BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — Even though the Plattsburgh North Stars are coming off a bye week, head coach Scott Aguglia doesn’t anticipate any rustiness in tonight’s Empire Football League semifinal matchup with the Watertown Red and Black.
“We’ve had a hard week of practice,” Aguglia said. “Our coaching staff has simulated game-like scenarios, so I’m hopeful there won’t be any rust. We’ve treated this week of practice like any other.”
Aguglia, who was recently announced as the league’s Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm, utilized the time off for scouting. The two teams met during the last weekend of the regular season on Sept. 22. The North Stars (8-3, 8-2) held a 24-0 lead at halftime before coming out on top 31-14.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go down and watch (Watertown) play the last two weeks,” Aguglia said. “We’ve analyzed film from our game three weeks ago and I have a pretty good idea as to what we need to do in order to be successful.”
Aguglia credits the season turnaround with a 41-21 Week 7 win over the Vermont Ice Storm. Since then, the North Stars are on a five-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 187-54.
“At this point of the season, the team morale is really good,” Aguglia said. “Our offense started clicking and the defense came alive around Week 7. We’re fortunate to be carrying some momentum moving forward.”
The North Stars are led by quarterback Harry Rascoe, who finished the regular season 116-for-245, 1,941 yards, and 27 touchdowns through the air. The signal-caller proved to be a critical asset on the ground, accumulating 409 yards and five touchdowns.
Rascoe’s primary targets include Andrew Price (30 receptions, 569 yards, nine touchdowns) and Jordon Keleher (22 receptions, 492 yards, seven touchdowns).
Josh Nephew ranks second on the team (behind Rascoe) in total rushing yards at 313 yards on 49 attempts and four touchdowns.
Watertown (9-3, 8-3) enters this weekend’s contest fresh off a 22-8 defeat of the Ice Storm, a game which the Red and Black defense forced five interceptions, four coming in the second half.
Aguglia emphasized the importance of containing the Red and Black backfield within the hash marks.
“For the most part, the game plan is similar,” Aguglia said. “We need to contain their versatile quarterback (Brian Williams) in the pocket. Our defense needs to prevent off-tackle isolation runs and hopefully we can control possession.”
The North Stars have one EFL championship in the organization’s 22-year history. It occurred in 2010 versus Watertown.
Tonight’s playoff game will be held at the Plattsburgh High School Athletic Complex. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the gate.