​Irish News

League Commissioner says Red & Black failed to follow rules on eligible players

WATERTOWN - NY: Northeastern Football Alliance commissioner JR Bennion clarified the league’s stance Saturday regarding two ineligible Watertown Red and Black players, a situation that prompted Red and Black coach George Ashcraft to cancel and forfeit Saturday’s scheduled East Division game against Troy at Lansingburgh High School.

Bennion stated that two Red and Black starters — linebacker Connor Brown and running back Curtis Dukes — are not recognized on the official 59-player roster registered with the NFA and listed on the league web site due to their respective contracts being submitted after the deadline to be eligible for last Saturday’s season opener.

Bennion said that the league is still waiting for newly dated and signed contracts for each player and they will not be eligible to play in future games until they are received following league protocol. He added that no other Red and Black players were considered ineligible leading into Saturday’s canceled game.
​​“They will not work with the process that is so simple that every other team in the league, including our new teams, are able to adhere to,” Bennion said of the Red and Black.

The league stated a May 22 deadline for contracts to be submitted for Week 1 eligibility, and according to Bennion, the contracts for Brown and Dukes were received by the league on June 2.

The Red and Black was handed a forfeit for canceling Saturday’s game against Troy, which will count as two losses in the NFA standings, according to league bylaws and confirmed by Bennion.

Bennion also said that he informed Ashcraft that the two players would be ineligible for last Saturday’s season opener — a 17-14 overtime loss to Syracuse — in advance of that game, and the league is still considering whether to punish the team with an additional forfeit loss for allowing Dukes and Brown to play last week.

“The bottom line is they were not eligible and that was communicated in a timely fashion,” Bennion said.

“We have structure here, if they can’t do what is required and do it the right way, they have to be able to accept the punishment for that,” Bennion added.

Ashcraft said on Friday, after making the decision to cancel the game, that he was not notified of any “red-flagged,” players until earlier this week, three days after the season opener, and that he was asked to clarify the status of about 15 players at that time before being notified that Brown and Dukes would not be eligible.

If the league decides to hand another forfeit loss to Watertown for last Saturday then the Red and Black would enter next Saturday’s matchup against the Carthage Revolution with a record of 0-4.

Such a sanction would also count as Watertown’s third league infraction, according to Bennion, and teams that accrue five such penalties are reviewed by the league’s executive body, which could then decide to suspended or expel a franchise from the league.

Bennion said the team incurred a fine and its first infraction for late submission of league dues, and the cancellation of Saturday’s game against Troy counts as its second.

The Red and Black is in the midst of its second season in the NFA after competing in the Empire Football League since 1975.

Troy Fighting Irish Kick-off 2018 Season

TROY, N.Y. - Troy is looking to add another football title to it’s resume before the high school season fully kicks into gear as the Troy Fighting Irish adult amateur football team kicks off its 2018 campaign 7 p.m. tonight at Lansingburgh.

Team founder and head coach Ryan Job has led the Fighting Irish national titles to their credit in 2016 (AAA title) and a Sunshine Bowl title in 2011. After finishing as a runner-up last year in the Northeastern Football Alliance, the Fighting Irish are looking to get back on top and the roster is filled with Section II talent from past and present.

Troy High graduate Anthony Paone knew he would wear the blue and gold of the Fighting Irish. I’ve been playing football since I was five-years-old and the Troy Fighting Irish is me, it’s everything I love,” Anthony Paone said. “I played flag football for a few years with a couple of guys on the team and just joined the family.”
Local flag football has been a conduit for players to the full-contact adult amateur football program that plays its home games at Lansingburgh High School.
“I played high school in Mechanicville, played college ball at Hudson Valley before I transferred to Marist,” linebacker Pauly Zurlo said. “I tried out for the Arena (Football League) team back in the day. I strayed away from football for a little bit, I was playing flag (football) actually with some of the guys on the team and found out about the Irish and as soon as I found out it was a full contact team I had to come back and play again.”

Anthony Martiniano knows the Lansingburgh turf, playing both soccer and football for the Knights in high school before playing soccer for the University of Maine, but still had to sell himself to the coaching staff. “I have a couple of buddies on the team that played on the Irish, I reached out to a couple of them, went to a game, talked to Ryan (Job) and he said ‘Show me what you can do.’” Anthony Martiniano said. “I went out there, hit a couple 45-, 50-yard field goals and he said ‘OK, you can definitely kick for this team.’ I was a second-team all-star last year in the conference, so it’s always been a natural calling.”

Averill Park grad Tim Vermilyn was another recruit to help out the Fighting Irish new offensive air attack. “I originally was going to go away and play, but home is where I like to be,” Tim Vermilyn said. “The Fighting Irish found me at one of my jobs, I was working with a couple of the players and they actually saw my highlight film from high school and actually asked me to come and play on the team.”

The majority of the Fighting Irish have full-time jobs, families and often children, Greenwich defensive lineman Matt Roberts is truly a fresh face. “I was with my dad here in Troy and I heard that there was a football game at Lansingburgh High School, I went and checked it, I just wanted to play with them as soon as I saw it,” high school senior Matt Roberts said. “It’s a really big jump from playing with Greenwich and playing teams like Warrensburg, stuff like that to playing kids that, not really kids any more, kids that played for good colleges, D2 colleges. It’s a big jump, but I’m ready for it.”

Just as any athlete moves up levels they have to make adjustments. “It’s a lot faster pace than in high school, I’ll tell you that. You have adjust, you either got it or you don’t,” Paone said. “In high school I went from playing linebacker and now I’m playing defensive line. It’s a different ball game.”

A newly revamped defense and offense has challenged the Fighting Irish during the pre-season, providing its own set of challenges along with bigger, faster and stiffer competition.

“We both originally started off as a running offense so the transition was a little easier, the speed was a lot different, switching from high school straight into semi-pro was a little bit of a transition I had to get used to,” Vermilyn said. “My first year was a little interesting to say the least.”

The Fighting Irish kick off against the Carthage Revolution at 7 p.m. Saturday night looking to get back to the NFA title game and advance to the AFNT title games in Miami and even with age, game time brings back familiar feelings.

“You still get jitters, it’s everything you want,” Paone said. “You have to live the dream while you can.”​