN This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WATERLOO — As the saying often goes in sports, “Defense wins championships.”

The Finger Lakes Impact semipro football team used that phase of the gridiron to spark a 2-0 start to its 2014 Northeastern Football Alliance season.

The Impact have counted on their defensive prowess to pick up 12-0 and 12-10 victories over Utica and Oneonta City to start the campaign.

Finger Lakes will look to keep the defensive momentum rolling into its home opener tomorrow when the Impact welcome the Ithaca Warriors to Waterloo’s Tom Coughlin Stadium.

“What helped us win our first two games on the road was our defense,” Finger Lakes coach Larry Guererri confirmed. “It stepped up big for us, scoring three of the team’s four TDs.”

Guererri now hopes his offense hits the same stride as Week 3 approaches. Former starting quarterback Trevor Sanders, who left the team for personal reasons, will be replaced by long-time Impact signal-caller Jessie Higgins-Tisdale.

“Our offense has had some issues in the first two games with turnovers and penalties, which we have resolved this week,” Guererri remarked. “Jessie Higgins-Tisdale will return to the starting role at quarterback, leading our offense back on track.

“I think you will see an entirely different offensive team from here on out. Coach Dillon has made the proper adjustments for the offense to run on all eight cylinders now.”

The Impact will put their offense and defense up against an Ithaca team that is currently 0-2 this season after two road defeats.

Again, Guererri believes his defense, especially in the run game, will be the key for Finger Lakes to reach 3-0.

“We will be playing against a power run team who runs an old-style, wishbone pistol offense so they like to pound the ball,” Guererri said, “so I will be looking for our defense to step up and stop the run.”

Second-year defensive lineman Mike Valvano and first-year middle linebacker Logan Moore have combined for 15 tackles, five sacks and four turnovers in the first two games.

Stallions lose home opener

June 9, 2014

The Daily Star

Staff Report

Oneonta High graduate Noble Champen ran for a 9-yard touchdown Saturday, but the Oneonta City Stallions dropped their Northeastern Football Alliance home opener, 12-10, to the Finger Lakes Impact at Hartwick College’s Wright Stadium.

“It was a nice night with a decent crowd but a terrible football game,” said Stallions co-owner Tom Terry, whose team committed half of the game’s 12 turnovers. “There were interceptions, fumbles and bad center exchanges on both teams. It was a very, very sloppy performance offensively by both teams.”

Sidney graduate Jimmy Kazalski kicked a 28-yard field goal for Oneonta City (0-2) in the first quarter, but Finger Lakes (2-0) recovered a bad snap on a punt attempt for a touchdown and a 6-3 lead.

Champen followed with his TD run early in the second quarter and Kazalski hit the extra point as the Stallions took a 10-6 lead into halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Impact intercepted a fourth-quarter pass by Champen and returned it for a touchdown to cap the scoring.

“We played musical chairs with quarterbacks last night, ineffectively,” said Terry, whose Stallions gave the snaps to James Chantry in the first and third quarters and used Champen at QB in the second and fourth periods. “This was tough to watch. It was a brutal, disappointing offensive performance. Other than a 40-yard pass to (Cooperstown graduate) Mike Tandle, that’s about all the offense we had.”

Terry said the Stallions’ running game provided little offense for the second straight week.

“We have no running game,” said Terry, whose team opened its season with a 37-17 loss at four-time defending NFA champion Troy on May 31. Champen caught two TD passes from Chantry in the first half last week.

“We’ve got some work to do, plain and simple,” Terry continued. “We just turned the ball over all night. Defensively, we’re way ahead of our offense, which is just painfully tough to watch. We’ve got some things to fix this week because we are just helpless on offense.”

Diesel win season opener, 21-20

As season openers go, J.R. Bennion will take this one.

No, the Southern Tier Diesel was hardly at its best Saturday night. But the semi-pro football team rallied to score a go-ahead touchdown with 1:45 remaining and used a four-down stop to beat the visiting WNY Dragons, 21-20, at Bradner Stadium.

Rich Butterbaugh, a Diesel newcomer from Bradford, scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, cutting the Dragons’ lead to 20-19 on a seven-yard score. Returning starting quarterback Zach Smith, also of Bradford, took a keeper around the end for the winning two-point conversion.

Roger Wangelan recorded a sack and Jason Kaszynski deflected a pass on the Dragons’ ensuing drive.

“I’m happy we got the win, but we need some work,” Bennion, the Diesel coach said. “The first half, on both sides of the ball, was just sloppy ugly. We’re not holding blocks, sustaining blocks, (we had) missed tackles, dropped passes. You name it, it happened. They had to get settled in there.”

The Dragons (0-2) played a preseason game and a Week 1 game in the Northeastean Football Alliance, while the Diesel sat with a bye. Bennion estimated newcomers comprise 40 percent of his roster after an 8-4 campaign in 2013.

“The second half was much better,” Bennion said. “When it counted, absolutely tremendous. That fourth-quarter stand sealed the victory and they couldn’t have played it any better.”

The challenge now, for Bennion, will be channeling those positives on a more consistent basis.

“If we can play four quarters of that period, we’ll be just fine,” he said. “The truth is if you graded our best plays and our worst plays, we’d give our worst plays an ‘F,’ and we put our best plays down as an ‘A.’ We need to make sure our worst plays aren’t down at an ‘F.’

“Your good plays need to out-number your bad plays, but your bad plays can’t be so bad.”

The game produced an even turnover battle, with zero.

Running back Fred Knight, a six-year Diesel member, started ahead of Butterbaugh, but Bennion said the latter will likely see an increasing role in his offense.

“Rich came to us late because he goes to college out of town,” Bennion said. “But I expect big things out of Rich Butterbaugh. He runs the ball hard. He doesn’t like East-and-West. Richie likes North and South and he’d prefer you get in his way so he can run you over.”

Smith scored the Diesel’s first touchdown on a five-yard first-quarter run. Butterbaugh scored from four yards out in the second.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be a run-oriented team, but it shows that we can do it,” Bennion said. “Zach can run the football. He can take it out of the pocket and he makes me a little bit nervous because he has the mentality that he doesn’t like to avoid contact either.”

The Diesel continues its opening home stand against Lyndonville June 14 and Nickel City June 21, with both games at 7 p.m. at Bradner Stadium.

Defense guides Impact to win

ONEIDA — The Finger Lakes Impact overcame some season-opening jitters Saturday thanks to a smothering effort on defense.

The Impact began its 2014 season with a 12-0 shutout victory on the road over the Utica YardDawgs.

The Impact compiled 181 yards on the ground, including a one-yard touchdown plunge by Newt Jones with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter that gave Finger Lakes a 6-0 lead.

Jordan Smith powered the rushing attack with 91 yards on 12 carries.

“Our offense had a hard time coming together,” Impact first-year head coach Larry Guererri said. “We were plagued by turnovers and penalties. We moved the ball, but gave it back on turnovers and penalties. We need to take better care of the ball and not be so careless.”

The Impact defense overwhelmed Utica, limiting the YardDawgs to minus-32 yards rushing on 25 carries and three completions for 47 yards.

Justin Wright intercepted a pair of passes for Finger Lakes, which accumulated eight pass defenses, seven sacks and a fumble recovery.

Wright took an interception back 27 yards for a touchdown with 1:42 to go to complete the scoring. Mike Valvano supplied six tackles and three sacks.