BENNINGTON— The Southern Vermont Storm have been very active this offseason, signing 10 new players over the past week.
The Storm have added to an already solid roster — one that ended their season with a a playoff victory — before having to cancel their season.
“We’re just looking to get better at every position to create more of a competetion,” said Storm general manager Chris Cipperley.
The Storm finished the shortened 2020 season with a 5-1 record, making it to the championship game before having to cancel their season when Vermont banned teams from traveling and playing out of state competition in an amendment to the Be Safe Stay Safe Order in late October.
The semi professional football team competes in the New England Football League (NEFL). The Storm were forced to relocate their home games to Keene, N.H. for the 2020 season due to the coronavirus.
Typically, the team plays its home games at Lower Willow Park.
The Storm’s 2020 motto of #UnfinishedBusiness was a reminder to the organization that after a strong 2019 season — one in which the Storm reached the championship game before falling to the Worcester
Wildcats — that there was still work to be done.
That same motto will carry even more significance next season after not getting a chance to compete in the championship this season.
“It’s not common for a football team to win a playoff game and the season is over without a championship,” Cipperley said.
Cipperley said the Storm’s roster currently sits around 45 players. NEFL rules allow 55 player rosters. Cipperley said he anticipates a lot of last year’s players to return next season in hopes of capturing the Storm’s first title since 2017.
The new signings are a mixture of youth and experience.
A few newcomers, like RJ Byrd, are practically fresh out of high school. Byrd was a running back and linebacker for Greenfield, Mass. high school who played his final season with the Green Wave in 2018, surpassing 2,000 rushing yards in his senior season.
Byrd, a talented runner, will most likely be slated behind Storm veteran running back Lavante Wiggins, who was named the team’s most valuable player for the 2020 season.
Cipperley likes the idea of younger players being able to learn and develop under veteran leadership at their positions. He believes that development allows for a more fluent recruiting process.
The general manager also understands the need to add veteran leadership, something he has also done this offseason with the addition of players like Jasper Jackson.
“Jasper comes with a wide range of experience; he’s from Mississippi where he played with Mississippi Delta Community College and Mississippi Delta Cardinals,” Cipperley said. “Jasper makes quick reads, reacts quickly and doesn’t over peruse and is a secure tackler. Jasper recently moved to Brattleboro and we look forward to seeing what he can bring to our football team.”
Cipperley said when trying to find players to fill the roster, it’s a balance between scheme fit and the character of the individual. Cipperley said the Storm target players that want to play football and will work hard on the field, but ones that will also make an impact in the community and fit the culture of the organization.
Other recent signings include Marquis Caulton, Austin Rahilly, Nuny Vega, Jaden Whiting, Jon Alicea, Cam Lackey, Eddie White and Joe Diflippo.
To say the Storm are hungry for their next opportunity to play some football would be an understatement.