Familiarity within the offensive line helped Tony Mecozzi reach 128 rushing yards on against Pittsburgh July 26. Photo by Jake French Photography.
Once short on numbers, an unfortunate situation for a fellow semi-pro football team has helped the Hamburg Hornets receive a boost in numbers.
Immediately following their game two weekends ago, the Buffalo Knights were informed that the team had played its last game and that the organization was folding.
All of the players on the Buffalo Knights’ roster became free agents in the National League of Semi-Pro Football and were free to play wherever they chose to.
That’s when Brandon Perry got a call from one of the Knights.
“I found out from one of their players,” said Perry, a Frontier grad who is the owner of the Hamburg Hornets, as well as a player. “He contacted me about joining the team. He said the Knights had folded and the owner talked to them about finding another team.”
But the biggest news for a winless football team with just over 20 players on the roster did not necessarily have to do with the possibility of some talented players coming over to help their franchise out. The former Knight that spoke with Perry informed him that a lot more guys would come with him.
“He told me that if he came over, we would get at least 10 more players,” Perry said. “Most of the team were his buddies and they were going to follow him wherever he went.”
The Hornets added 14 former Buffalo Knights to their roster, bringing the total number of players on the team to 36. Even more former Knights originally showed up to practice, but some players decided not to continue playing football this season.
“They found out they were folding immediately after their game two weeks ago, so when we went to practice on Wednesday we had over 20 players from the Knights at our practice,” Perry noted. “Some guys were upset that the team folded. They invested all their time and money into that team. So some of them just stopped playing for the year. And a few of them went over to the Buffalo Gladiators to play.”
Out of all of the teams in the league, the Hornets and Gladiators were the only two franchises to share all of the former Knights that chose to continue to play football.
“They were technically free agents, so they could’ve picked to go to any of the 11 other teams,” said Perry. “The 14 of them that came over chose us because we were the closest team to them, we were the most organized team and they knew the most players on our team.”
Of those 14, there have been some that have made an immediate impact on the team.
Kalfon Desrosiers and J.R. Brown currently both have earned starting roles with the Hornets. Desrosiers is a cornerback and Brown plays both sides of the ball at corner and wide receiver.
The pair each left the July 26 contest against the Pittsburgh Colts with an interception. On offense, Brown caught one pass for eight yards.
The first game the Hornets played with their new additions was against the Monroe County Sting on July 19.
Hamburg kept its original starting lineup, but rotated the new guys in the game. That’s when players like Desrosiers and Brown stepped up and won starting spots the next weekend in Pittsburgh.
“When we went to our game up in Rochester, the guys who were here before - the original Hornets - started the game,” said Perry. “The Knights were rotational players, and a few of them just shined better than our starters and earned starting roles this past weekend in Pittsburgh.”
The additions are especially huge for the big guys up front, as there are more bodies to keep the offensive and defensive lines fresh instead of playing every down.
“We have good numbers now,” Perry said. “We have 36 players on our roster now which is an upgrade from 20-something, and we have more of a rotation, especially with the offensive and defensive lines.”
The Hornets remain winless through seven games this season, but Perry admits that they have come a long way since Week 1.
“We’ve definitely been able to run the ball more consistently,” he said. “Our offensive line is getting familiar with each other and they’re creating holes. On Saturday, our running back, Tony Mecozzi, put up 128 rushing yards against the number one rushing defense in the league.
“On defense, it took a little while, but they’re starting to come together. They’re starting to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers.”
Mecozzi, the team’s leading rusher, is back after missing much of the season due to injury. However, Mike Harris, who has started most of the season at quarterback, is injured and has a hopeful return for the postseason.
The Hornets are scheduled to visit the Rochester Renegades on Aug. 2.