A Storm is brewing in Southern Vermont: Semi-pro team returns after hiatus

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BENNINGTON — After a one year hiatus, the Southern Vermont Storm semi-pro football team is making a comeback.

Their upcoming 2017 New England Football League (NEFL) season begins on Saturday when they face the Vermont Ravens at Tamarac High School. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.

The Southern Vermont Storm are a part of the Single A division of the NEFL and have had success in the past, going 23-11 from 2011-2015 including two appearances in the semifinals of the NEFL playoffs.

This season promises to be just as, if not more, successful for the Storm, according to the coaches.

"I have been coaching for 33 years at all different levels of football and just looking at this team and the talent that we have on it, there is no reason for us not to be a successful team," said first year coach Guy Changa.

Despite their success in the past, the team has always struggled to pull players to the field, ultimately leading to the relinquishing of the season in 2016. Now however, the coaches and owner Pat Seaver, find themselves facing a different monster. Cuts.

"We never had the numbers, never," said Seaver. "This is the first year we have to do actually do cuts, tryouts and everything, it's unheard of for us."

To accomplish this, Seaver needed a little drive and a little luck. The Berkshire Kings of North Adams, Mass., folded, leaving their players looking elsewhere to play football. Looking north, they found the Storm.

"We decided to really try to milk the team as best we could," said Seaver. "If we didn't get a team this year, we would have been done...We started four months early in recruitment and signups for the team."

But you need more than just a signup sheet and a recruiter to put together a complete and winning team. The Storm also flaunts a new management and coaching group, promising more structure for the players.

"What we did early to get this team going is we promised a coaching staff, and we came through and got it," Seaver said. "We have a great head coach and the rest of the coaches, the general manager, the assistant general manager, defensive coaches, lineman coaches, I'm the offensive coordinator, we have a coaching staff. Without a staff you can't have a team. We made that promise to the guys and we got it."

But what is a football team really without a hometown presence? After forgoing the season in 2016, former head coach John Mooney expressed the need for greater community involvement by the team so as to increase their fan base and have more home games in, or closer to the Bennington area. Seaver and the other coaches took heed and have been working to do just that.

"We were involved in the cancer activity that they had up at the hospital," Changa said. "We've also done the family day that was here back in June. We've invited the public down to our practices, we've had some kids come down and the players will go over and talk to the kids."

The team also hopes to put together camps for kids to play football, learn about the game, and most of all have fun doing it.

Seaver hopes that this continued involvement in the community will lead to the building or renovation of one of the fields in the Bennington area to be used as the home of the Southern Vermont Storm as well as various other sports teams and clubs in the area.

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