North Stars EFL Champions

October 10, 2010
Defeat Watertown 13-10 to wrap up first league crown

PLATTSBURGH Two things are required to defeat the Watertown Red and Black a stout defense and a good kicker.

The Plattsburgh North Stars have both, and that's why they're champions.

Mitch Ryder was good on field goals from 40 and 42 yards, and Plattsburgh's defense made two stands in the final five minutes as the Stars claimed their first ever Empire Football League championship in a 13-10 victory in front of their home crowd.

"I can't really explain how I feel right now," Ryder said.

No problem, the performance said it all.

Plattsburgh overcame some serious momentum swings, including two controversial calls by the referees and a lull in the second quarter when Plattsburgh was outscored 10-0.

Watertown's Brian Williams got in on a 2-yard run at the end of a drive that saw an incomplete pass on third down ruled a 30-yard completion.

Then, kicker Nate McKeever scored near the end of the half.

"You can't let that consume you," said Stars coach Pat Keleher, referring to the catch ruling. "That was a big momentum change, and we were too focused on it."

The offense was unable to get into the red zone throughout most of the game, but Plattsburgh had enough confidence in its kicker to play it safe and put up three points when the opportunity presented itself.

Ryder opened the scoring 5:49 into the game on a long, sustained first drive.

"When you have a kicker the quality of Mitch, it takes the pressure off of the offensive coordinator, because he doesn't have to worry about making a perfect call," Keleher said. "He's the best kicker in the league, in my opinion."

Plattsburgh's offense got going in the second half, keeping Watertown's bruising rushing attack off the field while the defense charged up for a big finish.

Ryder made his second kick in the third quarter.

The familiar connection of quarterback Ken Stay and Trevor St. Clair made a touchdown appearance four minutes into the fourth quarter to give Plattsburgh the lead, and the Stars defense took over from there.

"We want the pressure to be on our (the defense's) backs," said safety Shane Racette, who made an interception late in the game to help preserve the victory. "That's the type of team we are. Put it in the defense's hands and let us make it happen."

That mentality leaked over to the offensive playcalling. After Racette's pick, Plattsburgh used the ground game to wear the clock down before attempting a safe little slant pass.

"I told (offensive coordinator) Scott (Aguglia), 'don't do anything crazy,'" Keleher said. "If we have to run, we'll kick and play defense."

North Stars Go For EFL Title Tonight

October 9, 2010

PLATTSBURGH The Plattsburgh North Stars wanted Watertown.

They got it.

Plattsburgh will host the Empire Football League championship tonight for the first time ever when the defending champion Red and Black pay a visit to Plattsburgh Athletic Complex for the second time this season.

The Stars fell to Watertown, 6-0, in last year's championship game at Watertown, but they clinched the 2010 regular-season title with 21-7 victory over the Red and Black a month ago.

"You're talking about the oldest semi-pro team in the country and the defending EFL champions," said Stars coach Pat Keleher. "If you're going to win a championship, you want to do it against the team that's been there the longest."

The North Stars had a three-week layoff after its last victory over Watertown because of a Massena forfeit and a bye, but they were primed to go in a 31-0 rout of Amsterdam last weekend in the semifinal round.

Watertown defeated Vermont to advance to the title game.

"The game at home was looming right in the distance," said Stars quarterback Ken Stay after last week's victory. "Obviously there were some question marks because we hadn't played in a while, but we were confident that we could come out and win and get to (this) week."

Keleher said the mood surrounding the team is as good as it's ever been since he's been part of the organization.

"It's terrific," Keleher said. "It doesn't get any better than this. We're expecting a big crowd and have gotten a lot of response from people about coming to see us play."

Watertown is a hard-nosed team with an extremely tough front seven on defense.

The Red and Black tried to apply pressure to Plattsburgh's offense when the teams met in August, but the Stars countered Watertown's aggressive rush with quick passes.

Plattsburgh prides itself on being a well-rounded offense, whereas the Red and Black prefer to run the ball.

"For us, we have to stop Brian Williams and control the run game," Keleher said. "Put them in situations where they have to pass when they don't want to."

"In the first game we didn't make any mistakes didn't turn ball over. We took advantage of red zone opportunities. We created some turnovers when they had two or three fumbles on huge hits by our guys."

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