By Alex Herold Contributing Writer, The Daily Star
The Oneonta City Stallions will return 27 players from a squad that appeared in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and finished with a 7-4 record last season.
The Stallions, who had their first winning season in their five seasons last year, will return to the Northeastern Football Alliance this season.
Oneonta High graduate Noble Champen, who finished with the third-most passing yards in the NFA last season with 1,056 and threw 16 touchdown passes, will split time at quarterback with Susquehanna Valley graduate James Chantry.
“The quarterback position will be shared,” said Stallions co-owner Tom Terry, whose team will open its season at 7 p.m. Saturday at three-time defending NFA champion Troy.
Added Terry: “Our expectation is another playoff appearance and to go deeper in the playoffs.”
The Stallions and Bobby McKnight, entering his second season as head coach, won back-to-back games against Troy last season, marking the lone losses in the Fighting Irish’s 8-2 season.
“They’re the favorite, no question about it,” Terry said. “They have earned it over the years.”
The Stallions also will host Troy for Military Night at 6 p.m. July 19 at Hartwick College.
On the offensive side, the Stallions lost two of their top wide receivers from last season but return Cooperstown graduate Mike Tandle, who caught eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in 2013.
The Stallions have yet to decide who they will start at the running back position. They have three players competing for the spot.
Last season’ duo of Champen and Zach Blocker combined for 721 yards on 84 attempts and had five rushing touchdowns apiece. Terry said Blocker will not play for Oneonta City this season.
Other returning players include Sidney graduate Jimmy Kazalski (place-kicker), Unatego graduate Andrew Ruff (tackle), Reggie Leaver (free safety) and Kevin Gregory (defensive end). Leaver had five interceptions last season, when Gregory led the team with 7.5 sacks.
“Our offense is going to throw more this season,” Terry said. “We want the ball to be in the hands of Champen either way.”
Champen, who played for Division II Villanova in college as a wideout, will be used as a receiver when he’s not playing quarterback. Terry said the Stallions will use a spread offense.
“We’re going to be an aggressive and competitive football team and we’ll see how it works out,” he said.
The Stallions, who are 18-32 over their first five seasons, will play their home opener against the Finger Lakes Impact at 6 p.m. June 7 at Hartwick College’s Wright Stadium.
Hartwick also will host Oneonta City games at 6 p.m. June 14 (Utica YardDawgs), June 28 (Watertown Revolution), July 12 (Ithaca Warriors) and July 19 (Troy).
The Stallions will play four straight road games to close the season, ending with an Aug. 23 meeting with the Ithaca Warriors.
The Oneonta City Stallions’ schedule for the 2014 Northeastern Football Alliance season. Hartwick College will host all home games.
May 31: at Troy Fighting Irish, 7 p.m.
June 7: vs. Finger Lakes Impact, 6 p.m.
June 14: vs. Utica Yard Dawgs, 6 p.m.
June 28: vs. Watertown Revolution, 6 p.m.
July 12: vs. Ithaca Warriors, 6 p.m.
July 19: vs. Troy Fighting Irish, 6 p.m.
Aug. 2: at Finger Lakes Impact, 7 p.m.