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A Special Streak-Snapping Thursday Night

Sep 26, 2014 -- 5:07pm

In terms of game day atmospheres, this one was nothing special. It was not a Friday night extravaganza with two top teams playing in a boisterous packed house. Yes, these two towns love their football, but due to Newfield’s senior trip this weekend, its game at Groton was moved up to Thursday night. That’s a night that for most fans is reserved for helping their kids with their homework while getting ready for an early work and school day. So, to little surprise, a Thursday matchup featuring two 0-3 squads drew a relatively pedestrian crowd.

However, the folks who did show up Thursday night witnessed something special. Something that had not happened in nearly five years. A Newfield football win.

On October 4, 2009, Newfield defeated Spencer-Van Etten 12-6. The Trojans then lost their final three games of the season and went winless in 2010 and 2011 before the football program went on hiatus 2012 through 2013 due to a lack of enough players to field a team.

Head Coach Dan Donahue was instrumental in bringing the program back. He put together a rag-tag squad this season comprised of three seniors who were freshmen on the 2011 varsity team, and twenty newcomers including underclassmen called up from the modified program and eager students excited to join the team without having ever played a down of football in their lives.

Newfield entered its matchup against Groton carrying a 22 game losing streak, the longest in New York State. 48 minutes later, Trojans players were leaping into each other’s arms shouting “Not 23!” Led by dynamic quarterback Cole Banfield, Newfield topped Groton 22-16 for its first win in nearly five years. The junior captain motored for two touchdowns runs, zoomed back a kickoff return for a touchdown, and added an interception grab on defense to thwart Groton’s final drive of the game. Not bad for a kid who had never played quarterback before this season, but saw that the position was vacant and told Donahue that he would accept the challenge and put the team on his shoulders.


Newfield's Cole Banfield scores on a 2-point conversion following his third touchdown 

The longest losing streak in New York State now belongs to South Glens Falls at 19 games. Ithaca is second with 18 straight losses. Like Donahue with Newfield, Little Red Head Coach Kelly Gordon is trying to revitalize a once mighty program that has fallen over the past few years. Trumansburg football, a squad that two years ago took in six Newfield players who wanted to play football but their school couldn’t field a team, felt the same fate this season. Three players shy of the state minimum, the Blue Raiders had to cancel their varsity season. When Trumansburg returns to the gridiron, which Athletic Director Jason Hodge hopes is next season; it also will have an uphill battle to prominence. 

One win does not change the trying state of local high school football. But it’s a start.

“That’s the thing,” Donahue said after Thursday’s win. “This is a win and it’s a good win for the program and the community and the school but it’s one win and now we have to come back out and practice Monday and build for the next game…but this at least gives them a positive outlook going into practice on Monday.”


Newfield celebrates the program's first win since 2009


For Newfield, a win on a chilly Thursday night in front of a few dozen souls meant the world to a group of kids who took a chance by signing up for an upstart team that lacked experience and inherited the baggage of the state’s longest losing streak. The Trojans left that baggage on the field at Groton and brought the newfound experience of coming together as a team to win a football game, on the bus ride back to Newfield.

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and www.ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

Four Cornellians Find NFL Homes

Sep 04, 2014 -- 8:54am

It might not boast the representation of college football powerhouses like the University of Southern California, Ohio State, and Alabama, but Cornell has quietly placed four of its alumni in the NFL entering this season. Offensive guard Kevin Boothe ’06, receiver/returner Bryan Walters ’10, center JC Tretter ’13, and quarterback Jeff Mathews ’14 make up the Big Red contingent in the NFL. The group may share an alma mater, but each player is in a very different situation.

Kevin Boothe
Cornell Class of 2006
Offensive Guard
Oakland Raiders
9th NFL Season


Courtesy Raiders.com

Kevin Boothe returns to the team that drafted him in the sixth round out of Cornell in 2006, the Oakland Raiders. Boothe has spent the bulk of his professional career with the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls in seven seasons. He signed with the Raiders this past offseason and will serve as a veteran backup. Boothe is listed on the Raiders depth chart as their backup center, however he could also see snaps as a guard.

The 31-year-old Boothe is part of a Raiders squad that with an average age of 27, is the oldest team in the league. Oakland Head Coach Dennis Allen told ESPN.com reporter Paul Gutierrez:

We brought these players in primarily because they’re good football players, but secondarily, they’ve been great leaders on the teams that they came from. We expect them to come in and provide that same type of leadership in our locker room. A lot of guys that we brought in do have that championship pedigree. They understand what it takes to win a championship. They understand what it takes to have success in this league. They’ll have a great influence not only the young players in the locker room, but some of the other players that have been here.

Bryan Walters
Cornell Class of 2010
Wide Receiver/Returner
Seattle Seahawks
5th NFL Season


Courtesy Seahawks.com


After being part of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII run,  Bryan Walters was released on “Cut Down Day” August 30, when every team had to cut its roster down to 53 players. However, two days later, the receiver and return specialist was a Seahawk once again. Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times explains Walters’ anticipated role:

Walters was the backup to Earl Thomas as the punt returner and to Percy Harvin as the kickoff returner throughout preseason, returning four punts for 46 yards and nine kickoffs for 229. Thomas and Harvin remain atop the depth chart for those spots. But special-teams coach Brian Schneider said Monday that Walters will be right “back in the mix’’ in the rotation of returners. Seattle likely will use multiple returners at both spots.

JC Tretter
Cornell Class of 2013
Center
Green Bay Packers
2nd NFL Season


Courtesy Packers.com 

When JC Tretter was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Green Bay Packers, he was the highest draft Cornellian since Seth Payne was drafted in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997. However, Tretter has yet to play a down of a regular season professional football game, and it will be a while before he gets to do so. Tretter broke his ankle as a rookie during 2013 Training Camp, and missed the entire season. He was set to begin the 2014 season as Green Bay’s starting center, but suffered a knee injury in the Packers 31-21 preseason victory over the Raiders August 21. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Tretter will be out at least eight weeks:

The Green Bay Packers finally admitted that the knee injury center JC Tretter suffered is worse than it was portrayed. On Wednesday, according to the NFL transaction wire, the Packers placed him on injured reserve/ designated to return list, which means he will miss a minimum of eight weeks while he recovers. To take Tretter's spot on the roster the Packers signed practice squad center Garth Gerhart to the 53-man roster. Under the designated to return rules, Tretter will be eligible to practice after six weeks and play after eight. The Packers would probably be looking to get him back for the Chicago game Nov. 9, which comes a week after their bye. In the meantime, rookie Corey Linsley will handle the position.

Jeff Mathews
Cornell Class of 2014
Quarterback
Indianapolis Colts (Practice Squad)
1st NFL Season


Courtesy The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Jeff Mathews left Cornell with 47 different school records and 18 Ivy League records for passing and total offense. However, with the Ivy League’s football stigma and concerns about Mathews’ mobility, the Second Team All-American went undrafted. He was signed by the Atlanta Falcons, but was waived on August 24, after losing Matt Ryan’s backup spots to veterans Sean Renfree and T.J. Yates. ESPN Atlanta Falcons Reporter Vaughn McClure analyzes Mathews' release:

Again, there were no real surprises, but you thought maybe undrafted quarterback Jeff Mathews get a longer look in the final preseason game Thursday night. Instead, he was let go. The Falcons liked his size (6-foot-4) and his intelligence coming out of Cornell. Mathews seemed to be at least a top practice-squad candidate, but maybe not anymore.

After being let loose by the Falcons, Mathews worked out for the New England Patriots, and then was signed to the Indianapolis Colts practice squad. He replaces 2012 seventh round pick Chandler Harnish as the raw signalcaller on their scout team. Mathews has the opportunity to learn from Indianapolis starter Andrew Luck, one of the league’s rising studs, and backup Matt Hasselbeck, who has led a team to a Super Bowl. As an undrafted quarterback out of an Ivy League school, Mathews had a very slim shot at immediately making an NFL roster. A practice squad spot on a team in which he can be mentored by the likes of Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck is realistically the best case scenario for Mathews. 

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

Bon Jovi-ing the Rest of the NFL

Jul 30, 2014 -- 2:37pm

These are tough times for Buffalo Bills fans. Regardless of how much E.J. Manuel and Sammy Watkins impress at Summer Training Camp at St. John Fisher, the spotlight is on the team’s uncertain ownership situation. The Toronto Sun reports Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, investor Donald Trump, and rock star Jon Bon Jovi have all submitted ownership bids. Bon Jovi has quickly become the least popular choice among Bills fans due to concern he will move the team to Toronto.

 
Courtesy ESPN.com

It really isn’t fair to Upstate New Yorkers that your beloved Bills might leave the country and to make things worse, you have been constantly subjected to Bon Jovi puns in headlines documenting your greatest fears – that the Bills will “Runaway” to Toronto. So that you are not alone, I have Bon-Jovi’d some other NFL teams having controversial offseasons. Here are some teams that have Bon Jovi lyrics describing their situations: 

Seattle Seahawks

We've got to hold on to what we've got 
'Cause it doesn't make a difference 
If we make it or not
  - "Livin' on a Prayer" (Slippery When Wet, 1986) 

The Seahawks are hoping to return to The Super Bowl, but runningback Marshawn Lynch is more concerned with his contract. Lynch is suspicious the Seahawks are going to release him after this season, meaning he won’t receive the final $9 million of his four-year/$30 million deal. He is holding out to do whatever he can to keep his money.

Cleveland Browns

It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive  -
"It's My Life" (Crush, 2000)  

Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel partied right up to Training Camp, spending 4th of July weekend in Las Vegas and Austin, Texas. The Browns are reportedly pretty concerned with his lifestyle.

St. Louis Rams

Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice,
Standing on the ledge, I show the wind how to fly.
When the world gets in my face,
I say, Have A Nice Day. - "
Have a Nice Day" (Have a Nice Day, 2005) 

Michael Sam is a trailblazer, the first ever openly gay player to be selected in the NFL Draft. While some fans, players, and coaches have questioned if he is a good fit in the league, Sam has been nothing but a professional.

Washington Redskins

It's all the same, only the names will change - "Wanted Dead or Alive" (Slippery When Wet, 1986)

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is still adamant that he keep the team’s racist name, despite growing support for a change.

Baltimore Ravens

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
You give love a bad name- "
You Give Love a Bad Name" (Slippery When Wet, 1986) 

Ravens runningback Ray Rice broke the hearts of Baltimore fans and fellow alumni of Rutgers where he was regarded as a hero. He is now shamed as a man who committed an act of domestic violence again his girlfriend (now wife). 

***Buffalo fans can sign the official petition to keep the Bills in Buffalo and away from Bon Jovi, by going to 12thManThunder.com .

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

Cornell Alum LeNeveu's Peculiar Journey to the Stanley Cup Final

Jun 09, 2014 -- 6:23pm


Courtesy Getty Images
 

With Ithaca native Dustin Brown leading the Los Angeles Kings on a march to a possible second championship in three years, it is easy to overlook the Cornell alum on the opposing roster in the Stanley Cup Final. That’s because that Cornell alum is the backup goaltender to 2013 Vezina Winner Henrik Lundqvist. It is also because he was not on the New York Rangers’ roster ONE week ago.  

It has been a long and strange journey for David LeNeveu. The Fernie, British Columbia native manned the net for the Big Red from 2001-2003, posting a 1.20 GAA and 94% save percentage during his sophomore campaign when CU advanced to The Frozen Four. A 2002 2nd Round Draft Pick of the Coyotes, LeNeveu joined the Phoenix organization after two years on East Hill, progressing to the parent club in 2005.

However, LeNeveu has never solidified himself as an NHL goalie. He has played in just 22 NHL games in 11 years of professional hockey. The rest of the 31-year-old’s career has been scattered across seven AHL teams, an ECHL team, and even two squads in Austria.

So how did it come to be that a career journeyman is suiting up for his third straight game in the NHL Stanley Cup Final? Patience and luck.

Veteran Martin Biron was supposed to be Lundqvist’s backup this season. However, after struggling early, Biron was waived and retired soon after. New York was forced to promote prospect Cam Talbot from its AHL affiliate in Hartford, resulting in a lack of a goaltending depth in the organization. The Blueshirts signed free agent LeNeveu, who started the year in the ECHL, to the Wolf Pack on January 14th. A week later, Lundqvist came down with the flu, and LeNeveu was recalled to New York.  After backing up Talbot on the bench for one game, he returned to Hartford.

LeNeveu joined ESPN Ithaca’s “Between the Lines” as a guest, and made it clear that he was not at all fully satisfied with his cameo appearance.

“That was a culmination of a lot of things falling into place at the right time,” LeNeveu said. “It was a brief stint. It was a quick up and back, but my goal still is to stick there long term. It’s not that I achieved a goal. It’s part of the process. I was definitely happy and excited to be part of that. I’m just trying to work my way to get back up there again and to hopefully stick around for a while.”

He received another opportunity last week after it was announced Talbot is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury. LeNeveu was added to the Rangers roster and has backed up Lundqvist from the bench for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

When we chatted with LeNeveu on BTL, I asked him how he has stayed so resilient throughout his whirlwind professional career.

“If you let go of the dream, your dream is dead,” he said. “You have to keep believing in yourself. There’s many points in people’s career where everything seems so far away, and other times you think you’re so close. You’re never as good as you think you are, you are never as bad as you think you are. You have to keep on pushing on a daily and consistent basis to achieve your goals and you always have to have a set goal in mind with little incremental goals on the way through. Without a plan, it’s pretty hard to achieve your end goal in mind.”  

The veteran netminder’s wisdom could be a welcome presence in the locker room tonight before Game 3 of the NHL Final, for a Rangers team that is two losses away from being eliminated but also four wins away from reaching its ultimate goal of hoisting The Stanley Cup.

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

The Jets are Returning to Cortland...Should Fans?

Apr 24, 2014 -- 5:27pm

The Jets are coming back to Cortland. A month after the New York Daily News first reported Gang Green would be holding its 2014 Summer Training Camp on SUNY Cortland's campus, the Jets and Cortland State officially made the announcement Wednesday.

This will be the Jets' fifth trip to Central New York in six years, sans 2011 when full training camp was cancelled due to an NFL lockout. However, it was far from a sure thing that the team would be returning this summer. This time last year, New York was projected to have an atrocious season, likely resulting in the firing of head coach Rex Ryan. Instead, after a surprising 8-8 finish, General Manager John Idzik announced Rex would be back in 2014. Ryan was the man who brought the Jets to Cortland in the first place, recognizing that bringing his players upstate for training camp, away from the distractions at home and in New York City, would be beneficial. While Idzik and owner Woody Johnson have publicly only said positive things about Cortland, if Rex Ryan was no longer part of the organization, it was doubtful the Jets would have returned to Rex’s hand-picked summer destination.


35,000 came to The Summer of Tebow in 2012, dropping to 21,000 in 2013 without him (ESPN Ithaca Staff Photo)
With that said, Rex will be back and the Jets will be back. But will the fans be back? 2013 saw a noticeable drop-off in attendance from the 2012 Summer of Tebow, with numbers down from 35,500 fans to 21,000 fans. The ever-polarizing quasi-celebrity Tim Tebow leaving the organization before last training camp had an impact on the smaller crowds, but it was not just the lack of Tebow. There was a lack of receivers, runningbacks, tight ends, and quarterbacks that were going to create much buzz or excitement. We’ll never have another Tim Tebow in Cortland, but this summer should be more exciting than the last one.


Top 5 Reasons to Get Excited for the New York Jets 2014 Training Camp:

5) Sons of Anarchy

Courtesy ESPN.com
I’m not going to crown them “the new Sack Exchange” just yet, but the young group of Jets defensive linemen dubbed “The Sons of Anarchy” have a lot of promise. Snubbed Pro-Bowler Muhammad Wilkerson, AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, and Damon “Big Snacks’” Harrison led a young line that propelled the 2013 Jets to the most tackles at or behind the line in a single season (159) since The Sack Exchange in 1981. Linemen are not typically a significant attendance draw, but this unit will be fun to watch as they gear up for their second year together.  

4) The Rookie Weapons

Courtesy ESPN.com
The Jets have an NFL-leading 12 picks in the upcoming draft, including one 1st round selection and two more in the first eighty picks. Idzik and Ryan are expected to scoop up at least a couple of receivers and tight ends to give Geno Smith/Michael Vick a shot at creating a legitimate passing game. After two summers of New York rolling out the likes of mediocre Jeremy Kerley, disappointing Stephen Hill, and broken down Santonio Holmes onto the field, fans will be delighted to see promising youngsters running routes and catching passes.

3) Chris Johnson

Courtesy ESPN.com
The running back-by-committee of Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Alex Green, and Mike Goodson was surprisingly effective this past season, rushing for the sixth most yards in the NFL. This offseason, the Jets added a proven top back to lead the committee, in Chris Johnson. The former Tennessee Titan has totaled over 1,000 yards on the ground during each of his six seasons in the league. While 28 years old is not the age of a young man in the NFL, Johnson is still an explosive player who should impress fans with his speed and playmaking abilities.

2) Eric Decker

Courtesy ESPN.com
Eric Decker's positive impression of MetLife Stadium when his Broncos  played the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII may have slightly impacted his decision to sign with the Jets. However, Decker’s performance in the game itself likely had no impact in New York’s decision to sign him. Decker was invisible that Sunday, catching just one pass for six yards while getting smothered by the Seattle defense. It was Decker’s regular season that earned him a five-year, $36 million deal with Gang Green, snatching 87 catches including 11 touchdowns. As a Jet, he will no longer have Peyton Manning throwing to him and fellow receiving threats like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Emmanuel Sanders drawing defenders. When he takes the field in Cortland, we will begin to see if he can be an elite, number one receiver with the rebuilding Jets offense.

1) Michael Vick

Courtesy ESPN.com
It is hard to find a more polarizing, well-known football player than Tim Tebow. He may not be much of a professional quarterback, but people want to see the man play, even just to see the mythical superhero in real life. In some ways, Vick's star power is not too far off from Tebow's. Unlike Tebow, Woody Johnson did not bring in Vick for the publicity. He brought in Vick because he was one of the top available veteran quarterbacks this offseason who the Jets were able to bring in to compete with and mentor second year signal caller Geno Smith.


Michael Vick may not receive the same type of fans' signs as Tim Tebow, but his star power could bring increased crowds. (ESPN Ithaca Staff Photo)
However, Vick will still be a huge draw. Some of it will likely be a handful of the folks trying to bar him from campus, possibly heckling him because of his history and admittance to involvement with dog fighting. It will be interesting to see how the SUNY Cortland staff and security will handle any such hecklers. A lot of Vick’s draw is his name power, from both his off-the-field controversies and his sucess with the Falcons and Eagles. For better or worse, like Tebow, Vick has transcended mainstream sports. Casual football fans will come to Cortland to see Vick on the field in person. If he is as healthy as he says he is and dazzles, he’ll not only win the job from Geno Smith, but entertain everyone on the sidelines at camp in ways Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy, and Matt Simms never could. A quarterback with star power who plays like a star. Wouldn’t that be something this summer? 

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

Should I Join "The League?"

Jan 24, 2014 -- 6:08pm

I went through a fantasy sports withdrawal for nearly a decade. It started in 2003, when I got the draft time wrong and learned my entire football team had already been completely autopicked. I remained indifferent about that team all season. Then a few months later, I accidentally placed sensational NBA rookie Carmelo Anthony on waivers instead of the injured Anthony Carter and my fantasy basketball team plummeted. I immediately quit playing fantasy sports. 

For years, before every football, basketball, baseball, and hockey season, the invitations would pour in from friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. “Join my fantasy league!” I declined all of them. Eventually in 2012, I gave in and joined a friend’s fantasy football league. I loved it. I have not turned down an invitation to any league I have been invited to since.

So if I received an invitation in the mail to join something called “The League,” I would probably do it. I first learned of “The League” this week. WETM-TV in Elmira reported that an Addison (13 miles southwest of Corning) man received a ten page letter in the mail Tuesday telling him that a secret society called “The League” was recruiting him and had been watching him for a while. The letter said he had to send back his invitation certificate, by mail or fax, by the end of the week or his membership would expire. The recipient learned that this was a scam in which the victim pays $140 in advance for a full booklet which you never receive.

But I’m not that smart to be able to figure out it was a scam. If I received this letter, I would have been excited for the opportunity to join “The League.” I love watching History Channel specials on The Free Masons, The Illumanati, and Skull and Bones , and have always wanted to join a secret society. I surely would have wondered, “What is 'The League?'”

Silverman's Top 5 Guesses: 

 

5) “The League”


                Courtesy TVRage.com 

I get to play fantasy football with Nick Kroll and his buddies? Sign me up.

 

4) The Fantasy Baseball League in "Knocked Up"

             Courtesy BlueJayHunter.com

I got Matsui!

 

3)  "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"


                         Courtesy ComicVine.com

Some of the greatest literary characters of all time…and me!

 

2) The League of Nations

                    Courtesy Awcungeneva.com 

It was kind of replaced by The United Nations, but not forgotten! 

 

1)  The Justice League

                 Courtesy BusinessInsider.com

The Avengers have Iron Man. The Justice League would have Silverman. Although instead of Robert Downey Jr., the former Brat Pack-er playing me in the movies would likely be Anthony Michael Hall. 
 

Sadly, it appears "The League" is fictional and actually a scam. So don’t  join “The League,” guys! But if you do create a legitimate fantasy league or secrety society, please invite me.

Catch Eric Silverman on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca 1160/107.1 and ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 pm, alongside Jeremy Menard. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericcsilverman. 

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