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Empire Looks Wide Open as Season Starts

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Empire Looks Wide Open as Season Starts

The Empire Conference kicks off league play this weekend with the top teams of recent years having been stung somewhat.

Syracuse was shut out by Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, albeit in a game where the Hammerheads had a good amount of possession and good field position. Syracuse will host Fordham on Sunday.

Stony Brook, which hosts Binghamton this weekend, ran into a pretty impressive West Point team last weekend, losing 49-3. It was another humbling result for an Empire team.

Meanwhile, the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point was slammed by St. Joseph's in a late August meeting, and will be hoping to rebound from that game.

Head Coach Ali Nazir said that Kings Point had a Jekyll-and-Hyde year in 2015, and he'd like to see a bit more consistency. In the spring they were a DIAA playoff team, but in the fall, 1-5. That was in part due to the huge turnover the team undergoes every year as half the student body goes to sea. As an example, two starters from the spring, 2016 roster are available for the fall.

"We're looking for a bounce-back year and things look promising with a crop of young midshipmen," said Nazir. "'We don't rebuild, we re-load' - that's the motto this year."

Does this mean that the door is open? It could be. Brockport is one of the teams looking to move up.

The Doggies were 2-4 last year, but return several talented players, such as Julio Cedeno, Brad Painter, Dom Saldutti, Matt Ignarri and backs Sean Casey, Sean Porrata, Trevor Vail, and Sebastian Nartey. With that experience and some impressive young additions, they are set to improve.

Perhaps Brockport's biggest addition this year is of a coach, as Kyle Joseph takes over a team that was player-coached for the past two years.

And the team to watch out for? Well there's Fordham, which battled Iona tough two weeks ago and won the conference 7s championships. From that team, all-conference 7s players Dan O'Brien, Vincent Brucculeri, Andrew Washburn, and AJ Shoemaker all return. Colgate is another with high expectations and a good mix of returners and new players.

So this weekend, Binghamton visits Stony Brook, Brockport is at Colgate, and Fordham is at Syracuse, and everyone in with a shot.


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