---- — BY GARRETT WOOD
PLATTSURGH — The Plattsburgh North Stars play their Empire Football League opener tonight, with a game that carries a lot of weight for a couple of different reasons.
The North Stars travel to Burlington, Vt., to battle the Vermont Ice Storm, where coach Scott Aguglia was the offensive coordinator for three years before coming to the North Stars in the same role in 2009.
“I want this game every time we play them,” Aguglia said. “It’s one of the most important to me … next to playoffs and championships.”
There is also the standard rivalry between the two lake cities, where the winner wins bragging rights for its respective city.
This game is the EFL opener for both teams, and it could set the tone for the rest of the season, especially when they meet again a few weeks later.
“It’s also the first time we get to go out there in a league situation and kind of see if all our hard off-season work has paid off,” Aguglia said. “And I feel pretty good about it.”
Last year, the North Stars split two games with the Ice Storm. The first, again being the season opener, went down 10-6 in favor of Vermont.
“In the first game last year, we didn’t even come close to playing our best football,” Aguglia said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but I suspect that we have got those things out of the way now.”
In the second game, the North Stars took control and dominated Vermont, 41-21.
Harry Rascoe threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and also added a rushing touchdown in that late-season win. Josh Nephew also ran for 105 yards and grabbed two touchdowns in the lopsided victory.
Plattsburgh has added a few returning faces in the past couple of weeks that will only help them produce more offensive opportunities.
Andrew Price returns to wide receiver this week; he was last year’s team leader in receiving yards. Price compiled 569 yards on 30 receptions, while bringing nine of them to pay dirt.
Tight end Chris Fish is also making the return to the North Stars after taking a year off. In 2011, he caught 13 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown.
Fish will also handle the team’s punts. In 2011, he averaged 40.5 yards per punt and placed 13-of-24 within the 20-yard line giving opponents bad field position.
“These guys can come in and make a big impact,” Aguglia said.
Another positive that Aguglia sees coming into the game is the team’s offensive line and the impact it can have on the game. Jon Dubuc, Jim Reisdorf, Nick Moore and Devin Dashnaw will use their size and experience to produce chances for the backs and protect Rascoe when he drops back or stays in the pocket to pass.
“These guys can open holes and allow us to run with efficiency, and they do a great job protecting Harry,” Aguglia said.
As it stands, the Plattsburgh is trailing in the overall standings between the two teams. Vermont has the slight edge with an 8-6-1 record against the North Stars.
With all the hard work and new and seasoned talent, the North Stars will head to Vermont and try to set the pace for the season.
“The football can bounce in any direction,” Aguglia said. “We’re ready, and the guys are excited for the game. If we can stop their run, we will be in good shape.