ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The Ithaca Warriors football team are preparing for a new season in the Northeastern Football Alliance, touting plenty of local ties.
Just one month remains until the beginning of the Northeastern Football Alliance season and the Ithaca Warriors a preparing with several local players on the roster. The Warriors are fresh off of a hard fought 2022, which saw the team fall in close games. Warriors head coach and Elmira Free Academy grad Xavier Andrews says 2022 was a building year, but 2023 will be very different.
“They are going to get a different look from us, said Andrews. We have our best recruiting class in my nine years here. We have a lot of focus players and they are here to work hard.”
This season’s Warrior team includes local talent from Section IV, Section V, and the NTL. The roster includes representatives from Elmira, Waverly, Sayre, Haverling, and Newark Valley.
Notable local players listed on the 2023 roster include Bath/Haverling grad Kraig Soles, Waverly’s Tyler Spencer, and Sayre grad Devin Ervin.
Three players will be taking the field representing three different eras of Elmira football. The Warriors added Express standout and 2018 Section IV Class AA Champion Ryan Gerow. 2012 and 2014 Ernie Davis Award Winner Jerry McPeak is returning to the Warriors for the first time since 2019. McPeak helped the Express to a 2013 Section IV Class AA title, while setting the school rushing record of 4,676 career yards. 2002 EFA graduate Byron Hall will take the field for his final season, bringing over 20 years of experience to the team. Hall is a member of the Elmira-Southside High School Hall of Fame and holds the school record for quarterback sacks.
Hall expects the 2023 season to be a positive one for the Warriors and the veteran player said that it’s an honor to pass down his knowledge.
“It is an honor to still play the game twenty-years post, said Hall. Just to be able to incorporate my knowledge to the youth, means a lot.”
The Warriors have plenty of veterans from the Twin Tiers to learn from this season, but another member of the roster is continuing to bring talent and knowledge from a unique football path. Deerfield Beach, Florida native Earl Brooks will once again serve as a defensive leader for Ithaca in 2023. Brooks has played in the Northeastern Football Alliance since 2015, but had an impressive career on the gridiron prior, which allowed him to learn from top-level talent along the way.
Brooks earned a scholarship to Iowa State University for football and played against the best of the Big 12 Conference from 2009-2011, then transferred to the NCAA Division II level. The standout safety spent his senior season of football at Minnesota State University (Mankato State), playing opposite of long-time Minnesota Vikings and current Carolina Panthers wide receiver, Adam Thielen. Brooks said playing against Thielen in practice pushed him to work harder on the field.
“He (Thielen) was a hard working guy, a horse, said Brooks. He is always going to give you his all.”
Brooks followed up a stellar college career with stints in the Indoor Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard and Rochester Raiders.
One month away from the regular season, the Warriors are excited to see how they do on the field, but also are looking forward to the community support.
“We are always looking for sponsors and donations and it has been one of our best years with that, said Andrews. The community has been excellent, but we are always looking for ways to get more people involved and help.”
The Warriors encourage fans of all ages to attend their games. Home games are played at Ithaca High School.
The Warriors will open their season on Saturday, June 3rd as they host the Broome County Stallions. The Northeastern Football Alliance season consist of 8 games and playoffs, with games taking place exclusively on Saturdays. A full look at the schedule is listed below (Game-times are still TBD):
June 3rd: vs. Broome County Stallions – at Ithaca High School
June 10th: BYE
June 17th: @ Genesee County Spartans
June 24th: vs. Lockport Wildcats – at Ithaca High School
July 1st: BYE
July 8th: @ Auburn Pride
July 15th: @ Lockport Wildcats
July 22nd: BYE
July 29th: vs. Auburn Pride – at Ithaca High School
August 5th: vs. Genesee County Spartans – at Ithaca High School
August 12th: @ Broome County Stallions
For more information on the Ithaca Warriors, visit their website ithacawarriors.com, the Northeastern Football Alliance website https://www.nfaleague.com/home, or the Warriors social media pages: Ithaca Warriors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.