Greenjackets, EFL forging ahead

By Pete Tobey, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Courtesy of The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY

After a rather confusing month, the Glens Falls Greenjackets will have a season, a schedule and a league — albeit a smaller league than most anyone probably envisioned.

The Jackets will be one of two Empire Football League clubs this season, as three teams that defected a month ago were granted a one-year leave of absence at an emergency league meeting Saturday.

The Greenjackets will open their regular season on Saturday with a 7 p.m. non-league game against the Roc City Wolves of Rochester at East Field.

Concerns over teams not having enough players, coupled with what EFL commissioner Dave Burch called in a statement “fake news and misinformation,” caused teams to make “premature decisions” to leave the league.

Greenjackets owner and president Hank Pelton was determined to stay in the league, along with the Seaway Valley Venom of Massena. With Plattsburgh already taking the season off, Watertown, Syracuse and Sussex (N.J.) all left for other leagues in early June, citing concerns about preserving their home games.

“I came right out and told them that they panicked,” Pelton said. “I said we needed to stand our ground and play through it — I’m not jumping ship.”

Pelton said the concerns about roster numbers were unfounded. Most semipro football teams have low numbers just before the season starts, as many players have job and family obligations and aren’t able to make every practice.

Pelton said Seaway Valley gave the rest of the league a heads-up that it only had 11 players in early June, but is now up to 28. He said the Jackets had 14 players at one practice last month, but will start the season with a roster of 45.

“I said, ‘Stay the course — we all know how this (semipro football) goes,’” Pelton said. “I reminded them that last year, Syracuse said they would be lucky if they had a team, and they won the title. Everything comes together.”

Pelton said that the three teams that jumped had acted on “social media rumors,” despite reassurances he had given them a month ago. According to the EFL statement, Watertown owner George Ashcraft had gone on record in the media that he was joining the Northeast Football Alliance, prompting Syracuse and Sussex to jump. Sussex said it had been told by the commissioner of another rival league that all of the EFL teams were joining that league.

The outcome of the meeting was a vote to keep the league together as a two-team league for the 2017 season, rather than going on hiatus, with all teams returning in 2018 and possibly expanding.

Glens Falls and Seaway Valley will play each other twice in league games, then meet again for the EFL championship on Sept. 30.

“We’re members of the EFL and our players pay fees so they can play for an EFL championship,” Pelton said. “Players want an end goal.”

Pelton said an option was discussed to have an EFL tournament at the end of the season, but Pelton was against that, saying, “I’m not going to reward the other teams in a tournament format because they panicked.”

The Jackets have eight games scheduled so far, including two non-league games against the Syracuse Strong. Pelton said he’s working to firm up a game with the Albany Metro Mallers and to fill two more open dates.

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