HOME OF THE WATERTOWN RED AND BLACK: 2014 R&B News

2014heartwak

Red & Black plays preseason game tonight

WATERTOWN — As other teams in the Empire Football League are folding, the Watertown Red and Black is preparing to enter its 118th season feeling confident.

The nation’s oldest semipro football team will take the field for the first time this summer in a preseason game against the Western Connecticut Militia at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Two of the EFL’s six teams – the Syracuse Shock and Vermont Ice Storm – ceased operations for the year in early June.

“It’s their call and there’s not much we can say or do about it,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

“We move forward in a positive fashion, don’t make a big deal out of it, go play football and just get some games. That’s all there is to it and that’s what we’re supposed to be here for.”

The Red and Black and the EFL’s other three remaining teams — Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and Glove Cities — will fill the open dates with nonleague games and their respective league records will determine seeding for a four-team playoff at the end of the season.

“It doesn’t really matter because I think the four teams that are in the league, if we were in any other league, we could compete with anybody. All four of us,” Ashcraft said. “You can look at it in a lot of different ways and come up with the same answer: The EFL is very solid in the teams that we got.”

Ashcraft said the situation makes tonight’s game against the Militia — which sports a 44-5 record in its four years of existence — all the more important.

The Militia plays in the New England Football League and has been named the NEFL Organization of the Year for the past two years.

“We don’t do scrimmages. … When you’re bringing in someone who’s 44-5 over four years, if you want to scrimmage them, you better hold onto your jock because they’ll rock your world,” Ashcraft said.

The Red and Black will open the regular season on July 12 at Glens Falls. The home opener is July 19 against Glove Cities.



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Dukes sees first action for Red & Black in preseason loss 

WATERTOWN — He’s a long way from Happy Valley, but Curtis Dukes couldn’t be happier to be back on the football field.

Dukes — a 2009 Indian River high School graduate and a former running back at Division I Penn State University — made his Watertown Red and Black debut Saturday night during the team’s preseason opener.

Dukes ran the ball 20 times for 135 yards and scored a touchdown, but the Red and Black suffered a 28-12 defeat to the Western Connecticut Militia at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Dukes started practicing with the team in early June.

“It’s been really good, everybody is showing love and support and it’s just good to get back on the field,” Dukes said.

Dukes was the Times Athlete of the Year in 2008 and led Indian River to five straight appearances in the Class A state playoffs.

He played three seasons for the Nittany Lions, 2010-12, enjoying his best season as a sophomore when he was third on the team in rushing with 41 carries for 237 yards.

He left the school in January 2013 and has one year of college eligibility remaining. Dukes said he plans to use up that year and is looking at his options.

“I’m definitely looking to get back to college to get some exposure, and my main goal is to get into the NFL,” said Dukes, a tough downhill runner who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs around 250 pounds.

“I’m trying to find somewhere that will be a good fit for me, and take off from there,” he added.

Dukes said he joined the Red and Black to stay in football shape for his next venture.

“I’m looking to going back to college so I definitely want to keep my body in shape and just get back into it, and it just feels good to be back playing,” he said.

On Saturday, Dukes busted off five runs of 12 yards or more, the highlight being a 40-yard scamper in the third quarter.

He scored on a 19-yard rush up the middle on 4th-and-2 early in the second quarter to put the Red and Black on the board and cut the Militia’s lead to 14-6.

“I saw him play in high school and knew what he was all about,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

“Everybody around him is excited to have him on the team, he’s a good ball player and he’s got a great attitude.”

Dukes is expected to be the lead back in a one-two punch with Red and Black veteran Joe Brennan when the regular season opens on July 12 at Glens Falls.

Brennan missed Saturday’s game after pulling his hamstring in Thursday’s practice. Brennan said it was the first game he didn’t suit up for since joining the team in 2008.

Red and Black safety Evan Buckingham picked off two passes from Militia quarterback Kevin Oberg. The Beaver River graduate returned one of them 40 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half to cut Western Connecticut’s lead to 21-12 at the break.

Red and Black quarterback Mike Lafex — who rejoined the team this offseason after a nine-year layoff — completed six of 27 passes for 83 yards and threw two interceptions.

For the Militia, Oberg completed 14-of-22 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns.

After the regular-season opener, Watertown — which went 4-6 with a first-round playoff exit last year — will begin the home slate on July 19 against Glove Cities.

“I was pretty proud of the guys,” Ashcraft said. “I think overall, we’re a lot farther ahead than we were at the start of last season.”



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Semipro football: Ashcraft enters 25th season as coach for Red & Black

WATERTOWN — Very few things remain constant in the world of semipro football.

Personnel changes from day to day, week to week, year to year, and there are no guarantees as to who you might see suiting up from one practice to the next.

But for 25 years, George Ashcraft has remained the face of the Watertown Red and Black.

Ashcraft — who recently turned 59 years old — is entering his 25th year of coaching for the nation’s oldest semipro football team.

The Red and Black will open its 118th regular season with a 7 p.m. game Saturday at Glens Falls.

“This is still fun,” Ashcraft said. “If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be doing it.

“You never know from one week to the next what anybody’s going to do. That’s just the way it is, but people make it fun. Some people stick around for a week and some people stick around for 10 years or more, and that’s life.”

Ashcraft — who has also served as team president since 2000 — is the longest-tenured Red and Black coach by more than a decade. He holds Red and Black coaching records for most career victories (181) and playoff appearances (20).

He also led the team to five divisional titles in the Empire Football League and won the EFL championship game in 2009 — the Red and Black’s first since 1980.

But things haven’t always come easy.

Ashcraft has been publicly questioned on his managerial abilities on several occasions over the past decade. Everything from his coaching philosophies to the way he handles the team’s finances has been criticized by former players and associates.

“I can honestly say I sleep good at night for anything I’ve ever done with this team,” Ashcraft said. “I don’t let some people’s thought patterns and what can be said really affect me.”

Ashcraft said the positives that come with his gig far outweigh the negatives.

He cited a monthly luncheon at the Clubhouse Restaurant in Watertown where former Red and Black players get together to reminisce as an example of the lifelong bond that can be formed through the team.

“They probably tell the same stories over and over again, but it’s a camaraderie that gives those guys an outlet to still live it and talk about it,” said Ashcraft, who has a Red and Black tattoo on his bicep and recently decked out his truck in R&B decals.

“That’s the one thing I’ll say about this, most people you cross paths with, it carries on through the rest of your life,” he added. “That’s another reason why I keep coming back. This year is a new season, but I’ve already made friends that I know I’ll have all my life and that’s what it’s all about.”

Ashcraft was the team’s defensive coordinator for a year before taking over as the head coach in 1991. The man who first brought Ashcraft aboard, Don Dixon, is visiting the area this month and plans to attend the team’s home opener on July 19.

That game is against the Glove Cities Colonials, which re-joined the EFL this offseason. The Colonials, then called Johnstown, were one of the Red and Black’s greatest rivals when Ashcraft played linebacker for the team in the 1970s.

“It’s nice how it all comes back around,” Ashcraft said.

Ashcraft has left much of the X’s and O’s to his coordinators and assistant coaches in recent years.

Ashcraft said he is often asked how much longer he will continue to serve as the team’s head coach and his answer is always the same: “When it’s not fun anymore. And I can’t imagine football not being fun.”



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Red and Black vs. Glens Falls Green Jackets preview

Tonight’s game

EMPIRE FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Watertown Red and Black at Glens Falls Green Jackets

When, where: 7 tonight, East Field, Glens Falls

Outlook: The regular season opener for both teams features two of the oldest semipro football teams in the nation. Watertown is the oldest, founded in 1896, and Glens Falls (1928) is the third oldest. … The Greenjackets went 2-0 in the preseason against a pair of teams from Vermont, while the Red and Black lost its only exhibition to powerhouse Western Connecticut. … Both teams are likely to lean on their respective run games tonight. The Glens Falls rushing duo of Tony DeLoatch and Kevin Cardonna ran for 299 of the team’s 485 total yards of offense in their last preseason game. For Watertown, Curtis Dukes and Calvin Rhodes ran for 170 of its 267 offensive yards, and the team is expected to add veteran Joe Brennan to that mix tonight. Brennan missed the preseason game with a pulled hamstring. ... Watertown routed Glens Falls, 64-8, in their last matchup in Sept. 2012. … Ryan Semor will get the start at quarterback for Watertown because Anthony Noel, the projected starter, has a personal commitment. ... Plattsburgh and Glove Cities, the only other teams in the EFL, will also open the regular season tonight with a 7 p.m. game in Johnstown.



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 Semipro football: Red and Black in tune in opener

GLENS FALLS — Ryan Semor, making his first career start, threw a pair of touchdown passes to Edgar Givens in the third quarter to lead the Watertown Red and Black to a 34-7 victory over the Glens Falls Green Jackets to open the Empire Football League regular season Saturday night at East Field.

Defensive end Ben Cornish, a first-year player, returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown in the third to cap off the scoring and give Watertown a 34-0 lead.

“The guys played great,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “All the things these coaches have been working over the last few weeks really came to show tonight.”

Curtis Dukes ran in the first touchdown from five yards out midway through the first quarter and a Calvin Rhodes’s scoring run in the second put the Red and Black up 14-0 at halftime.

The Red and Black defense forced four Glens Falls turnovers. Cornish and Ky Sawyer each scooped up a fumble while Matt Kepler and Garrick Cook each came up with an interception.

Kepler, Derrek Dalton and Rob Hughes finished with eight tackles apiece to lead the Red and Black defense.

Glens Falls running back Kevin Cardonna scored on a run with just less than five minutes remaining to deny Watertown the shutout.

Rhodes led the rushing attack with 14 carries for 65 yards, and Dukes finished with 38 yards on six carries.



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Red & Black plays host to Colonials in tonight’s home opener



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 Semipro football: Red & Black cruises in home opener, 36-14

WATERTOWN — Curtis Dukes crossed something off his football bucket list during the Watertown Red and Black’s home opener on Saturday night.

Dukes, a former Indian River star and Penn State running back, threw the first touchdown pass of his life on a flea-flicker as the Red and Black beat the Glove Cities Colonials, 36-14, at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Red and Black — which will host rival Plattsburgh on Aug. 2 after its bye week — improved to 2-0 and took over sole possession of first place in the Empire Football League.

“I thought we opened up very well and put some points on the board quick and the defense kept the ball in our hands, so I can’t complain. That was perfect,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

Dukes’ touchdown toss, a 34-yarder to Chris Furr, was the exclamation point that put Watertown up 36-6 late in the third quarter.

Dukes — who rushed for 137 yards on 12 carries including a 75-yard touchdown — said the scoring pass was his first completion since the team started practicing the flea-flicker two weeks ago.

“In practice, I’ve been doing it all along and I was 0-for-4,” Dukes said. “But it came game time and I made it count, so that was pretty cool.”

Offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said of the play: “He was running the ball great on that toss play, so I said we’re just going to pull up one time and throw it deep and he made a good throw and the receiver adjusted to it and it worked. I’m happy for him because it’s been a running battle for him to try to complete a pass.”

The Red and Black defense forced three turnovers, including a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Derrek Dalton.

Dalton said it was just the second touchdown he’s ever scored and the first since his senior year at Indian River in 2012.

“I didn’t know what kind of touchdown dance I was supposed to do, but other than that it was good,” Dalton said.

Ryan Semor and Anthony Noel split time evenly at quarterback for Watertown with Semor playing the first and third quarters, while Noel handled the second and fourth.

Semor completed 4 of 10 passes for 58 yards, and Noel went 3-for-4 for 75 yards and a touchdown.

On the first throw he attempted, Noel hooked up with Edgar Givens for a 52-yard touchdown on a playaction pass. Noel, an 11-year veteran, was playing quarterback for the first time since the 2008 season.

“I’m just trying to come out here and do what I can to produce for the team, and that (first pass) felt real good,” Noel said.

Through its first two games, the Red and Black has yet to turn the ball over and its defense has come up with seven takeaways.

Watertown has outscored Glens Falls and Glove Cities by a combined 70-21.

The Red and Black’s big test comes on Aug. 2 against the North Stars, who are 1-0 after a 28-7 victory over Glove Cities on July 12. Plattsburgh was off on Saturday.

“We have Plattsburgh next and we know that’s a good rivalry team, so we got the bye week and we got to put in the work and if everybody contributes, we’ll be all right,” Dukes said.

Givens caught four passes for 107 yards to lead the Red and Black receiving corps. Joe Brennan added eight carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Matt Kepler and Rob Hughes finished with 10 and eight tackles, respectively, powering the Red and Black defense.

Semor opened the game by connecting with Givens on a 46-yard streak down the sideline for Watertown.

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 Following deployment to Afghanistan, Kepler returns to be Red & Black’s rock on defense



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Semipro football: Dukes powers Red & Black past North Stars, 40-35



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Cornish getting his chance with Red and Black



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Playoff atmosphere spurs on Red and Black



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Dynamic receiving duo soars for Red and Black



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Semipro football: Red and Black holds off Colonials



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2013 CPP
Monday, June 17

Semipro football: Red & Black plays preseason game Saturday at Fairgrounds

The Watertown Red and Black semipro football team will play its first preseason game at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Red and Black will host the Central Penn Piranhas, out of Pennsylvania. The Piranhas have won three national championships and seven league titles in their 18 years of existence.

Watertown (8-4 last year) and ended its season with a 20-13 loss to Plattsburgh in the Empire Football League semifinals. The Red and Black will begin regular season play on July 13 at the Syracuse Shock.

Ouch: R&B has much work to do

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

When Watertown Red and Black coach George Ashcraft accepted an offer to play the Central Penn Piranhas — a semipro football national powerhouse — in an exhibition game with about a week’s notice, he viewed it as a measuring stick for a team with fresh faces at key positions.

And, after the resulting 71-0 loss Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, the Red and Black learned that it has plenty to work on before its Empire Football League regular season opener on July 13.

“It was game four for them, game one for us and that sure showed. We got a lot of mistakes we got to fix,” first-year offensive coordinator Nate Bryant said.

“We asked for the best team in the preseason, and we got them. These guys came up here and played Grade A football, and opened our guys’ eyes up. That will be the best team that we’ll see all year so I think it will push our guys to play to that level. We got three weeks to work on it and come back out ready for our season,” Bryant added.

The Red and Black will play the Syracuse Shock at Liverpool High School in its season opener. The team doesn’t have another preseason game on the slate in the meantime, but Ashcraft said that he still hopes to schedule one more exhibition before July 13.

“You play a team of this caliber, and it’s their third or fourth game, you’re really just trying to work the kinks out,” Red and Black running back Joe Brennan said.

The Red and Black’s quarterback position is still up for grabs, and neither of the two leading candidates were able to create much separation as they spent the game scrambling away from the swarming Piranhas’ pass rush.

The competition is down to Shane Slate, last year’s backup to the departed Brian Williams, and first-year player Tyler Michaelwicz.

Ashcraft and Bryant said that the plan was for Michaelwicz to play the first half on Saturday, and Slate to take the second half. But Slate suffered a leg injury, and Michaelwicz wound up taking a majority of the snaps. The competition, according to both coaches, is still open.

“The positives I take out of this is that we ran 60 offensive plays,” Ashcraft said. “We did move the ball, as crazy as it sounds in a 71-0 game, we did some good things.”

The Piranhas improved to 4-0 and lived up to their billing as one of the most dominant semipro football squads in the country.

Since its inception in 1995, Central Penn has won three national championships, seven league titles, and had a 126-game home winning streak that spanned 13 years.

“Since the middle ’90s to the present, they’re one of the top teams in the nation, and I didn’t see anything that would lead me to believe differently, every person from top to bottom that stepped on that field did a great job,” Ashcraft said.

“I’ll take nothing away from a good team. They’re a very good team. But we’re better than what we showed today and hopefully that will be clear when we take the field again in four weeks,” he added.

Honeymoon will wait for just-married R&B running back Brennan


hughtib2013
Monday, July 15

Hughes, Tibbles return to Red and Black after rift

Red and Black falls on road in debut

LIVERPOOL — Two turnovers in the red zone and a few badly timed penalties cost the Watertown Red and Black its Empire Football League season opener against the Syracuse Shock on Saturday night.

Dewayne Gordon, the reigning EFL offensive player of the year, ran for a pair of touchdowns and the Shock captured a 30-6 victory over the Red and Black.

“We’ll be better next week,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

Watertown quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz completed 3 of 13 passes for 68 yards and threw four interceptions in his first career start for the Red and Black (0-1).

Trailing 16-6 late in the third quarter, the Red and Black possessed the ball at the Syracuse one-yard line.

After the Shock stopped Red and Black running back Joe Brennan just short of the goal line on second down, Michaelwicz fumbled the third-down snap and the Shock recovered in the end zone.

In the second quarter, Michaelwicz was intercepted on a fourth-down play on the Shock 15-yard line.

Garrick Cook, a 2012 Indian River graduate, provided the only points for the Red and Black with a 36-yard interception return with just less than four minutes left in the first quarter. Cook’s touchdown cut the Shock’s early lead to 8-6.

Gordon ran for touchdowns of 21 and 55 yards for Syracuse (2-0). Justyn Hardwick added a 97-yard touchdown run late in the game to seal the victory.

Shock quarterback T.J. Sheard threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Burke to put Syracuse up 8-0 on its first possession.

Watertown was also in position to score on its first possession. Michaelwicz found Edgar Givens up the middle for a 31-yard pass play to the Shock 5-yard line on 4th-and-9, but a personal foul call on the Red and Black erased the play and forced a punt.

“The first-half penalties really killed us,” Ashcraft said. “That was the biggest difference in the game.”

Brennan gained 40 yards on 17 carries for the Red and Black, which will play the NEPA Miners in its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

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Semipro football: R&B’s Michaelwicz hopes to click



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givedsgarball
Monday, August 5

Givens hoping to give Red and Black even more



2013plattts
Sunday, August 11

Red and Black hope to solve North Stars

Quarterback Harry Rascoe has never lost to the Watertown Red and Black and the Plattsburgh North Stars have yet to lose a game this season.

The nation’s oldest semipro football has plans to change both of those facts at tonight’s 7 p.m. Empire Football League game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“This team rallies around him,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said of Rascoe. “But they’re beatable. If we can get to him and disrupt him, I think we’ll be alright. But I don’t want to take anything away from what he’s done. Every team has their lead dog and he’s theirs.”

Rascoe is blistering EFL defenses this season, throwing for a league-best 727 yards and 14 touchdowns in just three games. He has led the North Stars a perfect 4-0 record thus far, including a forfeit victory over Montreal. They are averaging 50.3 points per game.

The Red and Black will enter with a 2-2 record, coming off its first on-field victory of the season over the Finger Lakes impact in a nonleague game last Saturday.

“They got, I’d say, the best quarterback in the league,” Red and Black linebacker Rob Hughes said. “He’s smart, he’s got a real accurate arm, a good arm. They’re really good on the timing routes and their offensive line is really technically sound.”

“If we can’t slow their pass down, it’s going to be a long night,” Hughes added. “Hopefully our defensive line can get some pressure on them and force some mistakes.”

Rascoe replaced Ken Stay as Plattsburgh’s starting quarterback in the 2011 season and led the North Stars past the Red and Black that year.

He then accounted for four touchdowns in a 31-14 victory over Watertown last September, and threw for three more to end the Red and Black’s 2012 season with a 20-13 victory in last year’s EFL playoff semifinals.

“That was one heck of a game and there were a few things that happened that could have changed the outcome,” Ashcraft said.

Tonight’s game will mark Plattsburgh’s first trip to the Fairgrounds since the 2009 EFL title game.

On that night, the Red and Black defeated the North Stars, 6-0, in front of 3,000 fans for its first league championship since 1980.

Plattsburgh has won all five games between the two teams since, including the rematch in the 2010 EFL title game.

“It’s become quite a rivalry,” Ashcraft said.

The Red and Black has a bye scheduled for next Saturday and has just three games remaining on its schedule after tonight’s matchup with the North Stars.

It will play at the Scranton-based NEPA Miners on Aug. 24, host the Syracuse Shock on Sept. 7 and travel to Plattsburgh on Sept. 21.

Semipro football; Red and Black notches emotional victory, 28-13

 

Saturday night’s game was exactly what Rob Hughes needed.

The seven-year Watertown Red and Black veteran and defensive captain played in a pivotal Empire Football League game at the urging of his wife, Beth, who suffered a minor stroke on Thursday.

Hughes finished with seven tackles and four different players scored a rushing touchdown, including defensive tackle Alex Tibbles, as the Red and Black captured a 28-13 victory over the previously unbeaten Plattsburgh North Stars at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Hughes’s teammates dedicated the game to their middle linebacker and his wife, who is still in the hospital undergoing tests.

“I wasn’t going to play, I was going to stay with my wife, but she told me to come play. So I took it to heart,” Hughes said.

“I know the guys Thursday (at practice) had a prayer for her and dedicated the game to her. I told her about it and she teared up, and you know, we’re family. It means a lot for the guys to do this and then to come out here. We played a football game that was almost flawless and beat one of the best teams in the league, and it feels good.

“I called my wife (after the game) and she was ecstatic,” Hughes added.

The Red and Black improved to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in league play. The team is scheduled for a bye this Saturday, but head coach George Ashcraft said he is awaiting word from a team in Rochester about playing a nonleague game at the Fairgrounds.

Watertown has three league games remaining on its schedule. It will play the NEPA Miners, Syracuse Shock and another game with the North Stars (4-1).

“This was a very big win,” Ashcraft said. “It’s one of three more that we have to get if we’re going to be where we want to be come October.”

“I’ve stressed that every week this team is going to get better, and it does. It just does on both sides of the ball,” he added.

The Red and Black defense held the vaunted Plattsburgh offense, averaging 50 points per game before Saturday, to just 186 yards.

Plattsburgh’s only offensive touchdown came late in the game on a short run after a botched snap on a punt attempt set them up at the Red and Black’s two-yard line.

“If this carries through for the rest of the season, we’re going to dominate. Everyone is finally doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Tibbles, who starred at Indian River High School.

Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe, who threw 17 touchdowns in his first three games, completed 16-of-34 passes for 137 yards. He threw two interceptions — to Josh Cox and Jordan Johnson — and was held without a touchdown for the first time this year.

“I think the Red and Black had a good game plan defensively, and I think that we didn’t click on all cylinders,” Plattsburgh coach Scott Aguglia said.

Joe Brennan finished with 115 yards and a five-yard touchdown on 24 carries. It was his second straight 100-yard rushing effort.

Anton Gadson ran for a 16-yard touchdown and Angel Hickman provided an eight-yard scoring run.

Tibbles, the reigning EFL Defensive Player of the Year, scored the first offensive touchdown of his life on a one-yard run that put Watertown up 21-7 with just less than a minute to play in the first half.

“I just hit someone and dove in,” Tibbles said. “That was the first one (I’ve scored). It felt great knowing I contributed to the win. We won by two touchdowns and I scored one of them.”

Dexter Geohagan returned a punt for a touchdown a minute into the game to give Plattsburgh a 7-0 lead before its offense took the field.

Red and Black quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz completed eight of 16 passes for 126 yards. Chris Furr caught six passes for a career-high 111 yards.

Plattsburgh had won the past six games between the old rivals, including a 20-13 victory to end the Red and Black’s season in last year’s EFL semifinals.

Before Saturday, Watertown’s last win over Plattsburgh was in the 2009 EFL championship game at the Fairgrounds. Saturday also marked the first time the North Stars have played in Watertown since that game.

The two teams are scheduled to play again in the regular-season finale on Sept. 21 at Plattsburgh High School.
 



2013platss22

Monday, August 26

Red and Black’s Cox has ground covered



Monday, September 9

Red & Black struggles to build momentum

The Watertown Red and Black is anxious to say goodbye to its bye weeks.

The nation’s oldest semipro football team will host the Syracuse Shock (4-2) at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds in just its third game against an Empire Football League opponent since July 20.

The Red and Black, entering with a 3-4 overall record and 3-3 in the EFL, hasn’t played on consecutive Saturdays in more than a month.

“We have not had any rhythm this year,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “There is no such thing as saying we’re getting in sync because when you have these bye weeks every other week, you can’t get in sync.”

The Montreal Voyageurs notified the EFL of its intent to take a one-year hiatus after the league schedule had been released this offseason. Montreal’s removal left the EFL with just six teams.

The league’s response was to award teams a forfeit victory for every game against Montreal on their respective schedules. The Red and Black was scheduled to play the Voyageurs on July 27 and Aug. 17.

Ashcraft tried to schedule nonleague games in place of those Montreal dates, but was unable to get any team to agree to play.

The constant byes have created difficulty in sustaining momentum from game-to-game for a team filled with new players in key spots that could benefit from the additional game time.

“It’s tough. I think the biggest thing is it takes a toll on the offensive line. They can’t really get a cohesiveness going,” veteran linebacker and defensive captain Rob Hughes said.

“Games are where you get the most opportunities to work together and when they call out blitzes, picking up blocks and things like that. It’s hard for the new guys when we haven’t played a whole lot of games and all the bye weeks in between, it doesn’t help.”

First-year quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz looks at it from a different perspective.

He said the team should benefit from the extra practices and preparation time, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case.

“If anything it should be an advantage for us. But at the same time, we’ve got some guys that kind of blow off practice on those bye weeks because we have the bye,” he said. “So it’s like a Catch-22, really. We got the time to really prepare if the guys are there, but if they’re not there, there’s nothing you can really do.”

Montreal’s exit from the league means that all six EFL teams will qualify for the playoffs.

The Red and Black, with only tonight’s game and a Sept. 21 date at Plattsburgh remaining on its schedule, could fall anywhere from second to fifth in the playoff bracket.

If the Red and Black wins out, it will finish no lower than third. With help from other game results, it could finish second, clinching a first-round bye and a home game in the second round.

Playoffs begin on Sept. 28 and the EFL title game is slated for Oct. 12 at the field of the highest remaining seed.

“I think we’re still in the mindset that we need to be,” Michaelwicz said. “Everybody is focused and understands that from here on out we have to take it one game at a time. And it starts (today) with Syracuse.”

Watertown lost its season opener to the Shock, 30-6, at Liverpool High School.

Red and Black shows results of missing practice

The Watertown Red and Black suited nearly 50 players for Saturday’s Empire Football League regular season home finale at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

If that many players would show up to practice, according to coaches and team leaders, the nation’s oldest semipro football team would garner better results than the 26-0 blowout loss to the Syracuse Shock.

The Red and Black (4-4 overall, 3-4 league) erased any chance of a first-round bye and, with just a Sept. 21 game at Plattsburgh remaining, all but assured itself a road game to open the EFL playoffs.

“People can say what they want to say and think they’re in the greatest shape in the world, but that field tells the truth,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “That field can haunt the guy that wants to think he’s one thing and doesn’t want to practice.”

“I think if they would come together and play together and practice well for two weeks, we can go up to Plattsburgh and beat Plattsburgh,” he added.

The Red and Black’s offense tallied just 32 net yards on Saturday, compared with the Shock’s 306.

The Red and Black punted on seven of its 10 offensive possessions, lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs.

Red and Black quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz, avoiding pass rushers every time he dropped back, went 0-for-9 and was sacked four times for a loss of 25 yards. He did not play in the second half after suffering a hand injury. Ashcraft was optimistic about Michaelwicz’s chances to play in the regular season finale.

His replacement, Shane Slate, completed one of his eight passes for 19 yards. He was sacked twice for a loss of 20 yards.

“Like every football team I’ve played on for the last decade, these things happen,” veteran offensive lineman Amir Farhat said. “Teams got to grow together. But it’s kind of late now. It’s late in the game to put something together so we have to finish strong with what we have and that’s all we can hope for.”

Justyn Hardwick did most of the damage for the Shock (5-2). He scored on touchdown runs of one and 20 yards, then threw a 28-yard score to Aaron Smith on a flea-flicker late in the fourth quarter to provide the exclamation point.

Hardwick, who finished with a game-high 96 rushing yards on Saturday, ran for 157 yards on 18 carries to lead the Shock to a 30-6 win over the Red and Black in the season opener for both teams.

“I don’t know what it is because they’re a hell of a good team,” Hardwick said. “They’re all big boys so I guess my speed gets them.”

The Red and Black defense forced three interceptions on the Shock’s first four drives. But the offense followed those turnovers with a pair of three-and-outs and a lost fumble by Joe Brennan.

“It’s frustrating. I thought the defense played very well and forced some turnovers. We did as much as we could in the situations we got put in,” Red and Black linebacker Rob Hughes said.

“Guys can’t expect to come out here to games and just win. You got to come to practice,” he added.

Watertown will have a bye this Saturday and end its regular season at Plattsburgh.

The Red and Black beat the North Stars, 28-13, on Aug. 10 in their only other meeting this season. The EFL playoffs are scheduled to begin on Sept. 28.

“It was a rough game,” said Red and Black defensive tackle Alex Tibbles of Saturday’s loss. “Our offense is a little shaky, got to try to get it figured out before playoff time.”

“Syracuse is definitely a game we can win (in the playoffs), we just got to have everybody here and playing 100 percent. If we get that, we’ll definitely take care of them next time,” he added.

 



Wednesday, September 25

Red & Black seeks breakthrough final

The Watertown Red and Black is sick of hearing the all too familiar chant: “Our house.”

It’s the refrain the Plattsburgh North Stars chant after every victory on their home field.

The nation’s oldest semipro football team has heard it every year since 2007.

Watertown will try to leave Plattsburgh High School without hearing “Our house,” after today’s 7 p.m. Empire Football League regular season finale against the North Stars.

“They know it. We haven’t won up there in five years,” said Red and Black offensive coordinator and former player, Nate Bryant.

“It’s their thing not to let us win up there. We want to beat each other every time but when we’re up there and they beat us, they let us know that we’re in their house. But when we leave that field, win or lose, they always know we were there to play a tough football game.”

The six-year drought includes five losses.

Plattsburgh captured two home wins over Watertown last year, including a 23-17 heartbreaker in the EFL playoff semifinals.

The North Stars won at home in 2011 and pulled off another sweep in 2010, which included the EFL championship game.

“We’ve won a lot of games, for years we won up there,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “The last couple years, we’ve gotten snake-bit up there.”

In that same six-year span, The Red and Black is 3-1 against the North Stars at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“I don’t want to make any excuses, the bus ride is difficult and that goes both ways,” Watertown running back Joe Brennan said.

“Any time we go up there, it’s tough to get off the bus and this team has been working on some things this week to know how to get off the bus this week. It’s just a tough place to go in and play.”

The Red and Black leads the all-time series with Plattsburgh 14-12, and the teams played in consecutive EFL title games in 2009-10, trading victories.

“I think the true rivalry in the EFL is Watertown and Plattsburgh,” Bryant said. “Everybody says there’s a rivalry with Syracuse. That’s just nothing but a trash-talking contest. There’s a true rivalry between Watertown and Plattsburgh with no mouth involved. It’s two good football teams that get together on a field and we pound on each other.”

Watertown beat Plattsburgh at home, 28-13, in the first meeting of the year between the two teams on Aug. 10.

Since then, the Red and Black has lost its last two games with bye weeks in between.

“We’ve struggled offensively this year, and scoring points, we’ve really struggled compared to years past,” Brennan said “But when we have our guys, we’re deadly. It depends on which Red and Black team, which offense shows up that day. I know this week, we’ve been putting in a lot of work and hopefully it pays off out on the field.”

The EFL playoff bracket will be finalized at the annual year-end league meeting Sunday afternoon.

The six-team field is expected to be broken down into divisional play. If that remains the case, the Red and Black will be seeded third and travel to Syracuse for a first-round matchup against the Shock next Saturday night at Liverpool High School.

The winner would play the top-seeded NEPA Miners in Scranton, Pa. in the EFL semifinals on Oct. 5.


Semipro football: Red & Black faces Shock in EFL playoffs

The Watertown Red and Black will play the Syracuse Shock in the first round of the Empire Football League playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liverpool High School. The postseason schedule was finalized at Sunday’s annual year-end meeting.

The winner of that game will then play at the top-seeded NEPA Miners (Scranton, Pa.) in the semifinals on Oct. 5. The Red and Black (4-5 overall, 3-5 league) was swept by the Shock (7-2) this season, losing 30-6 and 26-0.

? Watertown dropped its regular-season finale to the Plattsburgh North Stars, 30-16, Saturday night at Plattsburgh High School.

Watertown’s Joe Brennan ran for a game-high 87 yards on 18 carries, and quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Edgar Givens. Michaelwicz went 2-for-9 for 64 yards before being replaced by Shane Slate, who completed 7-of-12 passes for 96 yards. Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe threw four TD passes.




Monday, September 30

Semipro football: Red & Black faces Shock in EFL playoff opener

Few people outside the Watertown Red and Black locker room believe it has a chance to upset the Syracuse Shock in tonight’s first-round Empire Football League playoff game.

But despite two convincing losses to Syracuse already this season, and its worst league record in five years, the nation’s oldest semipro football team will go to Fulton High School for tonight’s 7 o’clock kickoff with the belief that its playoff run is just getting started.

The winner of tonight’s clash will play the top-seeded NEPA Miners at Scranton, Pa., in next Saturday’s semifinals.

“I think anything is possible, I truly do,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

“I truly believe that if the guys show up and want to play a game,” he added. “Syracuse has got a dozen studs and so do we, bottom line.”

“We’re going to play together for 60 minutes and let the cards fall where they fall,” Ashcraft added. “At the end of the night, (our players) might be loading their stuff in the trailer for the last time, or they’ll be throwing it in there and saying ‘I can’t wait until (practice) Tuesday.’ You never know and that’s part of the game.”

The Red and Black, entering the playoffs with a 3-5 league record and 4-5 overall, was outscored a combined 56-6 in a pair of regular-season losses to the Shock (7-2).

Syracuse tallied nearly 600 rushing yards in those two games combined, while the Red and Black managed just less than 130 yards of total offense.

“That only got them a seed, it didn’t get them a championship,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Nate Bryant said.

Syracuse has won a league-best five straight games and scored a league-high 310 points this year.

Watertown, which has lost its past three and captured all but one of its league victories via forfeit, has struggled to find consistency with a roster that Bryant estimated is made up of 80 percent first-year players.

The Red and Black’s six league games were stretched across an 11-week span, and it hasn’t played back-to-back games since the first two Saturdays in August.

“This year we haven’t had as much success as we’ve had in years past, but every team goes through it,” said running back Joe Brennan, who ran for a team-high 348 yards in six league games.

“But I think that we have a great team here. That’s why you play the game and you don’t go off paper,” he added.

Defensive back Jordan Johnson, who hauled in a team-high five interceptions this year, said: “We’re just trying to be optimistic going into this game. We’ve had a rough year so far, but I think we’re ready and we’re going to play better in this game.”

Red and Black players and coaches hinted at the possibility of personnel changes for tonight’s game, saying that some players could see time on both sides of the ball.

“We’re going to show Syracuse a totally different ball team,” Bryant said.

“We’ll put our best 11 against their best 11 and see if we can come out with a win,” he added.

Watertown’s previous high for league losses in a season was seven in 2008.

The Red and Black captured its first EFL title in 29 seasons the following year and has made it to at least the EFL semifinals every year since.

Semipro football: Shock ends R & B’s season, 16-10

FULTON — Three forced turnovers and a halftime lead weren’t quite enough to help the Watertown Red and Black advance past the first round of the Empire Football League playoffs.

Justyn Hardwick ran for touchdowns of 20 and 41 yards, and the Syracuse Shock captured a 16-10 victory over the nation’s oldest semipro football team Saturday night at Fulton High School.

“We had a lot of blown opportunities,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “Should have, could have, would have. But that’s something to worry about for next year now.”

Syracuse (8-2) will play the top-seeded NEPA Miners (8-1) in Saturday’s semifinals in Scranton, Pa.

The Red and Black (4-6 overall, 3-6 league) failed to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Red and Black quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz threw a 16-yard touchdown strike to Angel Hickman to cut the Shock’s lead to 16-10 with two minutes, nine seconds to play. But the Red and Black couldn’t produce another scoring drive.

Hardwick’s first score, a 20-yard run, capped off a 95-yard drive and, after a successful 2-point conversion, put the Shock up 8-3 in the third quarter. He busted off a 41-yard touchdown run to increase Syracuse’s lead to 16-3 early in the fourth.

Watertown led 3-0 at halftime and forced three fumbles — one each from Alex Tibbles, Charles Noell and Dalton Boyd.

Filippo Flocco led the Red and Black defense with 14 tackles and Joe Brennan ran for a team-high 74 yards on 15 carries.


 


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Wednesday, October 17

Watertowns Love For Football 

This is the 117th year operating with the name Watertown Red & Black. The team is represented in the first showcase you see at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, which displays an 1896 picture of the team and a manikin displaying the 1896 uniform. Ashcraft says it is comparing “apples and oranges” how much football has progressed since the early days.

The fans have called the Red & Black one of the cultural intuitions in the North Country, Moe told Ashcraft. “I believe that,” responded Ashcraft, “I’m not a kid anymore at 57 years old, but this became a part of my person 40 years ago.”

There are hundreds of people that are instrumental in the Red & Black history. “I go back to 1973 and we suited around 45 men.” Ashcraft says there is a true family feeling among that group and everyone who has been on the team. “Once you become part of the Watertown Red & Black, it’s hard to walk away from it. I get calls from all over the world, from people that have played who are in Korea, or Germany, and we have people that, right now as we speak, are in a warzone in Afghanistan.”

Ashcraft gets phone calls and emails from people who are coming to Fort Drum that he has never met, but they have heard about this team and want to play or coach football. “When you’re a part of it, you really understand it.”

He said he’s humbled and honored to be the guy in the position to talk about the team right now. “If there’s one thing I can say after doing this for 22 years, someday when I step down, I hope that somebody can come in and break all the records, and just keep it going.”

Ashcraft was visiting his father this week, and he said, “Son I’m proud of you… it’s incredible what you have done with the Red & Black, you know. They’ll talk about you a hundred years from now, your name will be booted around, because of what you’ve done.”

Ashcraft says he doesn’t think about that, but he couldn’t do anything but smile. “I have got five grandchildren that come to the game, from 5-years old to 16-years-old, and it’s just incredible.”

Ashcraft says he accepts the TAUNY North Country Heritage Award in his team’s honor, and he’s willing to talk to anybody who wants to talk about the team at anytime. “It’s rewarding and it’s humbling. I’m darn lucky. I’m very, very lucky.”

TAUNY to honor Red & Black, model boat builder, lake’s dances

For George Ashcraft, the Red & Black is about more than football.

That belief is demonstrated when he’s contacted by players inquiring about the team. Many of them are in the Army. They email or call Mr. Ashcraft, telling him they’ll be serving at Fort Drum and would love to play for him.

“That means a lot, to get phone calls and emails from Afghanistan and the Middle East, where they are fighting a war for our freedoms. Those young men know they are coming to Fort Drum and I haven’t even met them. That alone keeps that door in your heart wide open — that you are going to help somebody who needs something more than just the daily routine.”

He adds, “We all gotta have something.”

For Mr. Ashcraft, the Watertown Red & Black, the oldest semi-professional football team in the nation, is about tradition and family.

“My personal opinion is that is what has hurt our society,” he said. “People got away from tradition.”

Traditional Arts in Upstate New York will honor the Red & Black, one of three “masters of local traditions” Sunday afternoon at its Salute to North Country Legends. Also being honored are Frank White, model wooden boat builder from Canton, and the summer Schroon Lake square dances in Essex County.

The public is invited to the awards ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday in Kingston Theater at SUNY Canton. The awards recognize individuals, families and community groups that have mastered traditional north country arts and customs and remain committed to passing them on to future generations.

In its early decades, the Red & Black, established in 1896 and a member of the Empire Football League, featured the sons of immigrants who worked in local factories and young men who had been star players in local high schools. More recently, more than half of the roster has been made up of soldiers from Fort Drum. Devoted Watertown fans call it a cultural institution.

“It’s nice when people from out of town come to our venue at the fairgrounds and they comment about everything that goes on, right from the music with the DJ, to our concessions and to the way the field looks because the city does an outstanding job on the grass field,” Mr. Ashcraft said.

Mr. Ashcraft, in his 22nd year as head coach, said many people are under the impression that the city owns the team. But he said Red & Black, a nonprofit organization, is successful because of a dedicated board of directors, volunteers, sponsors and community support.

“This is an expensive sport,” he said. “To play the game is about $2,000 a week.”

The coach said it’s also key to support players. For example, he said the past couple of years a couple of young players joined his team who “did not prevail” when they were members of the Watertown High School football team.

“They came to me as 18- or 19-year-old kids, and they didn’t care what they could do, they just wanted to be part of it,” Mr. Ashcraft said. “A couple of those kids now are a big reason why we’re in the second round of the playoffs.”

Mr. Ashcraft was interviewed two days before he and the team traveled to Plattsburgh to play the North Stars in the second round of the Empire League playoffs. They lost 20-13.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Mr. Ashcraft said of the opportunities he likes to give players. “When they come to me, I say, ‘Just keep on working.’ If they are working and doing the best they can do, I’m not going to kick them to the curb. I let them find out for themselves.”

All involved in the team become part of an honored tradition, something Mr. Ashcraft is constantly reminded of. The 1973 Carthage High School graduate played two seasons for the Red & Black before he suffered a career-ending broken leg in 1975.

“A lot of people I played football with, many of them are still around. You see them and shake hands. There’s the bond. There’s something that happens,” he said.

mini-boat builder honored

Canton resident Frank White, 94, grew up hearing stories of logging camps and river drives from his French-Canadian grandfathers. He has spent a large part of his life outdoors — hiking, fishing and paddling on or near local lakes and streams. His passion for canoes has taken him on solo trips on major rivers in the American West and the Canadian bush. He was one of the founders of the annual Rushton Canoe Races in Canton, where he has competed almost every year for more than 50 years.

After retiring from a career as a florist in 1984, he took up model making, starting with kits of such famous vessels as Henry Hudson’s Halfmoon, the USS Constitution and the racing schooner Blue Nose.

Mr. White builds from scratch and has created a remarkable variety, such as whale boats, Lake Champlain sailing barges, a catboat (a small, single-masted sailboat), a Venetian gondola and several canoes, including a Peterborough and a birch bark. His favorites, however, are his own versions of Rushton canoes, of which he has completed a half dozen. He continues to work on models today and enjoyssharing his love of local history and waterways.

Schroon Lake dances

Since the 1930s, year-round residents and summer residents have gathered every Wednesday evening in July and August in a lakeside park in Schroon Lake to “do-si-do” and “Allemande left” until dark. The tradition continues, even as square dancing has decreased in popularity elsewhere. As many as 200 people attend each week, with three, even four, generations taking part.

The musicians and callers come to Schroon Lake from a wide geographical area. Schroon Lake, in the town of Schroon, Essex County, is in the eastern portion of Adirondack Park and to the northwest of Lake George.

At the dances, there are plenty of opportunities for children to learn the basics and for teenagers and young families to participate.

There is even one dance locals call the Zodiac that’s such a favorite it’s a requirement each week and nearly everyone gets into the act.

The Salute to North Country Legends, and the related research and field work, are supported by the Sweetgrass Foundation and the Corning Incorporated Foundation



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Monday, September 17

North Stars top Red & Black in EFL semifinals, 20-13

PLATTSBURGH — A season full of close, dramatic games ended in a fitting fashion for the Watertown Red and Black on Saturday night.

Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe threw his third touchdown pass of the game with just over four minutes left, capping off a nine-minute, 86-yard drive to give the North Stars a 20-13 victory over Watertown in the Empire Football League semifinals at Plattsburgh High School.

“This was a tough one to lose,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams, who ran for two touchdowns and a team-high 96 yards, was stopped a yard short of picking up the first down on a 4th-and-2 run around midfield with just under three minutes left.

Top-seed Plattsburgh (9-2) then ran out the clock to advance to Saturday’s title game, where it will host No. 3 Monroe County (8-3).

Williams scored on a one-yard touchdown run on the last play of the second quarter for Watertown (8-4). The extra point was blocked to give Plattsburgh a 7-6 halftime lead.

Williams then broke loose for a 60-yard score on the second play of the third quarter to give Watertown its first lead of the game.

Rascoe responded with a nine-yard TD pass to Andrew Price to tie the game at 13 apiece after a failed extra-point try near the end of the third quarter.

C.J. Stevens and Shawn Davis each had a key interception near the goal line in the second quarter for the Red and Black, both of which ended promising Plattsburgh drives and kept Watertown within a touchdown

R&B goes on road to play Plattsburgh in EFL semifinal 

After the Watertown Red and Black beat the Vermont Ice Storm last Saturday in the first round of the Empire Football League playoffs, defensive back Alex Rodriguez guaranteed a win in the semifinals.

Entering tonight’s 7:30 matchup at top-seeded Plattsburgh, where a berth in the EFL championship game hangs in the balance, Rodriguez didn’t back off from that statement.

“I still believe that,” Rodriguez said. “This is a great team, a great group of guys. We bust our (humps). And you know what? We deserve it. We want it. We’re hungrier than every other team we play against. We’ll come out with a big ‘W.’”

The North Stars beat the Red and Black, 31-14, in the only meeting this season on Sept. 22, a win that gave Plattsburgh home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Watertown’s defense was missing some key pieces in that game, one being Rodriguez, who ranks fourth on the team in tackles. Matt Kepler and Dwohn Lucky, second and third on the team in tackles, respectively, had returned from a three-week military training exercise in California less than 48 hours before kickoff.

, Joe Brennan. “Against a team with that potential, you got to play mistake-free football in order to win. We didn’t do a good job with that and we ended up losing because of it.”

“We gave up three touchdowns to start the game out and it was all foolish plays,” Ashcraft said.

Tonight’s game is the latest installment in what has become a big rivalry between the Red and Black and the North Stars.

Watertown beat Plattsburgh in the 2009 EFL title game for its first championship since 1980. The Red and Black earned a grinding 6-0 win at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

One year later, Plattsburgh won the championship rematch on its home field in dramatic fashion, 13-10, when Watertown missed a 34-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

“Ever since then it’s just been a battle, every time we play it’s a hard-hitting football game, and really overall, it’s just always a great game to be at and a great game to be a part of,” Brennan said.

The third-seeded Monroe County Sting (7-3) will play at the No. 2 Syracuse Shock (7-3) in tonight’s other semifinal. The winners will meet next Saturday for the EFL title at the field of the highest remaining seed.“With (us) at full strength and full speed, it’s going to be a whole lot different,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll be ready to go. It won’t be like last time, hell no.”

Since the loss to Plattsburgh (8-2), the Red and Black defense held a strong Syracuse offense to just 13 points in its regular-season finale.

It then forced five interceptions in its first-round victory over Vermont, holding the Ice Storm to just eight points on a fourth-quarter touchdown with the game already in hand.

Plattsburgh, meanwhile, hasn’t played since that game. Its regularly scheduled bye came in the season’s final week, and it received a first-round playoff bye due to winning the regular-season title.

“We’re peaking when we want to be, but you still got to go out and play the game,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said.

Though it was undermanned, Watertown (8-3) hurt itself with four turnovers and a slow start against the North Stars. The Red and Black trailed 24-0 at halftime.

“We made a lot of mistakes in the game against Plattsburgh,” said Watertown’s leading rusher

Red and Black defense chills Ice Storm

The Watertown Red and Black wasn't bothered by the cold rain, the strong wind, or the Ice Storm on Saturday night.

The Red and Black defense was smothering, the offense was efficient, and the special teams came up with two big plays to help Watertown beat Vermont, 22-8, in the first round of the Empire Football League playoffs at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown improved to 8-3 overall and will travel to top-seeded Plattsburgh (8-2) for a semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Ice Storm ended its season with a 5-6 record.

“Our defense played real aggressive, we came out ready to hit,” Linebacker Matt Kepler said. “The whole season we've been coming out slow. We made a pact as a defense to come out right away and hit them. We knew it was going to be a physical game.”

The Red and Black's defense forced five interceptions, four coming in the second half. It held Vermont scoreless until there was 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Watertown had already pulled ahead by three scores.

“Once we started shutting them down, we got the momentum, and guys came up with big picks in big situations for us,” Kepler said.

Josh Cox blocked a punt early in the second quarter to set the Red and Black up at the Vermont 31-yard line. Watertown ended up getting a field goal on the drive to take a 3-0 advantage.

“Special teams is big, we work on it in practice all the time, it's something you got to have,” Cox said. “We were able to execute and get points on the board.”

Early in the third, C.J. Stevens tackled the Vermont punter at the four-yard line after a botched snap. Harold Taylor ran it in on Watertown's first play afterward to increase its lead to 16-0.

“I think about the first half and how competitive that was,” Vermont coach Drew Gordon said. “Football games are about making the most of opportunities that you are given. We unfortunately weren't able to take advantage of our opportunities, and Watertown overcame them and made the most of theirs. That's always the difference in a football game.”

The Red and Black's running game was as balanced as it has been all year.

Joe Brennan provided 55 yards and two short touchdown runs on 12 carries, Harold Taylor added 53 yards and a score on 10 attempts, and Anthony Noel ran for a season-high 66 yards on 10 rushes.

“Tonight I just felt good, I wanted to run hard and get this one for Watertown,” Noel said.

The Red and Black can now turn its focus to Plattsburgh, where it will need a similar defensive effort against the highest scoring team in the EFL to advance to the title game for the third time in four years.

“We're going to come out with a win,” said defensive back Alex Rodriguez, who had one of the team's five interceptions on Saturday. “I promise you that. The Red and Black is going to win against Plattsburgh.”

The North Stars defeated Watertown, 31-14, on Sept. 22 in Plattsburgh. The Red and Black fell behind early in that game, trailing 24-0 at halftime.

“It's one of those games where we have to go up there and don't turn the ball over, and just keep busting people because we have to beat them on their playing field,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said.

Monroe County (7-3) will play at Syracuse (7-3) in the other semifinal, also scheduled for Saturday.

The EFL championship is slated for Oct. 20 at the field of the highest remaining seed.

Red and Black arrives right on time for playoffs

It’s been a long season for the Watertown Red and Black.

Players have come and gone. Coaches have come and gone. The team won two games with fourth-quarter comebacks, and had four of its games decided by one score.

And of course, there was the home game against Albany that was stopped at halftime due to a break-in of the Metro Mallers locker room that resulted in personal items being stolen from Albany coaches and players.

And yet, the Red and Black (7-3) is right where it wants to be. Winner of three of its last four games and opening the Empire Football League playoffs at home, against the Vermont Ice Storm (5-5) at 7:30 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“I feel like we’re the best football team in our conference,” Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams said. “The reality is that we’ve had some internal things that we’ve had to go through this year that easily could have torn a team apart, almost did. As a team, as a unit, as players, we stayed together and we made it through a season. That provided us some strength, and I think going into playoffs, we’ll be able to utilize the strength that we’ve gained throughout our year.”

A win would put Watertown in the EFL semifinals at league champion Plattsburgh (8-2) next Saturday, and a loss would end the Red and Black’s season. The EFL championship game is scheduled for Oct. 20 at the field of the highest remaining seed.

“We got three more to be champions, and that’s definitely our overall goal. It has been all year,” Running back Joe Brennan said.

“What we’re setting forth to do is still attainable, and that’s play in the championship. That’s what we want to do,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft added.

The Red and Black beat the Ice Storm, 23-13 on Aug. 4, in the only meeting between the two old rivals this season.

Watertown ran for over 200 yards in that game and scored both of its touchdowns on the ground. But it gained just 21 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

Vermont quarterback Tim Kynoch rallied his team back to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Watertown was able to hold on for the win, connecting on a field goal to go up by 10 with two minutes left.

“I don’t think we played to our full potential at that point. We’ve come a long way since then,” Brennan said. “We executed, and as long as we execute this weekend, too, I think we’ll get the win.”

The Red and Black is coming off a tough 14-13 win over Syracuse (7-3) in its regular season finale. The Watertown defense held the vaunted Syracuse offense to just 204 total yards, and made several big stops to hold off a Shock rally in the second half.

“The last couple weeks we’ve been an 11-pistol machine firing on all cylinders, so we just have to keep that going,” defensive end Ben Call said.

“Any person on our defense can step in and get the same intensity the whole game,” defensive tackle Dwohn Lucky added. “So if one person gets tired, when we step out, it’s not like you’re going to have that letdown. You’re going to have that same intensity the whole game.”

Red & Black’s Tibbles named top defender in EFL

Red and Black defensive tackle Alex Tibbles was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player of the Empire Football League and was selected as a First Team All-Star, highlighting 16 Watertown players honored by the league.

Quarterback Brian Williams shared the league’s Iron Man Award with Plattsburgh’s Kevin Gibson. Williams won that award for the third straight season. He also received All-Star honorable mention.

Joining Tibbles as First Team All-Stars from Watertown were running back Joe Brennan, offensive linemen Tim Babcock and Mike Homewood, linebackers Adrian Paris and C.J. Stevens, and defensive back Filippo Flocco.

Red and Black players named to the second team were center Jared Cook, defensive end Ian Clark, linebacker Matt Kepler and defensive backs Todd Kiechle and Shawn Davis.

Watertown’s honorable mention selections, in addition to Williams, were offensive lineman Tony Ivey, defensive tackle Dwohn Lucky and linebacker Rob Hughes.


  Red and Black to start playoffs at home

The Watertown Red and Black was awarded a forfeit victory for its Aug. 18 game against the Albany Metro Mallers at the Empire Football League year-end meeting Sunday.

The Metro Mallers forfeited that game, suspended at halftime due to Albany’s locker room being broken into at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, and their eight on-field victories for using a player not eligible under league bylaws. Albany quarterback C.J. Tarver was ruled ineligible due to playing for the Saginaw Sting of the Arena Football League earlier this year.

EFL rules state that a player can not play in its league and a league in which he is paid to play in the same year.

As a result, Plattsburgh was crowned the EFL regular season champions and will get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Syracuse placed second, Monroe County is third and the Red and Black finished fourth. All four teams finished with identical 7-3 records.

Watertown will host fifth-place Vermont (5-5) in a first-round playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner will play at Plattsburgh in the semifinals the following week.

Syracuse and Monroe County also received byes in what is now a five-team playoff, and will play a semifinal game on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Albany dropped from first place in the standings to eighth with a 1-9 record. It was credited with a forfeit win over Montreal on Saturday because the Voyageurs did not have enough players.


Red & Black escapes with 14-13 victory over Shock

Red and Black fans couldn’t have scripted a better ending to Saturday night’s regular-season finale.

Syracuse kicker Zack Grulich, who played the first four games of the season for Watertown, missed the game-tying extra point with a minute and a half to play, pulling it wide right after a botched snap, and the Red and Black escaped with a 14-13 Empire Football League victory at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown (6-3) is all but assured of a fourth-place finish in the standings, and will likely host No. 5 Monroe County (6-4) in a first-round playoff game this Saturday. Nothing is official until today’s annual year-end league meeting.

“I’m very proud of the team, they played four full quarters and a win is a win. This was a big win for us,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said.

Syracuse (7-3) recovered an onside kick after Grulich’s miss, and quarterback T.J. Sheard appeared to throw the game-winning touchdown on a 4th-and-15 play with 44 seconds left. But Sheard was called for an illegal pass for crossing the line of scrimmage before making the throw, and Watertown took over on downs.

“Bounces go one way, bounces go another,” Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams said. “They went our way a couple times and we were able to hold on for a victory.”

Syracuse players and coaches crowded the officials after the play, and the game was ended with 28 seconds remaining.

There were two separate squabbles at halftime, with groups of players from each team shoving and yelling back and forth. Players were separated without incident each time.

Syracuse coach Kenny Anderson, a former Red and Black assistant, declined comment after the game.

“Very crazy, very intense, a lot of emotions going on,” said Red and Black defensive tackle Alex Tibbles, who finished with a team-high 14 tackles and a sack.

The Red and Black jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. It started its first drive on the Syracuse 11-yard line, after the Shock fumbled on a punt attempt.

Williams found Josh Cox on a fade to the back of the end zone two plays later to put Watertown up 7-0.

Joe Brennan ran in a score from two yards out on Watertown’s next possession, which featured four penalties called against the Shock. Of the 42 yards gained on the drive, 30 came off Syracuse penalties. The Shock was penalized 18 times overall.

“We came out and were able to put points on the board first, that gave us a little more momentum,” Williams said. “It was just a good overall football game when it came to doing our jobs, what we were supposed to do, and our defense executed their game plan perfectly.”

Syracuse rallied in the second half, as running back Dewayne Gordon ran in an eight-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, and Sheard threw a 12-yard touchdown with just under two minutes left to set up the missed kick by Grulich.

Watertown defensive back Adrian Paris came through with a sack on a 3rd-and-12 play with nine minutes left to force the Shock to punt and end a promising drive.

Dwohn Lucky made a similar play near the end of the first half, tallying the sack on a key third down to force Syracuse to punt.

“Our defense is the heart and soul of this team and it always has been,” Tibbles said. “They came out great tonight, everyone did a fantastic job.”

Watertown can now look to the playoffs and its expected matchup with Monroe County, which earned a 14-10 win over Glens Falls on Saturday to lock up fifth place.

Watertown and Monroe County split their two regular-season meetings in a pair of close games. The Red and Black beat the Sting, 24-20, in its season opener, but then dropped a 20-14 game at the Fairgrounds on Aug. 11

Hickman’s productivity fuels Red & Black

Seven touches, four touchdowns.

Those are Angel Hickman’s offensive stats in three games as a running back for the Watertown Red and Black (5-3), which will end its regular season with a 7:30 p.m. Empire Football League matchup with the Syracuse Shock (7-2) tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

With a win, the Red and Black could finish as high as third in the league. A loss could knock the team down to fifth and force it to go on the road for its first-round playoff game next week, depending on how other EFL games shake out tonight.

Hickman, who lists himself at 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds, joined the Red and Black and its already loaded backfield in early August.

Hickman said that his size allows him to “run smaller than a lot of people,” making him especially difficult for defenders to catch when he gets behind his blocks.

“If you’re running down here, it’s going to be harder for someone to come get you,” Hickman said.

In his season debut against Amsterdam on Sept. 8, Hickman received just one carry and took it 77 yards, immediately assuming the role of offensive spark plug. In his home debut the following week, Hickman finished with 110 yards and three touchdowns on just four touches.

In all, Hickman has tallied 192 yards and three touchdowns on just six rushes, averaging 32 yards per carry. He has one catch for 22 yards, which he also took for a touchdown. He is already second on the team in scoring among active players.

“He can get lost in the rubble,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “He can get in behind people and you don’t even know where he is, all the sudden he’s by everybody.”

Hickman’s speed and big-play potential have allowed the Red and Black to line him up as a halfback, slot receiver, and kick returner, which gives him more opportunities to play in a backfield that was already posting the best numbers in the EFL.

Led by workhorse Joe Brennan (114 carries, 688 yards and eight touchdowns), quarterback Brian Williams, and halfbacks Harold Taylor and Anthony Noel, the Red and Black have gained a league-high 1,962 yards on the ground to go with 22 rushing touchdowns.

“I feel like my touches are better this way and it keeps me rested,” Hickman said. “They’ll carry the load, and then I can pop for one good play, so it’s all good.”

Hickman grew up in a military family and spent most of his childhood overseas, spending his high school days in South Korea.

He moved to the area around 2009 when his parents were stationed at Fort Drum.

Hickman played two seasons with the Watertown Revolution, earning the Northeastern Football Alliance’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2011.

He decided to join the Red and Black this summer with a small group of players after the Revolution’s season was cut a week short due to its opponent, Cortland, not having enough players.

Hickman said that he was hesitant to join the team at first because it already had so much talent in the backfield, but believes that he made the right decision.

“It’s a big family thing,” Hickman said. “I love football, and everybody here loves football. They’ll have your back if you have their back.”

Watertown Red & Black welcomes timely reinforcements

 The Watertown Red and Black is getting a trio of its defensive stars back. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Matt Kepler, Dwohn Lucky and Alex Rodriguez, along with six other Red and Black players, returned from a two-week military training exercise in California this week.

The three will take the field tonight when Watertown (5-2) travels to Plattsburgh (6-3) for a pivotal 7:30 p.m. game that will either save or severely damage the Red and Black’s hopes of winning the Empire Football League and getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“Everybody was looking forward to getting back, we kept talking about it,” Lucky said. “We were all talking about getting back here, getting the helmets on, ready to hit some people. It just so happened that Plattsburgh is the next game and it’s a big game. We’re excited about it and I know all these guys are excited.”

Rodriguez, a defensive back, is still second on the team with 37 tackles despite missing two games.

Kepler and Lucky rank third and fourth, respectively, in tackles per game. Kepler, a second-year linebacker, is averaging seven a game while Lucky, a defensive tackle, is averaging 5.6.

“I’m looking forward to going back out there and helping this team get a win. I know the other guys that are coming in feel the same way I do. They can’t wait to put the pads on again,” Kepler said.

The Red and Black played well in their absence, outscoring its last two opponents, Amsterdam and Glens Falls, 119-8.

“The guys did a lot of good while we were gone,” Kepler said. “I hope I can join the momentum and get back into things quickly.”

“The guys that were down there with me, we always talked about the games,” Lucky said. “It was kind of funny, after every game we were all trying to find internet or find some way to keep up and see what happened. But we knew our guys would go out there and play well.”

But, Amsterdam and Glens Falls are at the bottom of the EFL standings, whereas Plattsburgh is the highest-scoring team in the league and riding a four-game win streak that includes a 21-7 win over Syracuse (7-2).

Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe has 24 passing touchdowns on the season, making the returns of the defensive standouts that much more important.

“I’m happy to see them back because they make things happen,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said of the group.

“It’s the biggest game all year. This has got home-field advantage, first-place in the league consequences. Bottom line, got to win. Play our game and win,” Ashcraft added.

That should be an easier task with Rodriguez, Kepler and Lucky back in the lineup.

Watertown closes the regular season by hosting Syracuse at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday.

Red and Black cruises to win

Credit the Watertown Red and Black with executing another dominant performance on both sides of the ball.

Running back Angel Hickman rushed for three touchdowns, quarterback Brian Williams threw for three scores and the Red and Black scored on a blocked punt in a 64-8 rout of the Glens Falls Greenjackets on Saturday in an Empire Football League game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“Sure this was a great win,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “We had a couple great wins in our last two games, but we know next week will be tougher.”

Now Watertown’s season really gets serious with two games remaining in the regular season.

“Now we have to continue what we’ve doing,” Williams said. “We’ve showed a lot of versatility as a team, now we have to step up our game again.”

The Red and Black (5-2), who have out scored its past two opponents, 119-8, now take to the road with key games at Plattsburgh next Saturday and at Syracuse on Sept. 29 in their regular-season finale in their quest to secure playoff position.

Watertown displayed its versatility on offense in the first half while its defense held Glens Falls to only 54 yards of offense and two first downs over the first two quarters.

“This was a great overall win,” Williams said. “We were able to execute our game plan and move the ball right to the end. This gives us a big boost in confidence.”

The Red and Black scored on its first play from scrimmage as running back Joe Brennan broke free on the left side and sped down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown run just 2 minutes, 39 seconds into the game.

“For us to be able to execute like this tonight is really big for us,” said Brennan, who rushed for 105 yards on five carries. “It was a great start and then a lot of different guys got to touch the ball, which is nice.”

On their next possession, running back Anthony Noel capped off a 54-yard drive in nine plays with a 2-yard scoring run for a 14-0 lead.

Watertown’s special teams made Glens Falls (2-6) pay on a poor snap as Ben Call blocked a punt and Josh Cox picked up the ball and ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter.

“When you get a series of big plays like that it really fires up your team,” Williams said. “We really executed well tonight as a team in all areas.”

The Red and Black, who scored on its first three possessions and four of their first five in the first half, scored twice in the second quarter as Luke Meyer hauled in a 33-yard scoring pass from Williams, and Harold Taylor rumbled for a 15-yard TD run with 3:07 left to build a 35-0 advantage at halftime.

The onslaught continued in the second half as Williams connected with Hickman and Rob Hughes on scoring strikes of 22 and 3 yards, respectively, in the third quarter for a 49-0 lead.

After the Greenjackets averted the shutout on Jordon Jones’s 49-yard scoring catch from Jack Gibbs in the final minute of the third quarter, Hickman followed with scoring runs of 51 and 31 yards for a 61-8 lead.

“This is a good confidence booster for us,” Brennan said. “The remainder of our schedule is going to be very tough, we’re going to Plattsburgh next week.”

Red and Black plays host to Greenjackets tonight at Fairgrounds

 

Due to a training exercise in California, the Watertown Red and Black will be missing close to a dozen players that are active military members for tonight’s game.

But the team has a guest who traveled from California that will make tonight’s military appreciation promotion a special occasion, particularly for offensive coordinator Christian Hughes.

Hughes’ grandfather, Master Sgt. Daniel Lee Hughes, will be on hand to conduct the coin flip for tonight’s 7:30 game against Glens Falls at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown (4-2) can remain in the mix for home-field advantage throughout the Empire Football League playoffs with a win over the Greenjackets (2-5).

“To have my grandfather out here, I figure what better way to thank him for his service to our country, and for his generation’s service to our country,” Hughes said.

The elder Hughes served 25 years in the U.S. Air Force. He flew 477 missions and is a veteran of both the Vietnam and Korean wars.

The younger Hughes was wounded in October 2009 in Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army. He is in his second season on the Red and Black coaching staff.

“He was a huge part of my recovery effort, and he was there along with my whole family, as I was recovering,” Hughes said. “We’ve both served our country in combat so we kind of have a very special bond together, a unique bond. Plus, we both share a love of the game of football.”

Hughes is one of two Red and Black coaches with a military background, the other being Dustin Demerritt. The team’s trainer, Sam Verbeck, also served in the military.

Watertown coach George Ashcraft said that the team has 25 active-duty soldiers on its roster, and three players with a wife who are currently serving.

Ashcraft said that the number of soldiers on this year’s roster is right on par with past seasons.

“It gives them a chance to step away and play a game that they enjoy,” Hughes said. “Everything we do in the military is so serious. It’s very real. And this is kind of a way to escape for us. Guys get to go out and run around on a football field and have fun. And at the end of the day as much as we want to win and as serious as we take the Red and Black, it’s still a game.”

The team will be without several starters on defense, including three of its top six tacklers. Ashcraft said that he expects to have most of the players back for next Saturday’s game at Plattsburgh.

The team closes the regular season by hosting Syracuse the following week, on Sept. 29



Sunday, July 8

Watertown Red and Black cruises to 55-point triumph

AMSTERDAM — Five different Red and Black players scored a rushing touchdown to help Watertown defeat Amsterdam, 55-0, in Saturday’s Empire Football League matchup at Lynch Middle School.

The Red and Black, which improved to 4-2 on the season, posted its first regular season shutout in more than two years. Watertown beat the Massena Silver and Black Raiders, 23-0, on July 31, 2010.

“Everybody played great on the defense,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “I couldn’t be happier with them.”

Joe Brennan broke off a 65-yard touchdown run and quarterback Brian Williams ran one in from 19 yards out in the first quarter for Watertown, which led 20-0 at the end of the first quarter and 42-0 at halftime.

Harold Taylor, Anthony Noel and Jeremy Brennan each ran in a score from inside the 10-yard line for the Red and Black.

Taylor also scored on a 60-yard punt return.

Josh Cox caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Williams, the first passing touchdown for Watertown in its last three games.

The Red and Black, which is closing in on an EFL playoff spot with three games remaining, will host the Glens Falls Greenjackets at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds in its “military appreciation night.”

The Red and Black will then travel to Plattsburgh and host Syracuse to close out the regular season.

  Red and Black gears up for season’s stretch run

Vacation time is over for the Watertown Red and Black.

The nation’s oldest semipro football team, coming off two straight bye weeks, will begin its stretch run in the Empire Football League with a 7:30 game tonight at the Amsterdam Zephyrs.

Watertown hasn’t played since Aug. 18, a game that was suspended at halftime when it was discovered that opponent Albany’s locker room had been broken into and players had money and personal belongings stolen.

So in reality, the Red and Black has played just two quarters of football in the last month. While routines could be thrown off and rust could start to set in, the team welcomed the break.

“We were able to get fresh, with a lot of guys being banged up at this point in the season; we did have practice and when we were out there we were working hard, but it was nice to not have the physical contact of a game and really let our bodies heal,” said Joe Brennan, the Red and Black’s leading rusher with 381 yards and six touchdowns through five games.

“I think it’s definitely a refresher. It’s huge going into the end of the season with four games left, being strong and being at the top of our game,” Brennan added.

The Red and Black (3-2) is in third place in the EFL standings with four games left. After tonight’s game, Watertown will host Glens Falls, travel to Plattsburgh, then close with a home game against second-place Syracuse.

If Watertown was to win out, a second-place finish would be the worst-case scenario.

“We’re in the driver’s seat, we control our destiny,” Red and Black center Jared Cook said. “If we win out, that will put us right at the top of the division.”

“It doesn’t get any easier than that. Just win, bottom line,” coach George Ashcraft said.

Amsterdam, meanwhile, isn’t thinking about playoff positioning. The Zephyrs are 0-6, have given up a league-high 235 points and scored a league-low 19. They have been shut out four times, and given up more than 50 points on two separate occasions.

Watertown beat Amsterdam, 54-0, in a preseason game on July 7 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. In their only meeting last season, the Red and Black claimed a 50-16 victory.

But the Red and Black isn’t looking at today’s game as a nice way to ease back into game action.

“If you think you got a light night, just go in light-hearted and see what happens,” Ashcraft said.

“With every team in this league, you can’t take anybody lightly,” Brennan said. “Especially going to their field, they got a home game. For us, we can’t go in there flat because there’s upsets and we don’t want any of that.”

For today and potentially next Saturday’s game, the Red and Black will be short-handed due to military training exercises taking place in California.

According to Ashcraft, the team has close to 30 active military members on the roster, about a dozen of which have already made the trip cross country. That list includes several starters on defense.

Ashcraft said that, on the positive side, it creates opportunities for other players.

“This is going to be some people’s chance to step up,” Ashcraft said. “If they’ve been looking for their opportunity to show what they can do, you’re being showcased. Go knock your socks off because right now is your chance.”

  

Red & Black game suspended after Albany locker room is intruded

The Watertown Red and Black’s game against the Albany Metro Mallers was suspended at halftime on Saturday night after Albany’s team locker room was allegedly broken into and money, electronic devices and personal belongings were stolen.

A night during which Watertown Red and Black alumni were honored was interrupted after Albany players at halftime found money, iPads, cellphones and other possessions missing when they entered their locker room at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“It was kind of a rough game in the first half,” said Albany running back D.J. Jones, “and we got back to our locker room at halftime and everybody’s bags were open and items were missing. Cell phones were gone as well as money. This is crazy.”

“Money, iPads, all kinds of phones,” said Albany coach Tom Manny, “anything of value you can think of was taken from the entire team, including me, I’m a victim, too.”

The Albany team, which led 13-7 at halftime, did not return to the field, and Albany and Watertown coaches and game officials gathered on the field with Watertown police on the scene.

“I discussed it with a number of the players and that’s why the game is done,” Manny said. “There’s no way we could finish this game, unfortunately.”

Later, officials from both teams agreed that instead of declaring a forfeit by Albany — which would have awarded Watertown a victory — they decided to suspend the game and will defer to the Empire Football League for a ruling to possibly resume the game after halftime.

“The league will have to look at this,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “I don’t know about the logistics as far as this goes, but there was no way we could continue this game — it was a terrible thing that happened.”

A Watertown police officer declined comment about the incident.

A similar incident occurred to Watertown’s 1993 team, as several Red and Black players’ wallets were stolen after the team bus was broken into during a game at Plattsburgh.

After a scoreless opening quarter on Saturday, the Metro Mallers scored two touchdowns with a span of 1 minute, 35 seconds in the second quarter.

Wide receiver Domo Henderson hauled in a 35-yard scoring strike from quarterback C.J. Tarver with 9:51 remaining until halftime. Four plays later, Albany blocked a Watertown punt and Jai Echols returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown and led 13-0 as the point-after-touchdown kick was blocked by Watertown.

On its next possession, the Red and Black engineered a scoring drive of 66 yards in six plays, capped by halfback Joe Brennan’s seven-yard scoring run with 5:16 left.

Both teams expect league officials will make a ruling on Saturday’s game over whether the suspended contest will be resumed in the coming weeks.

The Red and Black (3-2) now have two weeks off with a bye next week and the entire league is idle over the Labor Day weekend. Albany hosts Amsterdam next Saturday.

“Now it’s like we have three weeks off,” Ashcraft said. “I feel for those guys (Albany), what happened is just wrong.”

Red & Black plays host to Metro Mallers tonight

After an up-and-down first half of the season, the Red and Black has a chance to enter a two-week break with a share of first place in the Empire Football League.

Watertown (3-2) would move into a three-way tie for first with a win in tonight’s 7:30 game against defending champion Albany (3-1) at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, and a Monroe County victory over Syracuse.

The Shock, the Sting, and the Red and Black would all have identical 4-2 records.

“We need to win a game, we need to win this game, that’s the bottom line,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “I think the attitude’s good, it’s that halfway point of the season where you’re pushing toward the end of August. It’s already been a long year, but we don’t have another game for three weeks, so guys got to put it together for this one and then we’ll move forward, and play again on the 8th of September.”

Watertown has a bye next Saturday, and the entire league is idle for the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 1.

The break comes at a good time for the Red and Black, which is coming off a tough 20-14 home loss to Monroe County last Saturday — its first game without former offensive coordinator Ammbrose Souza.

Watertown ran the ball well, as it has all season, but again struggled in the passing game.

The team completed just two passes for three yards, compared to gaining 230 yards on the ground.

Through its first five games, Watertown has completed just eight passes to its wide receivers for a total of 58 yards.

The rushing attack, led by a halfback rotation of Joe Brennan and Harold Taylor, along with quarterback Brian Williams, has provided 942 of the team’s 1,220 total yards of offense and nine of its 12 touchdowns.

“The ground game is definitely our strongest suit, it has been, it still is,” Ashcraft said. “If we throw the ball, we throw it. It’s part of our offense, if it’s what we’re deemed to do, we’ll do it. We’ll go with what’s working and go from there.”

The team will also be without its kicker, Zach Grulich, who left the team for undisclosed reasons. Grulich connected on six field goals in the first four games of the season, and was the team’s leading scorer before last Saturday.

Nick Farah handled the kicking duties against Monroe County, while Williams filled in as the punter.

Albany, which swept Watertown in a pair of regular season games last year, is coming off its best offensive performance of the season, a 42-28 win over Plattsburgh.

The Metro Mallers are led by C.J. Tarver — an athletic, scrambling quarterback with a strong arm. He has thrown nine touchdown passes in four games, and ran for two more.

“It’s pretty hard to tackle him if he gets going, he’s like a ghost out there at different times,” Ashcraft said. “If we can put pressure on him and get to him, I think we’ll be fine.”

? Tonight’s game will feature an “alumni celebration,” at halftime.

Former Red and Black players Al Countryman and Pat Killorin will be honored with commemorative jerseys, and any other former players that attend the game will be announced onto the field.

Countryman played for 13 seasons until retiring as the team’s all-time leading rusher, despite playing halfback for only four seasons.

Killorin played for five years on the defensive line, and was a player/coach for his first three seasons.

Monroe County edges Watertown Red & Black, 20-14

The Red and Black simply didn’t have another comeback in them.

Down by six points with just under two minutes to play, Watertown took possession at the Monroe County 25-yard line. But after a short run and three incomplete passes, all three of which saw a receiver get a hand on the ball, the Sting escaped with a 20-14 victory over the Red and Black Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“This game was anybody’s game to definitely have and we fell short is all, six points short,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said.

“We were two, three plays away on either side of the ball, the game could go a different way,” quarterback Brian Williams added. “We had our hands on the ball in the end zone a couple times at the end of the game, just didn’t come down with it. But that’s football, that’s how it works. We just come back next week and continue to work hard and look forward to next Saturday.”

The Red and Black (3-2) dropped out of a first-place tie in the Empire Football League standings with Syracuse (4-1), which earned a 21-13 win over Vermont on Saturday.

Watertown is now in a tie for third place with Monroe County (3-2). Both teams are a half-game back of Albany (3-1).

With the Red and Black behind 20-7 with just over six minutes to play, Williams turned the first play of the drive into a 50-yard run. He then scored from 10 yards out on the following play to put Watertown within six points with just over five minutes left.

But Watertown couldn’t complete the comeback over Monroe County, as it did in the season opener by scoring three touchdowns in the final 11 minutes.

“This game, we just wanted to play good defense and run the ball to control the clock,” said Monroe County running back Jamel Dennis, who gained 156 yards on 23 carries.

“We stuck together,” Dennis added. “It looked like the last game, but we’ve grown as a team, and we buckled down at the end when we had to.”

The loss was a tough end to a tough week for the Red and Black, which saw offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Ammbrose Souza part ways with the team.

“This team has been through a lot in the past week, and for us to come together tonight the way we did and perform the way we did, I’m real proud of everybody on both sides of the ball,” said Red and Black linebacker Matt Kepler, who registered a team-high 16 tackles and a sack. “Now, we need to get to practice and hit a little harder this week.”

“We’ve had our own things that we’ve been dealing with internally, and we’re missing a coach, we’re missing an offensive coach at that,” Williams added. “For what has happened this past week, I’m very proud of all the guys that came out on this field and gave 60 minutes worth of football because that’s all you can ever ask.”

Williams finished with a team-high 102 yards rushing and a touchdown on eight carries.

Joe Brennan added 78 yards on 10 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run to put the Red and Black on the board early in the second quarter.

Harold Taylor provided 55 yards on eight attempts.

Sting quarterback Doby Howard completed 10-of-20 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Derrek Davis was Howard’s favorite target, finishing with 122 yards on four catches. The two connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass on Monroe County’s opening drive.

The Red and Black has a chance to quickly regain ground in the EFL standings this Saturday by hosting the defending champion, second-place Albany, at 7:30 p.m. at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The game will be “Alumni night,” and will be highlighted by former Red and Black greats Al Countryman and Pat Killorin receiving commemorative jerseys. Both players have already had their numbers retired.

 Red & Black victorious in home opener, 23-13

Joe Brennan’s grandmother asked him for just one present for her 68th birthday today, a touchdown in the Red and Black’s home opener.

After carrying the ball just three times for nine yards and losing a fumble in the first half, Brennan gained 45 yards on six carries on the opening drive of the third quarter, capping it off with an 11-yard touchdown run to deliver his grandma’s present, and help Watertown beat Vermont, 23-13, on a steamy Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“It was a definite confidence booster, because all game, I felt like I couldn’t get it going,” said Brennan, who finished with 18 carries for 86 yards. “And that series, I was able to follow my line, and they did a great job, they really did. It was a great feeling scoring, especially at the moment in the game, and it was a great push to get us going in the second half.”

The win puts the Red and Black (3-1) in a tie for first place in the Empire Football League with Syracuse, which earned a 32-26 win over Albany on Saturday.

Vermont (2-2) dropped into a tie for fourth-place with three other teams.

The entire Watertown rushing attack, not just Brennan, looked like a different unit in the second half. The team ran for 192 yards on 29 carries after halftime, compared to just 21 yards on 10 carries in the first two quarters.

“In the locker room, we straightened a lot of things up,” Watertown center Jared Cook said. “And we came out fired up. We were challenged, and we answered the challenge, and I think we answered it pretty well. The second half shows it.”

The Ice Storm scored with just over eight minutes left to cut the Red and Black lead to 20-13, when quarterback Tim Kynoch threw a 44-yard touchdown to Stephan Paul. The duo connected on a pair of long pass plays on the series, which saw Vermont drive 88 yards in less than three minutes.

“It was just falling into place, and that really got our momentum going,” said Kynoch, who completed 10-of-33 passes for 209 yards. “Unfortunately, we weren’t really able to keep that momentum on series to come. It just wasn’t really connecting tonight.”

Alex Tibbles led the Red and Black defensive effort with 13 tackles, including a pair of crucial third-down stops and several tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Matt Kepler added 10 tackles.

Harold Taylor provided 83 yards rushing and seven carries for Watertown, including a 63-yard scamper to open a second-half drive from the team’s own three-yard line.

Veteran Anthony Noel, making his season debut, added 24 yards on seven carries and a touchdown, all in the second half.

“We got this new rotation with our backfield, and it seems to be affective,” Brennan said. “I think it was just the flow of the game. We got some momentum going in the second half, and I think that was really the difference, we just started moving.”

Josh Cox and Dwohn Lucky each blocked a punt for Watertown.

Zach Grulich, the Red and Black’s bare-footed kicker, connected on three field goals, the last of which put his team up by 10 with under two minutes to play.

The Red and Black will host Monroe County, whom it beat 24-20 in last month’s season opener, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fairgrounds.

Red & Black plays home opener tonight against Ice Storm

The Vermont Ice Storm is an opponent that evokes plenty of memories from Red and Black players and coaches.

Both good and bad.

Watertown will play Vermont for the first time since 2010 in its home opener at 7:30 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Both teams enter with a 2-1 record, and are in an early three-way tie with Syracuse for second place in the Empire Football League standings.

“I’m looking forward to playing Vermont again,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “They’re always competitive. They’re a well-coached team, and their system has always been good.”

The Ice Storm has returned to the league after a self-imposed one-year hiatus due to a low number of players.

The team debuted in 2001 in Colchester, Vt., and personally requested the Red and Black, in existence since 1896, as its first opponent.

Ashcraft recalls his team winning that game, 56-6, but said the Ice Storm had its moment.

“They scored with about 30 seconds left, and you would think they won the Super Bowl, just because they scored on us,” Ashcraft said. “They were just the happiest bunch of guys, and they were a bunch of good guys too. It was nice to see.”

The rivalry took off from there, and hit its first major point in the 2007 EFL title game.

Vermont won that game, 9-8, after putting together a 14-play, 65-yard drive to score the winning touchdown with four seconds left.

Ashcraft, as if it happened yesterday, talked of a long pass play from that drive on fourth down in which the Ice Storm receiver ran out of bounds for about 15 yards before stepping back onto the field and making the reception for a first down.

“They got that first down, and two plays later they scored,” Ashcraft said. “They should never have got that. It was fourth down, we should’ve got the ball back, we could’ve just knelt on the ball and we would’ve won the championship.”

For veteran quarterback Brian Williams, it was a pair of blowout losses to Vermont from the following season that stuck out in his mind.

He believes those losses sparked a fire under the Red and Black, and helped set the team up for its 2009 championship season — its first title in 29 years.

“We played them twice in 2008, and they really handed it to us twice,” Williams said. “So, those three games between 2007 and 2008 have really created a little bit of a rivalry between us. And every time we step on the field, both teams, they really give it their all.”

Defensive end Ben Call, coming off a five-tackle game at Montreal last week, discussed growing up in the area as a Red and Black fan, and said that Vermont was always a game he would circle on the calendar.

“When I was growing up, that was always what we’d do, at least make it to the Vermont game because it was always a good game and we always played them hard,” said Call, a General Brown product. “I’m definitely excited to play them.”

History aside, tonight’s game will see one team drop to .500 with a loss, and the other remaining near the top of the EFL standings in the early portion of the season. Albany (2-0) sits atop the league.

“Vermont coming in 2-1, same record as we have, this is a very important game,” Williams said. “Vermont’s been out of the league for a year, but they’re still the same Vermont team that’s ever been in the EFL. They’re going to come, they’re going to play 60 minutes, they’re going to play hard. All we have to do is be prepared and match their intensity.”

Red & Black scores late to edge Voyageurs, 19-18

MONTREAL — Red and Black running back Harold Taylor ran in a two-yard touchdown with one minute, 34 seconds to play to lift Watertown to a 19-18 Empire Football League victory over the Montreal Voyageurs on Saturday night at John Abbott College.

The Red and Black, which improved to 2-1 on the season, trailed 10-0 after the first quarter, 16-10 at halftime and 16-13 entering the fourth.

Each of Watertown’s two victories have been in come-from-behind fashion.

The Red & Black scored three unanswered touchdowns in the last 11 minutes to beat Monroe County, 24-20, in its season opener on July 14.

Quarterback Shane Slate, starting in place of Brian Williams who was unable to make the game, completed 11 passes, including a touchdown toss to Tremayne Evans in the second quarter.

Alex Tibbles led the defense with 11 tackles and a pair of sacks. Matt Kepler added eight tackles, while Ben Call and Alex Rodriguez provided seven tackles apiece.

Taylor finished with 55 yards on 14 carries, and Joe Brennan carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards.

Zach Grulich, the Red and Black’s bare-footed kicker, connected on field goals of 22 and 38 yards.

Montreal dropped to 1-2 with the loss.

Watertown will host the Vermont Ice Storm in its home opener at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds in the first of three straight home games.

The Red and Black will host Monroe County on Aug. 11 and Albany on Aug. 18.

 Canadian Thunder’ makes noise for Red and Black

You don’t have to be from Watertown to appreciate the tradition of the nation’s oldest semipro football team, the Red and Black.

You don’t even have to be from the United States.

Watertown’s defense has been helped by a group of five Canadian players this year, who have collectively dubbed themselves “Canadian Thunder.”

“They’ve always played hard. We like their organization and the tradition that they have down here,” said the outspoken member of the bunch, Amir Farhat. “So we make the two-hour drive to come down and be a part of this tradition.”

The group, which consists of defensive linemen Farhat and Shawn Bradley, defensive backs Filippo Flocco and Nick Farah, along with Peter Kassotis, travel more than two hours from Ottawa every Tuesday and Thursday for practice, paying for their own gas on every trip.

They often travel farther for away games on Saturdays, with the lone exception being tonight’s 7:30 matchup at the Montreal Voyageurs. Each team will enter with a 1-1 record.

“Watertown has a lot of history and tradition,” added Flocco, who ranks third on the team with 11 tackles. “We like their football culture, and that’s why we came, and it’s a really good team too.”

The group has been together for more than 10 years, some even dating back to youth football more than 20 years ago.

They have spent the last eight years in the Empire Football League, playing for former league members, the Ottawa Demon Deacons and the Massena Silver and Black Raiders.

“People play football to put on a jersey, we play football to keep this brotherhood going,” Farhat said. “What this has done has made us friends on and off the field, too.”

“And we play to go for a championship,” added Bradley, noting that the group has yet to win an EFL title together.

The quintet first encountered the Red and Black as EFL rivals, and as a unit, decided to join the team after playing for head coach George Ashcraft and company in the 2010 Harvest Bowl, part of a postseason tournament that involves semipro teams throughout the Northeast.

“They play hard, they let their presence be known,” Ashcraft said. “If you’re standing around and not paying attention, you’re going to wish you didn’t. That’s how they all play.”

The reasoning behind their commitment to make the long drive two or three times a week has even been questioned by agents at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The group said that it has been held up trying to cross the border on a couple of occasions, most recently just a few weeks ago.

“Somebody there was making some accusations about them getting paid or something foolish,” Ashcraft said. “Because they couldn’t believe that they would drive down here to play on a semipro team. But that’s what they do.”

As for the “Canadian Thunder,” nickname, the group’s explanation was simple.

“We’re Canadian. And we bring the thunder on the field,” Flocco said.

Farhat has a marketing idea for the moniker that could resolve the gas money issue, if it ever actually comes to fruition.

“We’re going to get shirts made up and all proceeds go to our gas,” he joked.

 Gordon’s 4 TDs help Shock down Red & Black

FULTON — Dewayne Gordon scored four touchdowns, including an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play of the game, as the Syracuse Shock defeated the Watertown Red and Black, 38-21, in an Empire Football League game at Fulton High School on Saturday.

Syracuse (1-1) raced out to a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, and the Shock (1-1) eventually built a 26-7 halftime lead.

“We gave up some big plays and got in a hole early,” Watertown Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said.

Quarterback Brian Williams tossed touchdown passes of 35 and 21 yards to Jarrun Hilaire for Watertown (1-1).

Running back Joe Brennan scored on an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for Watertown’s other score.

The Red and Black will travel to Montreal on Saturday to face the Voyageurs at John Abbott College.

Red & Black looks to stun the Shock

It’s a different year and a different team.

That’s the consensus among the Watertown Red and Black players and coaches, and they plan to continue proving that with tonight’s game against the Syracuse Shock at 7 at Fulton High School.

Last year, the Shock handed the Red and Black a 55-0 defeat at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, one of the semipro football team’s worst home losses in its 116-year history.

Syracuse then beat Watertown, 27-6, to end its season in the semifinals of the Empire Football League playoffs.

“You got to move on, and I think this is a different team this year,” said Jared Cook, the veteran center and one of the team captains. “We have a good outlook on how we’re going to be prepared, and I have all the faith in the world that we can come out with a win.”

Last year’s Red and Black squad lost its first four on-field games, and didn’t earn its first victory until Aug. 20.

Watertown claimed its first win in its season opener, scoring 21 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes to beat Monroe County, 24-20, last Saturday.

The Red and Black’s 24 points scored is more than it had through those first four games last season.

Running back Joe Brennan and quarterback Brian Williams combined for 185 rushing yards last week, a total they reached just twice last year, in a pair of September games against two of the league’s bottom three teams.

Watertown turned the ball over once last Saturday, but in the 2011 season, it had five turnovers in each of its first three games and 19 total through four games.

“Last year is last year, it’s an entirely different team this year,” said Brennan, who ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns last Saturday. “I think this year, there’s a lot more heart, a lot more commitment, and I think overall, it’s just a completely different team than last season.”

The Shock, which lost its season opener to Monroe County on July 7, has many of its key weapons back from a year ago.

Justyn Hardwick is back, though he did not play two weeks ago. Hardwick ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in last year’s regular-season victory over the Red and Black.

DeWayne Gordon led the Shock’s rushing attack in the season opener with 130 yards and a score on 19 carries. He returned a 55-yard interception for a touchdown last year against Watertown.

“I think this year, the way this team looks so far, hopefully we can flip the script and put a bunch of points up on them and keep them down,” linebacker Matt Kepler said. “I’m just really looking to get back at them for trying to embarrass us last year.”

One new addition to the Shock is quarterback T.J. Sheard, who completed 13 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns on July 7.

“Syracuse is a very strong team again, they’re good,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “We’re just going to have play them like we played Monroe (last week), don’t quit and keep on playing the game.”

Red and Black rallies to win opener

SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2012

ROCHESTER — The Watertown Red and Black scored three unanswered touchdowns in the final 11 minutes to gain a 24-20 victory over the Monroe County Sting in its Empire Football League regular season opener Saturday at Thomas Edison High School.

Beaver River product Evan Buckingham set up the game-winning score with a 52-yard punt return for the Red and Black. Harold Taylor ended up running it in from five yards out, giving Watertown a four-point lead with just over three minutes to play.

Joe Brennan sparked the scoring surge with a 35-yard touchdown run that cut Monroe County’s lead to 20-10 with 11 minutes left. Brennan added a three-yard scoring run, and finished with 97 yards on 21 carries. Quarterback Brian Williams added 88 yards on 17 carries.

Linebacker Matt Kepler intercepted a pass with 35 seconds remaining to seal the win. He also recovered a fumble and finished with six tackles.

“This is one of the biggest wins we could ask for,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “To come into another team’s house, a team as good as Monroe County is, that’s the best way you could start a season.”

Ryann Reyes finished with a team-high 10 tackles, and Alex Tibbles contributed seven tackles and a sack.

The Red and Black will play the Syracuse Shock, the team that beat them in the semifinals of the EFL playoffs last season, at 7 p.m. Saturday in Fulton.

Coaching staff grows for Red & Black

THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2012

Paris returns 2 interceptions for touchdowns in R&B’s preseason win

It took until Aug. 20 for the Watertown Red and Black to earn its first on-field victory last year.This year’s edition of the nation’s oldest semipro football team ensured there would be no repeat of that Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Red and Black offense scored touchdowns on six of its eight possessions, and Adrian Paris returned two interceptions for scores to lead Watertown to a 54-0 trouncing of Empire Football League foe Amsterdam in its final preseason game.

Watertown opens the regular season on Saturday with a game at the Monroe County Sting.

“We can enjoy this one tonight, and tomorrow, we’re 0-0, we didn’t do anything,” said Watertown quarterback Brian Williams, who ran for 62 yards and two touchdowns on five carries, adding 133 yards and a score through the air. “You got to go forward, you got to continue to work hard on Tuesday and Thursday to be ready for next Saturday. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Watertown, running a no-huddle offense throughout the first half, led 40-0 at halftime.

After punting on its second possession of the game, the Red and Black scored on every drive until it ran out the clock on its final possession.

“Everything that (offensive coordinator) Ammbrose Souza and the coaching staff have been working on since the winter months, the dividends are going to be well worth the time put into it,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “It showed tonight.”

The Red and Black didn’t play a preseason game last year, which helped contribute to a four-game losing streak to start the season. In addition to Saturday’s win, Watertown played the South Buffalo Celtics on June 23, losing 33-5.

“This team is a lot different than last year’s team,” said Red and Black running back Joe Brennan, who ran for 55 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, all in the first half. “We have more talent, we’re more disciplined. I think we’re really going to be able to show some good things this season.”

The Red and Black defense, led by linebacker Matt Kepler’s 12 tackles and Paris’ two scores, earned its first shutout in almost two years.

It held the Amsterdam offense to 44 yards on 19 plays in the first half, and that included a 45-yard completion from quarterback Chris Brooks to Tito Lopez.

In the second half, all three Zephyrs possessions ended with an interception. They finished with five turnovers in all and gave up six sacks.

“It’s a real big thing for me, I’m proud. (I) can’t do it without the whole defense working together though,” the veteran Paris said of his first multi-touchdown game at the Fairgrounds.

Amsterdam assistant Jim Lomonto, filling in for head coach Joe Hall, said the Zephyrs saw their first game action of the year. They will open the season Saturday with a home game against defending EFL champion Albany.

Harold Taylor ran in a pair of touchdowns for the Red and Black, and George Ferguson caught a 61-yard score from Williams.

In the second quarter, Watertown receiver Lucas Meyer took screen passes on back-to-back plays for a combined 45 yards to set up a 3-yard scoring plunge by Taylor.   

Red & Black to host Amsterdam on Saturday

The Watertown Red and Black will host the Amsterdam Zephyrs, an Empire Football League foe, in its final preseason game at 7:30 Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown defeated Amsterdam, 50-16, in the only regular-season meeting between the two clubs last season.

The Red and Black is 0-1 this preseason after suffering a 33-5 loss to the South Buffalo Celtics on June 23 at the Fairgrounds. Watertown opens the regular season with a game at the Monroe County Sting on July 14.

  Red and Black hosts South Buffalo in Saturday exhibition

Red & Black opens preseason schedule Saturday

The Watertown Red and Black semipro football team will play the South Buffalo Celtics in the first of two preseason games at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown finished 6-6 last season, winning five of its last seven games before falling to Syracuse in the semifinals of the Empire Football League playoffs.

The team will host Amsterdam on July 7 in its second exhibition game, and will open the regular season at Monroe County on July 14.



steveweed
Tuesday, January 31

Saturday, October 8

 Red & Black loses to Shock in semifinals
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2011
SYRACUSE — The Watertown Red and Black’s resurgent season ended a game short of the championship on Saturday night, as the semipro football team lost 27-6 to the Syracuse Shock in the semifinals of the Empire Football League playoffs at Henninger high school.

Syracuse (11-0) will host second-seeded Albany, which defeated Plattsburgh on Saturday, in the EFL championship game this Saturday night at Henninger high school.

Watertown trailed 14-0 at halftime, and 21-0 at the end of the third quarter.

The Red and Black (6-6) lost for just the second time in over two months.

Watertown ended the year winning five of its last seven games, after dropping its first four to start the season.

“We had a great second half of the season,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.

“Starting 0-4 in on-field games and getting to the second round of the playoffs, I’m proud of these guys,” Ashcraft added.

Syracuse had posted a 55-0 regular-season victory over Watertown in the Red & Black’s home opener on Aug. 6.

Watertown finished the year third in the league in scoring with 228 points, trailing Syracuse and Albany, after posting just 20 points to go with 19 turnovers in its first four games of the season.

Watertown and Plattsburgh were denied a chance to face off in the title game for the third straight year.

The Red & Black lost last season’s championship game.

Red & Black faces top-seeded Shock in semifinals

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2011

The Syracuse Shock semipro football team has an undefeated record, the Empire Football League’s highest-scoring offense, stingiest defense, and a 55-0 victory over the Watertown Red and Black this season.

But to the Red and Black, the Shock is just a football team, that happens to be standing in the way of a chance to play for the EFL championship.

“They don’t have better athletes, they don’t have tougher men,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “They’re just people. They put their pants on the same way we do. They were very blessed to win out here 55-0 the first week of August. Let’s see what happens (tonight).”

Tonight’s EFL semifinal matchup between the No. 5 Red and Black (6-5) and No. 1 Shock (10-0) at Henninger high school at 7 will be the first meeting between the two teams since Watertown was decisively beaten in its home opener on Aug. 6.

 

The Red and Black offense committed five turnovers in that game, and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Watertown’s defense gave up more than 250 yards on the ground, including 207 to Syracuse running back Justyn Hardwick, and more than 160 through the air.

“I know our defense is ready for round two after what they did to us last time, and kind of tried to humiliate us,” said linebacker Matt Kepler, who has a team-high 57 tackles this season. “We want to go out there and hit them hard, and want to go on to the championship game. I think we’re ready this time. They’re not going to put up 55 on us again, that’s for sure.”

Though that was one of the worst home losses in the Red and Black’s 115-year history, the team recovered to win five of its last six games. Since its first on-field victory of the season against Montreal on Aug. 20, The Red and Black’s 222 points scored is the most in the league.

“Right now, we’re playing good football,” said running back Joe Brennan, who ran for 121 yards and the game-sealing touchdown in last week’s 21-16 first-round playoff victory at Glens Falls. “We’re confident, we’re an entirely different team than we were the first time we met up. I feel like, with confidence, we can do anything, and I think we’re just the team to knock them out.”

The winner will advance to next Saturday’s EFL title game to play the winner of tonight’s other semifinal matchup between No. 3 Plattsburgh and No. 2 Albany.

A victory would put the Red and Black in the EFL championship game for the third straight season, and the fifth time in the last six years.

“We have as good a chance as anybody, we’re still playing,” Ashcraft said. “These guys believe they can do it too. This ain’t a shot of craps, and hope you come out with the best dice. These guys believe they can win and that’s what’s important. So we’ll have to wait and see now, it’s going to be a great game.”

Red & Black prevails, tops Green Jackets

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2011
GLENS FALLS — The wheels fell off the Red and Black’s charter bus on its way to Glens Falls Saturday night, but the semipro football team was able to stay the course, and safely escaped East Field with a 21-16 victory in the first round of the Empire Football League playoffs.

Watertown improved to 6-5 overall, the first time the team has been above .500 all season, and will play at top-seeded Syracuse in Saturday’s semifinals.

Running back Joe Brennan ran for 121 yards on 18 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run that put the Red and Black up 21-10 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Glens Falls (6-5) answered on the ensuing possession, as Ricky McVay threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Tom Hammond with less than three minutes remaining.

 

The Greenjackets then tried an onside kick, but touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards. The Red and Black took over possession and ran the clock out to earn the victory.

Dan Robl blocked a punt with just over a minute left in the first half, and Ian Clark scooped it up and took it to the end zone, giving the Red and Black a 14-10 lead at halftime.

Watertown fell behind 10-0 early in the first quarter.

Quarterback Brian Williams threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Paul Owens in the first quarter, and Watertown never trailed after taking the lead on Clark’s blocked punt return.

The kickoff was delayed 40 minutes because of two wheels rolling off of Watertown’s charter bus on the ride down, somewhere between Lowville and Turin on Route 12.

Red and Black coach George Ashcraft went back to Watertown with one of his players, and after being unable to secure another charter, returned to the scene almost two hours later with a school bus.

Players passed the time by searching through nearby fields for the two tires, both of which Ashcraft said were found, and snapping pictures of the bus and its missing wheels. No one was injured in the ordeal.

The Red and Black will travel, hopefully in a safe fashion, to Sunnycrest Park in Syracuse for a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the Shock on Saturday.

Watertown lost its home opener to Syracuse, 55-0, on Aug. 6 in the only meeting between the two teams this year.

Syracuse is 10-0, and has the scored the most points in the league, 348, while giving up the fewest points 69.

Red and Black confident entering postseason

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2011

The Watertown Red and Black left Glens Falls after a 21-7 loss on Aug. 13 as a 1-4 team that had nearly as many turnovers, 19, as points, 20.

When the semipro football team returns to Glens Falls at 7:30 tonight for an Empire Football League first-round playoff matchup with the Greenjackets, it will do so as winner of four of its last five games, averaging over 40 points per contest in that span.

“We weren’t supposed to be in the playoffs,” said Red and Black coach George Ashcraft. “People wrote us off after the fifth week of the season when we were 1-4. They shouldn’t have.”

The fifth-seeded Red and Black (5-5) has reached the EFL title game in each of the last two seasons, and four of the last five years. And though it looked next to impossible to get that far just six weeks ago, Watertown quarterback Brian Williams said that this year’s team is just as capable of pulling it off.

 

“The opportunity to seize our moment has happened later on in our season (this year),” Williams said. “So it’s only different in that respect, but whether it’s this year or last year, when playoffs start we still feel like we have the opportunity to win a title, just like we felt in years prior.”

Following the loss to the Greenjackets, The Red and Black went on the road to get its first on-field victory of the season over Montreal, and then posted three blowout wins at home before dropping its regular season finale to Albany, 20-15, a team they lost to by 23 points earlier in the year.

“I think it’s a true testament to what we’ve done the last month, the hard work that the players have put in,” offensive coordinator Ammbrose Souza said. “As long as we continue to keep pressing and do what we’ve been doing, I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can hang.”

“I think that if we can go into this game with the attitude we’ve had for the last month and a half, we’re going to be fine,” Ashcraft said.

Since defeating Watertown, Glens Falls (6-4) has lost to Syracuse, 44-10, and Plattsburgh, 31-13. The Greenjackets were credited with two forfeit wins over Vermont to lock up the fourth seed, but don’t have an on-field victory in the league since beating the Red and Black almost two months ago.

“It’s a team that we feel, if we execute our game plan, we definitely have an opportunity to beat,” Williams said. “Whether it’s home or away.”

The winner will play at top-seeded Syracuse (10-0), which earned a first-round bye, in next Saturday’s semifinals.

“This is a three-week season now,” Ashcraft said. “Our goal is to play at least three games, that’s our goal. If you lose, you’re a spectator for the rest of the year, and we don’t want to be spectators.”



 joe joe joe

Metro Mallers edge Red & Black, 20-15

REGULAR-SEASON FINALE: Watertown falls to Albany; will likely be seeded 5th for postseason

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2011

After starting the season 1-4, with its only victory a forfeit, no one would have expected the Watertown Red and Black to have the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to beat second-place Albany in the regular-season finale.

But that’s what happened Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. And though the Red and Black couldn’t convert on a 4th-and-goal play with two minutes to go, and suffered a 20-15 loss to the Metro Mallers, the message was sent.

The Red and Black is ready for the Empire Football League playoffs.

“Tonight was proof in the pudding that we should be on the field with any team in this league,” Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams said. “The fact that we were able to move the ball downfield in that last drive, and give ourselves a chance to win, just shows how far we’ve come as a team from the first game of the year. I got a lot of respect for the men on this team.”

On 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line, with Albany up 20-13 just after the two-minute warning, Williams threw in the direction of Anthony Noel in the end zone. Joe Brennan was also in the area, and as both receivers tried to make a play, the ball fell to the grass, and Albany took over on downs.

“That’s a touchdown,” Williams said. “We happened to have two receivers that weren’t necessarily supposed to be right in the same spot, happened to be in the same spot, the ball was going to Anthony Noel, he was wide open. Joe Brennan ended up tipping it because he thought it was for him, so why wouldn’t you go for it?”

The Metro Mallers were eventually forced to punt with four seconds left. Noel called for a fair catch to set Watertown up for one more play at its own 40-yard line. Williams threw it as deep as he could, but Albany’s C.J. Tarver intercepted the pass to end the game.

“We just tried to keep everything in front of us,” Tarver said. “Send a little pressure, make the guy throw, come up get a tackle, and go home.”

“We were there, we were that close,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “The playoffs start in two weeks and we’ll see what happens. We’re as good as any team in this league right now.”

The Red and Black (5-5) is likely looking at the No. 5 seed, and a trip to Glens Falls in the first round of the EFL playoffs on Oct. 8. Ashcraft said that the team won’t know anything for sure until after the league meeting next Sunday.

Dan Robl hit Albany quarterback Chris Corker as he dropped back to pass inside his own 20-yard line late in the third quarter, forcing a fumble. Rob Hughes scooped it up and was stopped at the goal-line. Anthony Noel punched it in a few plays later to cut the Metro Mallers’ lead to 20-13.

“You kind of knew with the situation and where they were at, that they were definitely going to go back for the pass,” Robl said. “It was just a matter of getting there. It just worked out that it landed right in Hughes’s hand, I thought we had the touchdown, but I guess they thought we were an inch short.”

Tarver did a little bit of everything to help Albany (8-1) clinch the second seed in the EFL playoffs. Tarver took a screen pass 38 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give Albany its first lead at 13-7. He also threw an 11-yard touchdown, and finished with 56 yards receiving, 37 rushing, and 36 passing.

“Any time he gets his hand on the ball he’s a threat,” Brown said. “We try to get him as many touches as possible, as a receiver, running back, quarterback. Defenses have to respect him.”

The Red and Black scored on its opening drive, when Dustin Demerritt punched it in from the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal.

Albany tried to respond in its first possession, but Dominic Frost made a nice leaping play to stuff Sylvester Cooperwood as he tried to dive over the pile to score on 4th-and-1.

Frost later injured his leg, had to be helped off the field, and was using crutches on the sideline for the remainder of the game.

“We’re about to go get some X-rays and see what’s going on,” Frost said. “But if ain’t nothing broke and it’s just a sprain, I’ll be ready for the playoffs baby. Believe that.”

Red and Black ready to show improvement in season finale

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2011

 

During their recent four-game win streak, Watertown Red and Black players and coaches have insisted that they are not the same team that dropped the season-opener at Albany, and went on to lose the next three games.

In tonight’s 7:30 regular-season finale at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, the Red and Black has a chance to show the Empire Football League just how much it has improved, and avenge its season-opening loss to the Metro Mallers in the process.

“We’re very disappointed with the way this season began, and it all started with Albany,” said Watertown defensive back Todd Kiechle. “I know a lot of the veterans, we kind of looked back at that game, looked us up in the mirror, and (said) ‘that’s not how we play football around here.’”

In that 30-7 loss on July 30, Watertown (5-4) turned the ball over twice in the red zone, and five times overall. Donald Murdock picked off two passes for Albany (7-1), one of which he returned for a touchdown.

 

“I think that the whole game (tonight), for us, is going to revolve around not turning the ball over,” said Red and Black coach George Ashcraft, who has emphasized ball control all season. “We turned the ball over five times in Albany, and every time was crucial.”

“Hopefully we play mistake free,” said 44-year-old wide receiver Earnie Wash, who will play the final home game of his Red and Black career tonight. “The first meeting we had a lot of mistakes. They moved the ball up and down the field, but we had a lot of mistakes. We’ve had a lot of time to gel, too, since that first game.”

In the three games that followed, all losses, Watertown was outscored 86-13, and turned the ball over 14 times.

In its last four games, all victories, the Red and Black has outscored its opponents 186-36, and committed just two turnovers.

“Some of the veterans, we just knew if we kept working, and working, and working, that it would eventually come to us,” Kiechle said. “We weren’t going to give up until our chances run out.”

Albany, meanwhile, hasn’t had a whole lot of struggles to work through.

Other than its one-point loss to Syracuse earlier this month, Albany has cruised through its first season in the EFL since 2006. The smallest margin of victory for the Metro Mallers was a nine-point win over the league’s defending champion, Plattsburgh, in their first game of the season.

Albany has two dangerous running backs and one of the league’s best passing games, highlighted by a productive trio at quarterback.

C.J. Tarver has tallied 430 yards and seven touchdowns on just 31 carriers, and Sylvester Cooperwood has amassed 335 yards to go with four touchdowns.

Scott Lawson has the highest passer rating of the quarterbacks group, completing 17 of 34 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns this season. Manny Issac has seen the most work of the trio, throwing for 353 yards and two scores, while converting on 20 of 48 pass attempts. Chris Corker has gone 18-for-39 for 292 yards and one touchdown.

Watertown is essentially locked in as the No. 5 seed for the Empire Football League playoffs, though nothing is official until a league meeting on Oct. 2.

But the Red and Black, as running back Anthony Noel said, still has plenty to play for tonight.

“We want to win every game we play, but this would definitely show that we’re progressing,” Noel said. “We just want to come out and win.”

 

R & B enjoys gigantic victory

TERRIFIC REBOUND: Watertown trounces Montreal, 47-8, earns EFL playoff berth

By JOHN DAY
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2011

An 0-4 start and the possibility of missing the Empire Football League playoffs are now just a distant memory for the resurgent Watertown Red and Black.

Sporting a roster full of newcomers and with plenty of unknowns to begin the season, George Ashcraft’s team struggled to find any kind of identity on either side of the ball through a rough first month of the EFL season.

But the team that blasted visiting Montreal 47-8 Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, clinching an EFL playoff spot in the process, looked more like the Red and Black teams of the recent past that contended for a league title year in and year out.

“We’re right where we want to be,’’ said veteran Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams, who ran for 99 yards and two scores, passed for another and booted five extra points. “I give our coaching staff, especially offensive coordinator Ammbrose Souza, all the credit for getting us all on the same page and making us believe in ourselves.’’

Anthony Noel rushed for 90 yards and tallied on an 11-yard run, Joe Brennan added a 22-yard scoring romp and Lucas Meyer snagged a 30-yard TD pass from Williams, all in the second quarter, as Watertown raced to a 35-0 halftime lead.

And the Red and Black defense limited the Voyageurs (3-6) to a mere 32 net rushing yards on 14 attempts and only 71 passing yards in another dynamic performance.

“The way our defense is playing, I think we can play with anybody in this league,’’ Williams said. “But you’ve still got to do it on the field, and we’ll have a chance once the playoffs begin.’’

Watertown (5-4) will likely finish fifth and is probably heading to fourth-place Glens Falls (6-3) for a first-round playoff game in a couple of weeks. Coach Ashcraft likes the way his club has responded to adversity and gotten back into the EFL title hunt.

“We’ve still got a good core of 25-30 guys showing up every night and working hard,’’ Ashcraft said. “And in most games, we have about 40 guys that I wouldn’t be afraid to put on the field.’’

Williams, one of the team’s elder statesmen but still a youthful veteran, said, “the progression of this team has been amazing. We’ve got so many young guys who have picked up what we wanted to do and kept working when they could have just packed it in after the poor start.’’

Watertown’s special teams, one of the team’s most consistent units, gave the Red and Black an early lead when Marshall Stults blocked a Montreal kick and Dominic Frost fell on it in the end zone early in the first quarter.

“I think that’s the fifth game in a row where we’ve scored a special teams touchdown,’’ Ashcraft said. “When you get that kind of play from that unit, it takes a lot of pressure off your offense.’’

And the Watertown offense, mistake-prone in the early going, is finally operating as a cohesive unit.

“Coach Souza has given us a game plan and a strategy that is now working,’’ said Williams, whose TD runs came on sprints of 19 and 10 yards. “I’m so proud of this group of guys for persevering through some very tough times.’’

Watertown hosts Albany in its regular-season finale on Saturday. The Metro Mallers beat Watertown 30-6 in the opening game of the season.

“Next week is a huge chance for us to make a statement heading into the playoffs,’’ Ashcraft said. “We know we can play with the best teams if we keep away from the turnovers and play Red and Black football.’’

Red & Black seeking playoff berth

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2011

By the time the Watertown Red and Black leaves the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds after its 7 p.m. matchup with the Montreal Voyageurs tonight, the semipro football team should have a good idea of where it stands in the Empire Football League playoff picture.

Watertown (4-4) is currently slotted in as the No. 5 seed, one game ahead of Montreal with two left to play for each team, including tonight’s clash. A win would lock up one of the league’s six playoff spots for the Red and Black, and ensure that the team finishes no worse than fifth in the EFL.

Watertown is one game back of fourth-place Glens Falls (5-3), which will be credited with a forfeit win over Vermont today.

If the Red and Black wins tonight, it will likely play Glens Falls in the first round, with the fourth-place team receiving home-field advantage.

If Watertown loses, then it would drop into a tie with Montreal for fifth place, and remain either one or two games ahead of Amsterdam for the final playoff spot, depending on how the Zephyrs fare at Elmira tonight.

Watertown, which has won its last three games, defeated Montreal 21-6 on Aug. 20 in the first meeting between the two teams this season.

Watertown will wrap up its regular season by hosting Albany next Saturday, while Montreal will have a bye next week before hosting Albany in its regular-season finale on Oct. 1.

Red & Black wins third straight game

WATERTOWN NOW 4-4: With 100-yard rushing game, Brennan treats O-line to candy bars

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2011

The Red and Black offensive line has been waiting all year for some candy bars, courtesy of running back Joe Brennan.

After the unit helped Brennan to his first 100-yard game of the season in Watertown’s 50-16 Empire Football League victory over Amsterdam Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Brennan knows he will have to pay up.

“Last year they decided that every hundred-yard game I have, I owe them some candy bars,” Brennan said. “I guess I owe them some candy bars for this game.”

Watertown (4-4) won its third straight game after dropping its first four to open the season, though it was credited with a forfeit win against Vermont back in July. The team moved two games ahead of the Zephyrs for the final EFL playoff spot with two games left to play for each team. The Red and Black will clinch a postseason berth with its next win, or the next Amsterdam loss.

“We don’t remember being 0-4, and we don’t remember the team that we were,” Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams said. “The only thing that we’re doing from here on out is week-by-week, practicing hard, executing our game plan, and going forward. Not backwards.”

Brennan, a second-year halfback from Sandy Creek, finished with 149 yards overall on 12 carries. He took his final handoff of the night 30 yards to the end zone, bulldozing several Amsterdam players along the way, to put Watertown up 43-16 early in the fourth quarter.

“At that point of the game, I was hungry, I just wanted to score,” Brennan said. “They kept hitting me, and I just kept my legs pumping.”

Greg Roberson blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for the Red and Black’s first score of the game. Another blocked punt in the third quarter set Watertown up at the 6-yard line, leading to an easy Anthony Noel touchdown run.

Noel accumulated 37 yards and two touchdowns, and Anthony Gonzalez took his only carry of the game for a 27-yard score.

“I think the offensive line is really opening up holes for where, our backs are getting through,” Red & Black coach George Ashcraft said. “That’s a lot of blocking to set that up.”

Williams completed three passes for 46 yards, highlighted by a 32-yard touchdown toss to Lucas Meyer with a minute remaining in the first half to give the Red and Black a 28-8 lead. Williams ran for 39 yards on five carries.

Matt Kepler led the Watertown defense with 12 tackles, Ian Clark added 10, and Gonzalez had five to go with an interception and a sack.

Amsterdam quarterback Isaiah Moore avoided pressure on what seemed like every one of his 20 pass attempts, but managed to complete six for 64 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown throw to Evan DeGeorgio. Moore plunged in from two yards out to provide the only other scoring for the Zephyrs (2-6), who suited just 20 players.

“You get guys that don’t show up, committed to you and they don’t call you or nothing,” Amsterdam coach Joe Hall said. “So what are you going to do? I definitely tip my hat to Watertown though.”

Watertown will host Montreal at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. The Red and Black beat the Voyageurs 21-6 for its first on-field victory of the season on Aug. 20 in Montreal.

“We came back, we’re actually a .500 team now,” Gonzalez said. “This is what we needed going into this later part of the season.”  

 coach hughes 

ROAD TO RECOVERY WOUNDED WARRIOr: Red & Black gets Hughes up and moving

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

Christian Hughes is still on the grueling road to recovery after being wounded in October 2009 while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

But according to Hughes, things are a little easier on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, when the 25-year-old is at work as an assistant coach for the Watertown Red and Black semipro football team.

“I love it. I love the game of football, it’s always been a passion of mine.” Hughes said. “So this has actually helped tremendously in my recovery. It gets me up, it gets me moving, and it kind of allows me to come out here and do something I love again.”

Hughes was on patrol with his unit, Charlie Company 2-87 Infantry Batallion, that October in Wardak Province in Afghanistan. On the very same day that Hughes was promoted to staff sergeant, an Afghan patrol officer turned on his unit, and opened fire in the middle of the patrol base, Hughes said.

Hughes was shot four times, once in the left calf, causing paralysis of his left foot, which persists to this day. A second shot landed in Hughes’s left femur, a third in his right hamstring, and a final shot hit Hughes just below his right knee.

Two soldiers who were with Hughes did not survive the attack, and two others were wounded.

“The toughest thing is losing two of my soldiers,” Hughes said. “Two of my soldiers were killed and I made it, so there’s a lot of issues with that as far as why I made it and they didn’t.”

Hughes was immediately sent to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., where he spent the next year of his life. He was immobile for three months, in a wheelchair for the following four months, and was able to use crutches shortly after that.

As far as the physical rehabilitation, Hughes said that the most difficult part, by far, was learning to walk all over again.

“One of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had, it was very tough,” Hughes said. “You kind of take walking for granted, you never really realize it until you can’t walk anymore. So that was probably one of the hardest things I did was having to learn how to walk again.”

Over the last year, since being released from Walter Reed, Hughes has been continuing his recovery with the Warrior Transition Unit in Fort Drum.

He was just beginning to work out again less than a year ago, at the YMCA in Watertown, when he spotted a bald man with a goatee wearing a Red and Black T-shirt. It was Watertown coach George Ashcraft.

“I knew about the Red and Black from the media, and I knew a couple guys that played, so I actually planned on coming out and trying out in 2009 when we got back,” Hughes said. “After I got wounded, obviously all that went away.”

Hughes said that he decided to approach Ashcraft anyway, and after a few conversations, he found himself on the Red and Black coaching staff. Hughes, who played defensive back, running back and wide receiver in high school and college, heads the special teams unit and assists offensive coordinator Ammbrose Souza.

“It was a rough period of time after I got hurt not being able to do things,” Hughes said. “I couldn’t be with my unit and things like that. So this is really, it’s a bright spot in my day to be able to come out here and coach, and I absolutely love doing it.”

Hughes has had a total of six surgeries since the incident, the most recent of which was a nerve graft replacement surgery.

“We’re hoping that the nerve graft takes and I’m able to start running again,” Hughes said. “But as of right now, we’re not real sure yet, because I have absolutely no feeling from my (left) ankle down. It’s completely paralyzed.”

Hughes was awarded the Purple Heart — a medal given to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action — in November 2009. He is the seventh member of his family to receive the medal.

Hughes, a California native who has been stationed at Fort Drum since he joined the Army in 2005, said that at least one member of his family has been involved in each major U.S. conflict.

Hughes recently purchased a house in Brownville, where he lives with his wife, Bethany, a General Brown graduate.

He will be on the sideline tonight when the Red and Black (3-4) hosts the Amsterdam Zephyrs (2-5) on the team’s military appreciation night at 7 p.m. at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

A victory would put Watertown two games ahead of Amsterdam for the final playoff spot in the Empire Football League with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Red & Black trounces Evolution, 68-6

BIG OFFENSIVE NUMBERS: Watertown scores early and often; Kirker may have played finale

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2011

If Saturday night was Dylan Kirker’s last game for the Watertown Red and Black, his teammates threw quite the going-away party.

Watertown needed just 16 offensive plays to eclipse its season total in points, and reached the end zone on all but one of its possessions in a 68-6 Empire Football League thrashing of the Elmira Evolution.

Kirker, a seventh-year linebacker who leads the team in tackles this season, is in the late stages of accepting a job that would re-locate him to Texas in mid-September. While it isn’t finalized, Kirker left the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds Saturday believing he had just played his last game for the team, at least for now.

“It was a good way to go out for myself,” Kirker said. “It would have been nice if it was a little bit closer, but it was a good time. It was fun, a good end to my six- or seven-year career, and hopefully I can get back up here and play again some day. We’ll see what happens.”

The Red and Black offense scored a touchdown on eight of its nine possessions, with the only exception being when quarterback Brian Williams took a knee to end the first half. Watertown scored on its first play in four of those drives, and started just one series in its own territory. Conversely, the Elmira offense mustered just 20 net yards of offense.

The Red and Black (3-4) remains in the sixth and final EFL playoff spot with three games to play. The team is off next Saturday, and will host a crucial game with seventh-place Amsterdam on Sept. 10.

“We can’t relax,” Watertown head coach George Ashcraft said. “Being 3-4, crawling our way back to get to the playoffs, and that’s what we will do. We will be in the playoffs, and hopefully we don’t lose any more people, and the team that we have, we’ll go to the playoffs with and see what happens.”

Williams, in his first home start under center this season, helped the Red and Black put the game away early. Williams scored the first touchdown on a 24-yard run five minutes into the game. He then connected with Anthony Noel for a nine-yard touchdown toss, and Earnie Wash on an 8-yard screen pass to put Watertown up 28-0 early in the second quarter.

“We had four home games left, now we have three left,” Williams said. “We have to keep building and progressing as each week goes until the end of the season. I think tonight was just another step in the right direction.”

Lucas Meyer, a second-year wide receiver, returned a kickoff 70-plus yards for a touchdown early in the second half, then took a reverse 23 yards to the end zone on the following possession to give the Red and Black a 49-0 lead.

Joe Brennan, Dustin Demerritt, and Dennis Suggs each contributed a touchdown run.

Todd Kiechle scored on a 20-yard interception return, and Ian Clark scored after scooping up a blocked punt by Rob Hughes.

Kirker led the defense with six tackles, while Dan Robl added five. Both players sat a majority of the second half.

“He’s been an excellent ball player for the last six or seven years,” Ashcraft said of Kirker. “He was our team leader this year defensively. He will be missed, very much.”

Elmira, which dressed less than 20 players and was missing five starters according to head coach Fred Nichols, dropped to 1-6 on the season.

Two Elmira players were ejected after a scrum broke out near the Evolution sideline late in the first half. Nichols said that one of his players spat at an opponent, but believed both players were acting in retaliation.

LINEMAN HAS SIGHTS SET HIGH

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, AUGUST 27, 2011

Alex Tibbles has his sights set on playing college football next year.

But while he waits, the 18-year-old defensive lineman is sampling the semipro game, and the Watertown Red and Black is reaping the benefits.

Tibbles graduated from Indian River in June. The talented two-way lineman was recruited by several Division III colleges, and a few Division I schools, but decided instead to attend SUNY Canton for electrical construction and maintenance. Tibbles’s plan is to improve his grades, get his degree in one year, then move on to another school where he can fulfill his dream of playing college football.

“This kid should be playing at the next level, he’s truly got the ability,” said Watertown coach George Ashcraft, whose 2-4 team can stay in the Empire Football League playoff picture with a victory over Elmira (1-5) at 7:30 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Tibbles had been on Ashcraft’s radar for years. The coach frequently attended Tibbles’s high school games and wrestling matches, often giving his recruiting pitch in the process. As soon as Tibbles decided to wait on a football school, he knew he would give in to Ashcraft, and said he is thankful for the coach’s persistence.

“If I didn’t play football this year, I’d be missing it,” Tibbles said. “I would have missed it too much. I would have gone nuts. I love football.”

Tibbles, who stands over 6-feet tall and weighs close to 300 pounds, hasn’t had much trouble adjusting to the semipro game.

“He was a man amongst boys in high school,” Ashcraft said. “Now he’s playing at the man’s level, and he’s fitting in like a glove.”

Tibbles leads all Watertown defensive lineman with 10 tackles, and leads the team with three sacks. He recorded all three of his sacks in last Saturday’s game at Montreal, which by no coincidence was the Red and Black’s first on-field victory of the season. It was also the highest single-game sack total in the EFL this year.

In the only home game of his Red and Black career, Tibbles contributed a pair of tackles, a fumble recovery, and tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage to force an incompletion on third down.

“We have a lot of fans, I like it a lot,” Tibbles said of the home-field atmosphere. “It’s a lot more intense on that game field.”

While Tibbles can match anyone’s intensity on the field, he is about as calm as they come off of it. Ashcraft described Tibbles as extremely polite and respectful, a little quiet, and always smiling.

“Right before game time people are always like, ‘Tibbles why you smiling,’” Tibbles said. “Right when we go out on that field, that first hit just flips the switch.”

Tibbles, who shares a dorm room with Red and Black backup quarterback Jory Tanner at Canton, has had recent discussions with coaches at Division I Southern Connecticut State and Division III Utica College.

Tibbles will, most likely, choose one of those two schools, and wants to play on either team’s defensive line.

“I love going after the ball carrier, defense is my thing,” Tibbles said. “But hey, wherever I go, whichever side of the ball they need me to play on, I’ll play wherever they want me to.”

Ashcraft has high hopes for Tibbles’ future, but admitted that he’d like to see Tibbles in a Red and Black uniform for years to come.

“He’s one of those kids that, if he never went anywhere and he stayed forever, I would be around forever too, because you can’t have enough of them hanging around you,” Ashcraft said. “He’s got it inside and out.”

Red & Black desperately needs win

EMPIRE FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Watertown plays at Montreal tonight in final road game of the regular season
By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 2011

The Watertown Red and Black is at the midway point of the semipro football regular season, about to play its final road game of the year, and it is still without a win on the field.

Hopefully for Watertown, as head coach George Ashcraft said, that will change after tonight’s 7:30 Empire Football League matchup against the Montreal Voyageurs.

“We need it,” Ashcraft said of tonight’s game.

Brian Williams, who is back as the team’s starting quarterback after a two-week stint from Jory Tanner, said the team needs to keep fighting.

 

“I do not like losing,” Williams said. “Nobody on our team likes losing. But what we would not like more is not getting back up and trying again. That’s just out of the question.”

Williams, who started the first two games at quarterback for Watertown (1-4), replaced Tanner in the second half of last Saturday’s 21-7 loss at Glens Falls. Ashcraft said that Williams will be the starter for the rest of the season.

“(Williams) is just more prepared and ready for this level of the game,” Ashcraft said. “Jory’s going to be fine, he’ll be our future at quarterback. But, he’s got to start the season and be there all the way through. Brian’s a better quarterback for us at this time and we’re just going to leave it alone.”

“Jory Tanner will be the Red and Black quarterback one day,” Williams said. “As long he is here, he is going to develop into the Red and Black quarterback.”

Williams said that the team’s early-season struggles has more to do with its youth than it does with the quarterback situation.

“We have a lot of young guys that are starting to understand the type of effort and heart it takes to play at this level, it’s actually been a great season to see the development in the young guys,” Williams said. “I think we’re happy where we’re at, we’ve taken our lumps, and right now I think we’re focused on going forward, and a lot of these young guys are right along with us and we have a lot of veterans that are teaching them.”

Regardless of who has been under center, the Red and Black offense has been unable to find any type of rhythm this season. The team has nearly as many turnovers (19) as it does points (20).

“If we don’t turn the ball over, we’ll be fine in any game,” Ashcraft said. “That’s what’s hurt us the most.”

Williams believes the offense needs to find some level of consistency.

“We just have to move the ball,” Williams said. “It’s not about getting touchdowns as much as just getting first downs, and moving the ball consistently. If we hang on to the ball and minimize our turnovers and just move the chains, our plays will happen for us. That’s all it is.”

Watertown defensive coordinator, Ammbrose Souza, said that mental mistakes haven’t been limited to the offensive side of the ball.

“I think (the defense) is very similar to the offense,” Souza said. “We’ve had spurts where we’ve looked amazing, and unfortunately, we’ve had spurts where we have our hiccups for one reason or another. That comes with a young team.”

Tonight’s game ends a brutal scheduling stretch for the Red and Black. The team’s four losses have come to the top four teams in the league — Syracuse (5-0), Albany (5-1), Plattsburgh (4-1), and Glens Falls (4-2). Three of the four games were on the road, as is tonight’s game with fifth-place Montreal (3-3).

The Red and Black will be home next Saturday to host Elmira in the first of four straight home games to close out the regular season.

 
Red & Black now 1-4

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14, 2011

GLENS FALLS — Kevin Caradona rushed for one touchdown and caught another as part of a three-score second quarter for Glens Falls in a 21-7 Empire Football League triumph over the Watertown Red & Black on Saturday.

Caradona’s one-yard rush capped the game’s first scoring drive for Glens Falls (4-2 overall).

Quarterback Deejay Jones found Caradona for an 8-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter to make it 14-0.

Then, Jones found Jeff Higgins on a short route to push the advantage to 21-0 before halftime.

The Red & Black (1-4) didn’t score until the fourth when Adrian Gonzales blocked a punt attempt and Steve Roy recovered in the end zone.

Joe Brennan led Watertown’s rushing with 50 yards on 14 carries. 

 cusevsrb

Syracuse trounces Red & Black in home opener

TOUGH HOME OPENER: Syracuse comes into Fairgrounds and records 55-0 whitewash over Red & Black
By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 2011

The Watertown Red and Black took the field Saturday night hoping that its home opener, and a change at quarterback, could be just what it needs to dig out of an early-season hole.

But instead, the semipro football team may have hit rock bottom.

Syracuse returned two of its four interceptions for touchdowns, and rode a dominant rushing attack to a 55-0 Empire Football League victory over Watertown at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Red and Black dropped to 1-3 on the season, with its lone victory coming by forfeit.

“It was a hell of a learning experience,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “I still believe that we’re going to win more games than we lose before the season is over. We just got to come back to practice Tuesday, regroup, and go on the road for the next two games.”

Justyn Hardwick found room up the middle all night long for the Shock (4-0), finishing with 207 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.

“Justyn Hardwick is a beast,” Syracuse coach Kenny Anderson said. “That’s all you need to know.”

Geremy Barnwell provided the exclamation point in the third quarter for Syracuse, as he picked off a Jory Tanner pass in the end zone and ran it over 100 yards in the other direction to give Syracuse a 42-0 advantage.

Dewayne Gordon’s 55-yard interception return in the second quarter put the Shock up 28-0.

“(The receiver) went out and I just cut right under it,” Gordon said. “I seen nothing but green grass and fans putting their heads down.”

Tanner, who got his first start at quarterback in place of Brian Williams for Watertown, completed 4-of-12 passes for 70 yards. He threw three interceptions, was sacked three times, and lost a fumble on a snap.

“They’re the best team in the league, right now anyway,” Tanner said. “I think we just need to click and put it together. Starting to come in with a new quarterback, just have to get with the receivers and make everything click.”

“He’ll be all right,” Ashcraft said of Tanner. “I think that he learned a lot tonight, and everything will be fine.”

Syracuse quarterback Cedric Stevens finished 7-for-18 with 161 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a quarterback sneak at the goal line late in the third quarter.

Defensive lineman Morris Sledge had an eight-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes for Syracuse.

The Shock registered its third straight shutout, and has now scored a league-high 226 points while giving up a league-low 19.

“We’re talented, we’re disciplined, and we got a lot of athletes,” said Anderson, a former player and offensive coordinator for the Red and Black. “It’s going to be tough for any team in this league to out-athlete us.”

Watertown running back Anthony Noel threw a fourth-quarter interception on a flea-flicker, giving Watertown five turnovers in each of its three games this season.

Joe Brennan led Watertown in rushing with 31 yards on 10 carries, and Lucas Meyer had three catches for 65 yards.

Noel and Meyer each had a kickoff return of over 40 yards, and Williams had a 35-yard return, but the Red and Black offense was never able to capitalize.

Red and Black linebacker Allen Dwyer separated his shoulder in the first half and did not return to the game. Ashcraft said that Dwyer’s shoulder was popped back in immediately, and he is expected to be ready for this Saturday’s game at Glens Falls.

  mello2011

Noel leads Red & Black into home opener

RED & BLACK HOME OPENER: Noel wants to be productive after frightening injury

By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2011

Still pursuing its first on-field victory of the season, the Watertown Red and Black players don’t need any extra motivation for tonight’s 7:30 home opener at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

But for running back Anthony Noel, the matchup with the Syracuse Shock has an added, personal significance.

The last time Noel suited up at the Fairgrounds was June of last year, in the Red and Black’s preseason game against the Shock.

The Washington native was eager to follow up on a breakout 2009 season in which he posted team highs of 107 carries, 746 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a first-team Empire Football League all-star, and ranked second in the league in rushing yards.

But Noel was blind-sided at the end of a 31-yard run in the first half of that game. And just like that, his 2010 season was over.

“It was a clean hit,” Noel said. “It wasn’t intentional I don’t believe. These things happen in football, you just got to be prepared for it and take it as it comes, in stride. And I did that.”

Noel went straight to the emergency room, and was eventually diagnosed with a split kidney and a laceration on his spleen.

”Luckily enough I was able to keep my kidney and my spleen,” Noel said. “Somebody was on my side.”

Noel spent most of last year’s semipro football season on bed rest. It took a few months, and several doctors appointments, for Noel to learn that he wouldn’t need his kidney removed.

“They pretty much said I was a one-in-a-million case, I was lucky to keep my kidney,” Noel said. “It was pretty much split in half but it fused back together (on its own). It was one of those lucky cases.”

Noel couldn’t lift anything for six months, and wasn’t medically cleared to play football until his most recent visit with the doctor, about two months ago.

“I’m lucky to be back on the field,” Noel said.

Noel got his first carries of the season last Saturday against Plattsburgh, and finished the game with 45 yards on eight rushes. His 16-yard scamper is the longest offensive play registered by Watertown this season, and his 5.6 yards-per-carry average is a team-best.

Noel caught a five-yard touchdown in the season-opening loss to Albany, which was the first of only two touchdowns scored by Watertown this year.

But Noel critiqued his performance thus far as “kind of rough,” pointing to his two fumbles in last week’s loss to the North Stars.

“I think that, because of what he went through a year ago, he’s trying so hard that maybe that’s why sometimes you just don’t hold on to the ball,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “You’re trying to get that something extra, once he settles down, he’s going to be just fine.”

Ashcraft believes that for Watertown (1-2) to get its first on-field victory of the season, the entire team, not just Noel, needs to limit turnovers.

“We haven’t played our game by any means, because we’ve turned the ball over five times in both games,” Ashcraft said. “When you’re playing the teams in this league, and I don’t care who it is, if you turn the ball over five times, chances are you’re not going to win the game.”

Syracuse (3-0) is one of two undefeated teams remaining in the EFL. The Shock has scored a league-high 169 points, and allowed a league-low 19 points. The team has engineered back-to-back shutouts, a 49-0 victory over Amsterdam last week, and a 44-0 win over Montreal the previous Saturday. They opened the season with a 76-19 thrashing of Elmira on July 9.

Syracuse running back Justyn Hardwick leads the league in rushing with 300 yards on 27 carries, and teammate DeWayne Gordon ranks fourth with 203 yards on 19 rushes. Each back has four rushing touchdowns on the season, and Gordon has returned two punts for touchdowns.

“It’s going to be a tough game, they’re a good team,” Ashcraft said. “I’ll take absolutely nothing for granted, and I’ll give them a lot of credit. They’ve got a very good team.”

As much as a win would mean to Noel personally, he thinks the team needs it just as badly.

“This game actually means a lot to me,” Noel said. “But us as a team, we need to come out and make a statement that we are the Red and Black. We don’t take losing lightly. It’s not us, it’s not our style.”

 rbvsstars 

North Stars top Red & Black

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011
PLATTSBURGH —The Watertown Red & Black semipro football team has gotten into a groove this season, suffering its second on-the-field loss on Saturday by losing 20-6 to the Plattsburgh North Stars in a rematch of last season’s Empire Football League championship game.

The Red & Black, however, are 1-2 overall this season, thanks to a forfeit victory credited to the squad over Vermont.

Plattsburgh (2-1) took advantage of a Watertown mistake in the second quarter, recovering a fumble that subsequently set up a North Stars’ touchdown and a 7-0 halftime margin.

Grant White had the lone scoring play for the Red & Black, coming on a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The point-after-touchdown failed and Watertown trailed 13-6 entering the fourth quarter.

Anthony Noel led the Red & Black with 45 yards rushing on eight carries, while Joe Brennan contribued 40 yards on the ground on 13 attempts. Quarterback Brian Williams added 24 yards rushing on six carries and completed 4-of-10 passing for 35 yards and one interception.

On defense, Dylan Kirker led the Red & Black with five solo tackles and four assisted tackles, while Gary Tanner and Allen Dwyer each made three solo stops.

Ian Clark and Alex Tibbles each recorded fumble recoveries for Watertown.

The Red & Black plays its home opener on Saturday, hosting the Syracuse Shock at 7 p.m. at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown Red and Black faces Plattsburgh in rematch

SEEKING IMPROVEMENT: Watertown faces Plattsburgh in championship rematch, but first mission is improving on last game
By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, JULY 30, 2011
The Watertown Red and Black has a chance to avenge its loss from last year’s Empire Football League title game tonight when it plays at Plattsburgh.

But the only loss on the minds of coaches and players is their season-opening 30-7 defeat at the hands of Albany on July 16.

According to Red and Black quarterback Brian Williams, there hasn’t been any discussion of last year’s championship game, which the Red and Black lost 13-10 after missing what would have been the game-tying field goal in the final minute. Instead, the focus has been on rebounding from the team’s disappointing start.

“We haven’t talked about last year’s title game,” Williams said. “The preparation for Plattsburgh has been more about what we need to do with this year’s team to focus on winning this week, not necessarily just because they beat us last year, even though of course that adds a little salt in the wound. But we’ll just be focused because it’s a really important game for 2011.”

 

Both Watertown and Plattsburgh, the last two EFL champions, enter the game with a 1-1 record. The Red and Black has played only one game, but received a forfeit victory over Vermont last week.

Plattsburgh dropped its July 9 opener to Albany, and got its first victory, 24-6, over Montreal on July 16.

Williams believes that the Red and Black’s biggest area in need of improvement is the passing game. Williams completed just one of seven passes for 14 yards, to go with three interceptions against Albany. Backup quarterback Jory Tanner tossed a five-yard touchdown to Anthony Noel for Watertown’s only other completion of the game.

“We have to be able to throw the ball,” Williams said. “The reality is we didn’t have many opportunities to throw the ball, and when we did, we didn’t do a good job doing it.”

The Red and Black defense, which gave up 642 net yards to Albany, will have to deal with one of the better passing attacks of the young EFL season. Plattsburgh quarterback Ken Stay is second in the league with 400 passing yards, and wide receiver Jordon Keleher has a league-high 10 catches, and ranks second with 183 yards.

The North Stars’ running game looked just as stout in their victory over Montreal. They gained a total of 219 yards on the ground, with six players getting at least four carries, and no one getting more than eight. Four players finished with at least 38 rushing yards.

“They’re a pretty balanced attack,” said Watertown safety Todd Kiechle, who had three tackles and an interception against Albany. “They’re a very good running team, but if you fall asleep they will beat you with the pass.”

Even with new additions leading the league like Albany (3-0) and Syracuse (2-0), Watertown coach George Ashcraft believes that tonight’s game, the team’s only meeting with the North Stars this season, could be crucial in determining home field for the playoffs.

“All I know is we only make one trip up there, they don’t come to us, so we have to do what we can do (tonight),” Ashcraft said. “In order for us to not have to travel up there again, we better beat them.”

In addition to Albany and Syracuse, Watertown and Plattsburgh trail Glens Falls (2-1) and Amsterdam (2-1) in the EFL.

The Red and Black hosts Syracuse next Saturday in its home opener at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

 

Red & Black fall in opener

JOSH ST. CROIX

SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2011

ALBANY —Despite accumulating 215 penalty yards, the Albany Metro Mallers spoiled the Watertown Red and Black’s Empire Football League season opener with a 30-7 victory at Charles Leigh Sr. Field on Saturday night.

Scott Lawson threw three touchdown passes, and the Albany defense held Watertown scoreless until just over four minutes remaining to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Brian Williams tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Noel for Watertown (0-1).

Joe Brennan led the Red and Black in rushing with 38 yards, Brian Williams ran for 33 yards, and TJ Williams added 27.

 Todd Kiechle had an interception for Watertown, while Matt Kepler, Ian Clark, and Adrian Gonzalez each provided a sack.

Watertown, which finished with 45 yards in penalties, had a 1st-and-goal opportunity from the 5-yard line early, but failed to score on the possession.

The Red and Black has a bye a next week before it travels to Plattsburgh for a rematch of the last two EFL title games.

Watertown Red and Black set for season-opener

JOSH ST. CROIX
SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2011
TIMES SPORTSWRITER

Finally, the Watertown Red and Black will get its Empire Football League season started tonight.

After having its preseason schedule wiped out at the last minute, and a bye when the rest of the league opened play last week, the nation’s oldest semipro football team will play at Albany in a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the Metro Mallers.

“I think we’re as ready as we’ve ever been for a game,” said Watertown coach George Ashcraft.

 

The Red and Black originally had two preseason games scheduled with the Southern Tier Warriors, with each team getting a home game. But the Warriors, who initially planned to play an independent schedule, jumped on a late opportunity to join the Northeastern Football Alliance, giving them a set 10-game schedule and a postseason tournament. By the time the Southern Tier franchise made that decision, it was too late for Watertown to find another willing preseason opponent.

“We couldn’t find anybody in five states,” Ashcraft said. “Some people started to talk like they were going to come but they never did, so, here we are.”

Red and Black linebacker Dylan Kirker is one of the many players anxious to get the season going.

“It’s been a long few months,” Kirker said. “We’re ready to hit somebody else wearing a different jersey.”

Watertown running back Anthony Noel might be anticipating tonight’s opener more than anybody, as the team’s leading rusher in 2009 missed all of last season with an injury. Noel isn’t worried about how the lack of a preseason might affect him or the team.

“Anybody who loves football as much I do, when you get out there, it’s like taking a shower, it’s just natural, it just comes natural,” Noel said. “I’ve been waiting a year to get back on the field, and these guys have been ready.”

Albany is making its return to the EFL after a five-year hiatus. The team opened its season last week with a 19-10 victory over the defending EFL champion, Plattsburgh, which is the next team on the Red and Black’s schedule.

“If you’re going to start out playing without a preseason game, why not beat the team that beat last year’s league champs first?” Ashcraft said. “And then go play last year’s champs, that’s the way we start our season.”

The Red and Black hasn’t played the Metro Mallers since they dropped the 2006 EFL title game to them, but there will be some familiar faces. Specifically, quarterback Scott Lawson.

Lawson is closing in on 40,000 career passing yards, a mark that no semipro football player in the country has ever reached. Last week, Lawson completed 12 of 19 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

Lawson played for Amsterdam in the EFL last season, and his only start against the Red and Black ended in a 31-27 loss for the Zephyrs. Lawson threw four touchdown passes in that game.

“Scott Lawson’s a good quarterback,” Ashcraft said. “We have a lot of respect for his ability, but he’s just one man.”

Ashcraft added that a majority of Lawson’s offensive weapons also played for Amsterdam last year.

Noel talked about the Albany defense, and said that they looked good on film.

“They’re pretty strong, they got some speed,” Noel said. “But we’re strong and we got speed, so it should be a very good matchup for us.”

 earne wash 84
Wash gives title bid one last shot
JOSH ST. CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2011

Earnie Wash will retire from the U.S. Army in November after putting in 25 years of service and reaching the rank of E8 master sergeant.

He also plans to step away from the Watertown Red and Black at the end of this season, and will do so as the semipro football team's all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns.

For all that Wash has accomplished, one thing still eludes him, and it's why the 44-year-old wide receiver is back for one last season. He wants to win an Empire Football League championship.

Wash's first season with the Red and Black was 1988, a year after the Fort Wayne, Ind. native was stationed in Fort Drum. Watertown has one EFL title since that time, but it came in 2009, a season that Wash missed due to deployment.

"I've played in championship games but we always came out on the losing end," Wash said. "So that would be the icing on the cake, and I could probably retire and say I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I've got a few records here and there, but I want the ring. That's what everybody wants that plays the game."

In addition to making a run at a championship, Wash is back for the chance to go out on his own terms.

"I said I was going to try and step away last year but I was getting over a back injury, and I had some minor injuries, and I was coming back from deployment, and I didn't want to end like that," Wash said. "So I wanted to try and end on a full year. So I was going to make this year my last year so I can actually complete a full year. So we'll see how that goes, hopefully I can make it a full year."

Wash estimates that he has played around 14-to-16 full seasons for the Red and Black. He has missed a few years, and parts of others, due to his military obligations. Wash has served in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Egypt.

"He's a true Red and Black football player," said Watertown coach George Ashcraft, who took over the coaching reins two years after Wash started playing. "Being a Fort Drum soldier for over 20 years, and staying at Fort Drum because he enjoyed playing football on this team for the camaraderie that he was getting in return, that speaks for itself."

Wash said that one of the things that keeps him motivated, eight years after setting the team's all-time mark in receiving yards, is competing with the younger players. He also discussed that some of his teammates were either kids in the crowd, or not even born, when Wash first started playing.

"It gets kind of funny sometimes, because some of the guys I'm playing with now used to come and watch me when they were little kids," Wash said. "They come up to me and say 'You know I used to watch you when I was like 10, you know you played with my father and my uncle,' All of those guys are retired but I'm still playing, so it's kind of funny."

Wash believes his military background has helped him stay in good physical condition, which is why he has been able to play into his mid-40s. But he still feels the wear and tear.

"It's taking a lot longer to heal from injuries that I've sustained over past years that didn't (used to) take me as long to heal," Wash said. "That has a lot to do with it. Getting up early in the morning, you kind of have to stretch out a little more before you head down the stairs. The clock's ticking, so, I'm not ready to listen, but I need to listen."

Wash's future plans include looking for a civilian job, and spending time with his 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

There's no doubt that the most decorated receiver in Red and Black history will be missed after this season.

"He's like a household item that you're used to having around," Ashcraft said. "And when he has been deployed or whatever the case may be when he hasn't been here, you miss having him around, because he's just a real nice guy. He's the type of guy that, you can't have enough of them, and we've got a team full of them right now."

RED & BLACK GOALS REMAIN SKY HIGH

EMPIRE FOOTBALL LEAGUE 2011: Watertown keeps eye on title it lost last season VETERAN SQUAD: Watertown faces changed league
By JOSH ST.CROIX
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2011

 

Entering its 115th year of existence, the Red and Black's expectations are as high as ever.

Watertown has played in the Empire Football League championship game in each of the last two seasons, beating Plattsburgh for the title in 2009, and losing to the same team in last year's title game. They finished last season with a 12-3 record, and went 11-1 in the previous year. Anything short of a third straight trip to the EFL title game would be a disappointment.

But this year, the road to the Oct. 22 championship game will be a little different. For starters, the EFL has five new teams. The Albany Metro Mallers, Elmira Evolution, Glens Falls Greenjackets, Montreal Voyageurs, and Syracuse Shock are all new additions to the league. Watertown, Plattsburgh, Amsterdam and Vermont are the only teams remaining from last season, and Vermont will be inactive as the team is taking a one-year leave of absence.

Watertown quarterback Brian Williams looks at the changes to the league as a good thing.

 

"What's happened in years past, and we're hopeful it doesn't happen again, is that some of the weaker teams would drop out of the league," Williams said. "If you like to play football and you want to be competitive, you want to be competitive on a national level, you got to play the better teams. And to be honest with you, it'll be nice to play a more consistent schedule against some more consistent teams. We're just as athletic and just as big and we understand the game as these other teams do, it's just nice to be able to come out and know that it's going to be good competition every week you play."

Another difference is that Watertown didn't play any preseason games this year. The closest thing to game action that the team will have seen when it opens July 16 is an intrasquad scrimmage in early June.

The team's schedule is also a little unusual. Their first two bye weeks are bunched together early, in weeks one and three, and the third bye will be during the last week of the regular season, on Oct. 1. The team doesn't have a home game until Aug. 6, and won't play at home again until Aug. 27, which is the first of four straight games at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds to close out the regular season.

OFFENSE

One of the EFL's best offenses last season might be even better in 2011.

"We have a lot of guys that are veterans, so they know their spots, they know where they're supposed to be," Williams said. "So I think keying off of them, we're going to be about as strong as we've ever been to be quite honest with you. We've got a lot of guys coming back and a lot of guys that know exactly how to play the game."

All of Watertown's key offensive players are back, led by Williams, who is entering his third season as the starting quarterback. The reigning EFL offensive player of the year led the league in rushing last season, and was one of two 1,000-yard rushers for the Red and Black. Joe Brennan was the other, and he too is back, and will likely start at running back again this season. Anthony Noel, the team's leading rusher in 2009, is also back after missing all of last season with an injury. Noel's return should add another dimension to Watertown's already dominant rushing attack, as his speed should be a good complement to Brennan's power.

The passing game is expected to be featured more this year than it was a season ago. The receiving corps is deep, with a good mix of youth and veterans. Luke Meyer, the reigning EFL offensive rookie of the year, is expected to start opposite Nate Bryant. Wash will also factor. Watertown has two legitimate receiving threats at the tight end position, which should give the Red and Black plenty of flexibility to run and pass out of double-tight end sets.

The offensive line should again be one of the strong points for the Red and Black. Three 2010 EFL first-team all stars are back, Jared Cook, John Toper, and Jamie O'Hara. Aaron Brown, another first-team all star last year and a 12-year starter on the offensive front, has made the switch over to defense. The move was made, in part, because the Red and Black believes that its line is strong enough to handle the loss of Brown, and he can always go both ways if the need arises.

DEFENSE

While the offense is loaded with veterans, more than half of the starters on defense are new.

Brown will be a welcomed addition to the defensive line, and he is eager to contribute to the unit.

"We have to make our own identity this year," Brown said. "A lot of new faces with some returning starters, a lot of guys that were overlooked over the last few years. A lot of guys that were the leaders on the defense aren't here anymore, so we have to make our own identity and prove that we can be just as good as any defense we've had over the last five years, 10 years, 15 years."

Ben Call is back to play defensive end, and he along with Brown, is expected to lead the defensive front.

The group of linebackers will not include reigning EFL defensive player of the year Mike Dumaw, as he decided not to return to the team this season. But the league's defensive rookie of the year, Allen Dwyer, will be back at linebacker, along with second-team all-star selection Dylan Kirker, who was among the league leaders in tackles last year.

Todd Kiechle, who was also a second-team all star last season, will again bring his play-making ability to the defensive backfield.

Ashcraft, entering his 21st season, is looking for some of the new faces to make an impact on defense.

"They've got a lot of athletic ability, a lot of new people that have never been seen by the league," Ashcraft said. "When certain individuals step up to the plate and do things, it's going to shock people."

SPECIAL TEAMS

Former Indian River soccer player Nate McKeever will be back for a second season as the Red and Black kicker. McKeever finished second on the team in scoring last season, only trailing Williams. McKeever finished in the top 10 in the league overall. Meyer is expected to be the top return man, as he was a season ago.



oudawg2011
Sunday, March 27

Lynn Patrick Induction to AFA Hall of Fame 
The Watertown Red and Black would like to announce that Lynn Patrick will be inducted into the 2011 AFA Hall of Fame on June 24th in Canton, Ohio.
Lynn wore number 51 with pride in his 15 year career with the team. His stats don't lie. In his career, Lynn had over 1500 tackles and 35 fumble recoveries. He returned to the team twice from broken ankles in 1989 and 1998. Lynn led the Red and Black defense at middle linebacker to three championship games vs Batavia, Glenns Falls and Albany.
Not only has Lynn shown his support on the field as a true ironman to America's Oldest Semi Pro football team, you will also see him in the crowd supporting the team now.
Lynn, thank you for your leadership and a much deserving induction into the 2011 American Football Association Hall of Fame. Coach Ashcraft, The Red and Black Family, Coaches, Players, Fans and Sponsors.  
 
Greenjackets return 'home' to Empire Football League
By PETE TOBEY -- tobey@poststar.com | Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:42 pm
MOREAU -- The prospect of increased travel and expenses prompted the Glens Falls Greenjackets to return to the Empire Football League earlier this month.
After six seasons in the North American Football League, the Jackets have returned to the semipro league they helped found 42 years ago.
Hank Pelton, the co-owner and general manager of the Jackets, said several factors - primarily travel and finances - contributed to the decision to return to the EFL.
"The way we look at it, we're home," Pelton said Thursday at the Greenjackets' new headquarters in the Chase Sports Complex. "It's a good move for us. A lot of us are former EFL players, so it was a no-brainer for us."
As part of the Empire Division of the NAFL, the Jackets were in a centrally run super-league that encompassed about 100 semipro football teams from across the country at its peak. The EFL has always been a regional league run by the team owners.
The far-ranging NAFL has apparently been reduced significantly in the wake of a mass exodus of teams. Only a handful of teams were listed on its website, and it's Facebook page announced a "major restructuring" coming soon.
"The (NAFL) had good ideas, but a lot of the teams didn't like the direction it was going, so they went back to their regional leagues," Pelton said.
Once a number of teams started leaving, others followed, including the entire Empire Division. Four of the teams - the Greenjackets, Albany Metro Mallers, Elmira Evolution and Syracuse Shock - were admitted into the EFL at a league meeting on March 12. Glove Cities and Finger Lakes switched to the Northeast Football Alliance.
Pelton said NAFL teams were so spread out, that when teams started pulling out, the travel would have been impossible for many teams. Returning to a regional league was the Jackets' only option.
"It left us no choice, really," he said.
The Jackets are charter members of the EFL, one of the teams that founded the league in 1969. They took a one-year hiatus in 1997 to play in the New York Amateur Football League, but returned the following season.
In 2005, after winning back-to-back EFL championships, the Jackets left for the NAFL under former owner Charles Adams, citing a desire to play stronger competition.
In 2008, Pelton and Craig Matuszak purchased the team from a group headed by NAFL commissioner Rob Licopoli.
"When Craig and I took over the team, it was in the contract that we had to keep the team in the NAFL for two more years. The third year was on us," Pelton said.
The EFL will have nine teams for the 2011 season, which is scheduled to begin on July 9. The top six teams make the playoffs, with the league championship game set for Oct. 22. Teams would also be eligible for postseason invitational tournaments.
For the Jackets, the longest trips this season will be to Syracuse and Burlington, Vt.
"I'm glad to be back in the EFL, having played my entire career in the EFL," said Jackets head coach Bob Fish, who returns after taking over the team midway through a 5-6 season. "We'll renew some old rivalries, like Watertown and Plattsburgh. It's a positive for guys to not be traveling hours and hours to away games."

Empire Football League grows for 2011

Plattsburgh North Stars excited to defend title in highly-competitive conference

Five teams who weren't in the Empire Football League last season will take the field in 2011.

Four of them aren't strangers.

The EFL announced that the Syracuse Shock, Elmira Evolution, Albany Metro Mallers, Glens Falls Greenjackets and Montreal Voyagers have joined the EFL for the 2011 season.

The Plattsburgh North Stars, Watertown Red and Black, Amsterdam Zephyrs and Vermont Ice Storm will be back.

Syracuse teams, the Metro Mallers and the Greenjackets have combined for 11 EFL championships, winning every title from 2000 to 2006 besides 2002, where Glens Falls lost in the final.

The Greenjackets won the inaugural championship in 1969.

"We're real excited — I think it's great," said Pat Keleher, coach of the defending champion North Stars. "They have a long tradition in the EFL, so them coming back is terrific."

Montreal has never won a championship but played in the title game in 1991.

Quebec had a team in the Titans for the past few years, but this year's Voyagers team "was resurrected from the original '90s EFL franchise by owners Barry Keeler and Kennis Davis," according to a press release.

"We're still trying to deal with the border-crossing thing, but these guys are willing to play all of their games on the road," EFL Commissioner Dave Burch said.

Burch said he's pleased to have the current group of teams with league-rich history, because he knows they are "solid organizations."

"The thing I stress is that we just want the teams to show up as scheduled, follow rules, play and move on from there," Burch said regarding the league's effort to minimize inconsistencies in the past with "teams coming and going."

He added, "We've got a solid process. If there needs to be a change or an issues comes up, they get together as a team of owners, reset and go from there... A lot of people working together."

Keleher said he and the Stars look forward to playing a very tough league schedule this coming summer.

"The quality of the league and level of competition is going to be very high," Keleher said. "We're very excited to defend our title."

Glens Falls Greenjackets

The Hudson Falls Greenjackets formed in 1928 and were Eastern Football League Champions in 1949 and 1950. Glens Falls won the North American Football League Empire Division in 2008 and was the Region Division champion in 2009.

Albany Metro Mallers

Albany moved to the NAFL after winning two consecutive EFL titles. The Metro Mallers won the NAFL Empire Division in 2007.

Syracuse Shock

The Syracuse Shock played in the NAFL for the last three years and are coming off of a Regional Championship campaign.



 2000 - 2010 Accomplishments

Alot of great things have happened for this team from 2000 - 2010. Many Records have been broken over the last ten years and even an EFL Championship in 2009. Since 2000 The Red and Black made the playoffs 9 out of 10 years. Quarterback Doug Black, broke the all time passing record. Place Kicker Scott Ford, broke the all time kicking record. Twenty plus year veteran Earnie Wash holds the record for most recieving TDs and yards. Three time EFL Iron Man Al Countryman, holds the most rushing yards in a career over 4,000 and this was done in just 4 seasons. Middle Linebacker Lynn Patrick also holds the record for the most tackles with over 1500.

This year in 2010 the team had two 1,000 yard rushers and this was the first time since 1902. QB Brian Williams is the first QB in Red and Black history to rush for over a 1,000 yards in a single season. Joe Brennan was the other 1,000 yard rusher.

Since 2000, this Organization has appeared in five Championship games and played a Bowl game in Florida in January 2010.

Since the turn of the century, the men that suit up in the colors Red and Black, have piled up 100 wins, 43 losses and one tie.

Thats pretty awesome considering they only practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, play games on Saturdays, work full time jobs, serve our Country and raise families.  

Coach Ashcraft, his Coaching staff and Board of directors would like to personally thank once again all Players, Fans, Sponsors and Support Staff for all your help in 2010. Because of you, The Red and Black Tradition continues to get stronger each and every year. The Watertown Red and Black Franchise is well known all around the world dating all the way back to 1896. Because of the passion from the coaches, players, fans and sponsors for this Organization, one can only hope that the "Tradition" here in Watertown will last another 100 years.

 The 2010 Season. R&B Try to go back to back...

Motivation still pivotal for reigning champions

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, JUNE 27, 2010

The Watertown Red and Black seem to have forgotten all about the championship satisfaction it experienced just a season ago.

And that suits head coach George Ashcraft just fine.

The Red and Black won its preseason opener Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, 10-7, over the Syracuse Shock of the North American Football League.

Quarterback Brian Williams' 12-yard run five minutes into the fourth quarter provided the winning points that helped Watertown pick up its 13th consecutive home victory.


With two weeks remaining before the Empire Football League opener against Vermont, Watertown played more like a team still chasing title, not defending one.

"We picked up where we left off last season, and it's a great feeling," Ashcraft said. "We had a good game plan on both sides of the ball. This is a great win for us."

The defense put together an effort reminiscent of those that allowed it to post eight shutouts in 2009.

Justin Hardwick broke free for a 82-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, but the Shock's offense, which often spent more time limping off the field than moving the ball up and down it, seemed helpless and beaten up by Watertown's defensive unit.

Dylan Kirker and Kyle Roshia, in his first season back after two with the Watertown Revolution, each led the way with eight tackles, while Mike Dumaw and Demetric White each contributed six.

The hard-hitting game took its toll on Syracuse down the stretch, as it played the final minutes with a third-string quarterback taking snaps.

Ashcraft credited his team's fitness as the reason it finally found a late edge.

"We are truly well conditioned on this team," he said. "We knew if we could take it into the fourth quarter and be close, we'd be able to make something happen to win."

After a sloppily played first half from both sides, Watertown orchestrated a pair of significant drives in the second half, both powered by the legs of Joe Brennan. He fumbled on his first carry of the third quarter, but rebounded to finish with 96 yards on 25 carries.

"I felt like it motivated me," Brennan said of the drop. "The defender made a great play getting his helmet right on the ball. It really irritated me, so I used it to jump start some momentum for me."

Brennan's ability to fill in for starter Anthony Noel proved vital for the Red and Black.

Noel squirted loose for a 31-yard gain in the second quarter to set up Nate McKeever's 33-yard field goal, but the play proved costly for Watertown.

Noel appeared to be headed for the end zone, but was crushed by a Syracuse tackler who seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The blow sent the team's leading rusher from a year ago to sideline, and eventually to the hospital, Ashcraft said.

"He has something going on with his kidneys and spleen right now," the coach confirmed.

Williams produced significant gains using the option in the fourth quarter, and Syracuse couldn't respond to the change in attack.

The Shock blocked a late field goal attempt, but Watertown retained possession because of a personal foul. A few plays later, Williams was scooting toward the winning score.

"Joe picked up the pace and got better as the game progressed," Ashcraft said. "That's what you've got to have. And then when Brian got the touchdown it was awesome."

Dominant R&B defense believes it can improve

2010 RED & BLACK PREVIEW: Few foes found end zone against Watertown during title year

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, JULY 4, 2010
 
Linebacker Demetric White was there last year, stopping runs and making tackles, as the Watertown Red and Black's defensive unit lifted the squad to its first Empire Football League title in 29 years.

The team's championship defense officially begins in six days, and one of the questions surrounding the preseason is whether the defense can actually get better.

Without hesitation, White says "yes."

"We go into every game looking for a shutout," he said prior to Tuesday's practice. "That's our expectations."


Call it cocky, or call it confident. Either way, one of Watertown's top defensive goals is to improve upon last season's dominant performance. Even coming close will likely put a repeat title victory well within Watertown's grasp.

"I think that whoever does get the opportunity to score on us more than once or twice in a game will be very lucky," said head coach George Ashcraft, who on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Vermont will begin his 20th season in charge. "I think this defense will be very stingy."

Ashcraft's words are much more than motivational. Consider last year's numbers.

The team allowed a league-low 56 points in 11 games during 2009, and blanked eight opponents en route to claiming the championship trophy.

If a 10-7 preseason victory over Syracuse provided any indication — the Shock's one score was on an 82-yard kick return — then Watertown doesn't intend to yield many trips to its end zone.

"It was just a matter of shaking the cobwebs off from the offseason," said White, who was fifth on the team last year with 40 tackles. "We pretty much stayed in the same defense the whole game. I think we're where we need to be."

Defensive lineman Garrett Kline seemed to have similar faith in Watertown's ability to stop opposing offenses.

"I believe we have a team that could do it all again. No questions asked," Kline said. "Beating Syracuse opened our eyes to how the season could go, and it was definitely a confidence-booster."

The top two tacklers, Mike Dumaw (76) and Dylan Kirker (70), highlight a strong group of returnees for the Red and Black.

The linebacking corps got an upgrade, too, with the return of Kyle Roshia, who had eight stops against Syracuse.

"By having Kyle here, we could move (Dustin) Houppert to offense," Ashcraft said. "We have depth, and it showed in how we played well the other night."

Actually, Watertown has been displaying such defensive strength for close to a calendar year. Since Aug. 22, only Quebec's offense on Sept. 12 has been able to drive down the field and produce points against the Red and Black.

The Titans, who handed the Red and Black its only loss, definitely won't be a problem this year as border crossing issues forced the EFL to shed franchises in Quebec and Ottawa.

"We just ask the offense to put up three points," White said. "And we'll do the rest."

Historical society sets times for R&B event


FRIDAY, JULY 9, 2010

The Jefferson County Historical Society has announced times for various activities scheduled for Saturday's Watertown Red and Black event.

The doors open at 1 p.m., and a meet and greet autograph session with current and former players will take place until 2 p.m.

Special guest Pat Killorin, a former R&B player who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers following an All-American career at Syracuse University, will be welcomed from 1:15-1:25 p.m.

The main exhibit, which includes video documentaries, will be open from 1-4:30 p.m. The children's football clinic with coaches and players is set for 1:35-1:55, and an open discussion between visitors and former and current players will be held from 2-4:30 p.m.

Bryant able, ready for catches


2010 RED & BLACK: Watertown High grad hopes to give defending champs boost for season

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, JULY 10, 2010

Nate Bryant has been around long enough to know that no wide receiver is going to be the featured component in the Watertown Red and Black's offensive scheme.

Yet as dominant as the team's rushing attack has been in recent seasons, quarterback Brian Williams has to throw the ball sometimes.

Bryant fully expects to be one his main targets as the Red and Black begins defense of its Empire Football League title tonight against the Vermont Ice Storm.

The 2000 Watertown High School graduate is just one of two returning receivers who made a reception last year, so he likely doesn't have a choice in the matter.


The ball will come his way, eventually.

"I've had three years to learn with the veterans who were already here," Bryant said before Thursday's practice. "Now it's time to step up to their level and produce."

Somebody must.

Lester Cole once represented the most dangerous pass-catcher the Red and Black had to offer, but after four seasons with the team, he moved out of the area.

His 14 receptions from a year ago eclipsed the total of 10 Bryant and fellow receiver Joseph Williams reeled in, so maintaining at least a somewhat consistent threat to throw effectively will be vital to Watertown's success this season.

Bryant spent seven years away from the game before joining the Red and Black in 2007. While he hasn't caught a ton of passes, other abilities allowed him to crack the starting lineup.

"His role has always been important, and will continue to be," Williams said. "His main productivity on offense has always been as a blocker, and as a receiver on slants or shorter routes because of his height. Will he have to catch a few more balls this year? He probably will. I believe he's up for that task.

"Throwing will be an important part of our offense because we're going to have defenses lining up with nine in the box."

Watertown appears to have depth at the position, listing 10 receivers for the impending season. But Bryant, who had two touchdowns last year, is the only one who has been on the receiving end of a scoring strike from Williams.

Head coach George Ashcraft said Bryant's progression has been noticeable over the past few seasons.

"He's gotten better every year," Ashcraft said. "He understands what we're doing, and runs a good route. That's what is important."

Bryant said he's expecting this to be his most productive season yet with the Red and Black, but he realizes his chances will be limited.

"If that's the play that's called in the huddle, I'll do my best to get open," he said. "If it's a run play, then you still have to give 100 percent all the time you're out there."


The ball will come his way, eventually.

"I've had three years to learn with the veterans who were already here," Bryant said before Thursday's practice. "Now it's time to step up to their level and produce."

Somebody must.

Lester Cole once represented the most dangerous pass-catcher the Red and Black had to offer, but after four seasons with the team, he moved out of the area.

His 14 receptions from a year ago eclipsed the total of 10 Bryant and fellow receiver Joseph Williams reeled in, so maintaining at least a somewhat consistent threat to throw effectively will be vital to Watertown's success this season.

Bryant spent seven years away from the game before joining the Red and Black in 2007. While he hasn't caught a ton of passes, other abilities allowed him to crack the starting lineup.

"His role has always been important, and will continue to be," Williams said. "His main productivity on offense has always been as a blocker, and as a receiver on slants or shorter routes because of his height. Will he have to catch a few more balls this year? He probably will. I believe he's up for that task.

"Throwing will be an important part of our offense because we're going to have defenses lining up with nine in the box."

Watertown appears to have depth at the position, listing 10 receivers for the impending season. But Bryant, who had two touchdowns last year, is the only one who has been on the receiving end of a scoring strike from Williams.

Head coach George Ashcraft said Bryant's progression has been noticeable over the past few seasons.

"He's gotten better every year," Ashcraft said. "He understands what we're doing, and runs a good route. That's what is important."

Bryant said he's expecting this to be his most productive season yet with the Red and Black, but he realizes his chances will be limited.

"If that's the play that's called in the huddle, I'll do my best to get open," he said. "If it's a run play, then you still have to give 100 percent all the time you're out there."

One big catch powers Red & Black

VICTORY ACHIEVED: QB Brian Williams's lone completion, a 26-yard TD pass to Joseph Williams, tops Storm
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, JULY 11, 2010

Watertown quarterback Brian Williams completed just one pass Saturday night, but it proved to be the most important play of the team's Empire Football League regular-season opener.

The 26-yard touchdown toss to receiver Joseph Williams produced what proved to be the decisive points in the Red and Black's 24-17 victory over the Vermont Ice Storm at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The play was the second occasion on which Watertown (1-0) reached the end zone on fourth down. It was fitting because the Red and Black's 14th consecutive home win was defined more by big plays than total dominance.

"I think they were expecting us to run in the interior, but we noticed a little bit of a weakness on the outside," Brian Williams said of his one completion.
The Ice Storm defense was equally as helpless in stopping Brian Williams when he ran the ball, as it was when it allowed Joseph Williams to sneak behind the secondary for unobstructed path to a touchdown.

The veteran quarterback rushed for a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, highlighted by a 53-yard sprint to a second-quarter score.

But it was a peculiar victory for Watertown, not following the familiar formula of defensive dominance fans have become accustomed to witnessing.

Vermont quarterback Brad Ruderman, back after a season away, threw for 128 yards, connecting on 15-of-23 attempts.

The Ice Storm's offensive consistency with the pass challenged Watertown's defense in ways it hasn't been in a long time, putting together long drives that eclipsed seven and five minutes in the first half.

But for all the yards Vermont gained through the air, it failed twice to score points after driving inside Watertown's 10-yard line.

John Fahey scored on a two-yard run, and Andrew Blevins booted a 36-yard field goal, but Watertown denied Vermont a chance to put up more points by blocking what appeared to be a chip-shot, 21-yard field-goal attempt 41 seconds before halftime.

"It's always good to go into halftime on a high note," said linebacker Mike Dumaw, who registered 15 tackles. "You came back out with a little bit more motivation, and feeling better about where things are going."

Vermont coach Mike Salmon also believed the block was a turning point in the game.

"We wanted to move the ball and be consistent. We did that, somewhat," Salmon said. "But we couldn't finish against a good defense."

Ruderman's 33-yard pass to a diving Austin Partain at the end of the third quarter set up a three-yard TD throw just a few plays later, and the Ice Storm pulled to within 24-17.

Watertown struggled to move the ball on its ensuing possessions, but long punts by Dumaw forced the Ice Storm to begin its final two series inside its own 5. Vermont never even got close to midfield again.

Joe Brennan added 65 yards on the ground, and Dylan Kirker turned in nine tackles on defense.

"Vermont did an excellent job spreading out their receivers," Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. "We couldn't blitz Ruderman, because he'd have really picked us apart.

"Because our offense moved the ball, we were safe. The offense played a superb game."

Red & Black posts second win of year

EMPIRE FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Watertown earns 21-0 shutout victory over Broome County
SUNDAY, JULY 25, 2010

ENDICOTT — Brian Williams carried the ball 13 times for 135 yards to guide the Watertown Red and Black to a 21-0 Empire Football League semipro football victory over Broome County on Saturday night at Union-Endicott High School.

The Red and Black (2-0) got a sterling defensive effort, recording 12 quarterback sacks. Demetri White led the way with six sacks, while James Way and Steve Roy each had three.

Watertown opened the scoring in the first quarter on Joe Brennan's six-yard touchdown run while Sidney Gottschalk added a one-yard TD run in the third quarter.

Nate McKeever added a pair of field goals, including 35 and 42 yards, while Adrienne Paris blocked a Broome County punt that resulted in a safety for the Red and Black.

Watertown's Todd Kiechle made two catches for 69 yards. On defense, Mike Dumaw intercepted a Broome County pass and returned it 27 yards.

The first half was played in a hard rain.

"At halftime it was raining so hard I couldn't see across the field," Red and Black assistant coach Rich Potter said.

McKeever giving R&B a kick

July 31st 2010

FORMER SOCCER PLAYER: Indian River graduate providing consistency 

Nate McKeever got his first big chance on June 26 against the Syracuse Shock. And, from 31 yards away, he booted the football straight through the uprights. 

That's when he realized he actually does belong on a football field. The rest of the Watertown Red and Black realized it, too.

The 1997 Indian River Central graduate assumed the kicking duties this season for the Red and Black, giving the team consistency at a position that has presented uncertainty since Scott Ford retired following the 2004 campaign.

McKeever will likely face bigger kicks in his semipro career. But none will prove to be more important to his development in learning a sport that he's playing for the first time this summer

"I made my first kick, and that was a big help," McKeever said Thursday. "I've had good instruction here, and the coaches have helped me out a lot."

Football was never McKeever's sport of choice as he attended high school at Indian River. The soccer field was better suited to his tastes.

But when he returned to the area in 2006, after enlisting in the Air Force in 2002, McKeever got involved in a rough-touch league at the Watertown YMCA. He remained an active soccer player, too, participating mostly in indoor leagues at the Y.

Joining the Red and Black seemed like a perfect way to blend the two sports.

"He told me he'd never kicked a regulation size football, and that he was a soccer player and that he is physically fit," head coach George Ashcraft said of his first meeting with McKeever. "He said all he wanted to was kick, and what he's done so far in games has been great."

McKeever enters tonight's Empire Football League game against the Silver and Black Raiders having connected on 3-of-3 field goal attempts, and 4-of-5 extra-point tries. The one he missed was last week against Binghamton in driving rain, Ashcraft said.

If there's one phase of the game in which the defending league champion hasn't excelled in recent seasons, it's the kicking game. Last year, quarterback Brian Williams and Ben Call combined to make just 13-of-23 extra-point attempts, and the team attempted just one field goal.

That problem appears to be solved.

"I've seem him in the pregame warm-up boot a 55-yarder," Ashcraft said. "So he has that potential. It's nice to know if we're on the 20-yard line and it's fourth down, he has the ability to put it through just about every time."

McKeever compares the adjustment to kicking an awkwardly shaped football to the way a golfer approaches a drive. He said it's all in the mechanics.

"It's a change from soccer in that it's like swinging a golf club," he said. "You have to be perfect every time, or it's going to effect it."

McKeever said he's also aware of the 2007 season, when the Red and Black's only two losses — both by a point to Vermont — could have been avoided with consistent kicking.

Former kicker Leo Grant missed an extra-point and three field goals against the Ice Storm that season, which included a 9-8 championship loss.

McKeever knows such a situation could present itself this year, too.

"That's something you dream about as a kid, hitting a winning shot or a winning kick," he said. "That scenario has definitely run through my head." 



Watertown's Red & Black opportunistic in win

SUNDAY, AUGUST 1st 2010 

POTSDAM — Seven minutes.

The Watertown Red and Black exploited mental mistakes and scored 23 unanswered points in a span 6:41 to claim a 23-0 shutout victory over the Silver and Black Raiders on Saturday evening at Potsdam Central in Empire Football League action.

"Our mental mistakes cost us. Look at the points, they scored on our mental mistakes. It's always been that. Mental mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times tonight. Eventually, we'll get it," Silver and Black coach James Compeau said.

The Silver and Black defense held firm until a safety keyed by a Demetric White sack with 6:41 left in the second quarter on quarterback Phil Dishaw gave Watertown a 2-0 lead.

After a safety, a short field aided Watertown's first touchdown of the game when quarterback Brian Williams found receiver Todd Kiechle for a 38-yard strike with 5:24 left in the second quarter.

"We knew that the Silver and Black had a strong defense. Offensively, we knew it would be iffy. But we've got a good defense. Offensively, it's a process. We've got some new bodies on our offense. I was proud of them," Red and Black Coach George Ashcraft said.

"That safety jump-started us. It came in a process. It gave us the edge and we started to play better from that point. We just started flat," Ashcraft added.

Another short field gave Watertown good position after a muffed punt. Three plays later, Joe Brennan (15 carries for 64 yards) scored on a 4-yard run with 1:07 to play in the first half.

The Red and Black outgained Silver and Black, 133 yards to 22, on the ground. Overall, the Red and Black had 181 total yards to the Silver and Black's 102.

Mike Dumaw picked off a Dishaw pass with 27.2 seconds left in the first half, but Watertown's Nate McKeever misfired on a 34-yard attempt wide, his second field-goal miss, in the game with just 8.5 seconds left.

But the Silver and Black's miscues continued when White covered a bad snap in the end zone for a touchdown with time expiring.

White had four sacks and four additional tackles in the game.

"Our offense in the first half was not in sync. We've got a lot of guys who aren't in the right positions due to injuries. Basically, it comes down to practice," Compeau said. "We've got to get our timing down. Everything has changed since the preseason. We had a whole preseason with certain players in certain positions and now we lost four key parts to that offense. So its like starting over from scratch. It's going to take time to learn."

Mike Weller led the Silver and Black defense with 15 tackles and one-half sack. Filippo Flocco tallied 10 tackles while Ricky Delaney and Nick Farrah finished with nine and six.

Dylan Kirker recorded eight tackles for Watertown, while Dumaw had nine tackles and forced fumble and Alan Dwyer collected seven tackles and a sack.

"We've got Oneonta next. If we can play the same as we did tonight once we got it going, we'll be fine," Ashcraft said.

ULTIMATE SACKMASTER

AIMS FOR OPPOSING QBS: Red & Black lineman White has league-high 12 sacks

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, AUGUST 7, 2010

Demetric White used to be a linebacker, too. But this year he came to his senses — he belongs on the defensive line.

Just take a look at the numbers.

Blocking White has been a practically impossible task so far this season, and if there is an offensive lineman out there who can contain the Louisiana native, the Watertown Red and Black hasn't yet played against him.

But White just wants to play football. That's not to say, however, that he isn't enjoying the fact that he's caused havoc for the rest of the league through the team's first three games.

"I'll play any position, the coaches know that. Our linebackers are shutting down the run, and the whole d-line is getting a lot of pressure," White, who already has registered a league-high 12 sacks, said Thursday. "The quarterbacks are having to pump-fake a lot because there are no receivers open, and I just happen to be the one there for the sack."

White split time between defensive line and linebacker, and racked up 40 tackles and a sack during Watertown's championship run in 2009.

At about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, perhaps White gets lost among fellow linemen who each stand well over 6 feet. Whatever the reason for his success, White's transition to a full-time line presence has meant bad news for opposing offenses.

"I think people are ignoring him until he's already by them and to the quarterback," head coach George Ashcraft said. "He has such great speed and power, he's being noticed now."

Ashcraft also said the team's 23 sacks are the main reason it blanked back-to-back foes.

"If the offense can't throw the ball or can't get it out of the backfield, you get the two straight shutouts we've had," Ashcraft said. "Even if we don't get to the QB too often, we're hurrying him every time."

White put together his best effort on July 24 with a six-sack performance during a 21-0 victory over Binghamton. He wasn't the only Red and Black player getting to the backfield with ease that night, though, as Watertown dropped the Dragons' quarterbacks 12 times.

"That night was just crazy," White said.

White got his name in the scoring column during last week's win over the Silver and Black Raiders by recovering a fumble for a touchdown and generating a safety.

He said Watertown's defense is at its best when it is scoring points.

"We're getting there, but we're not satisfied," White said of the defensive unit's progress. "We are getting turnovers, and we definitely want to be scoring on defense whenever we get the chance."

Quick strikes aid Red & Black

GIGANTIC ATTACK: Watertown scores 35 points in second quarter for easy 49-6 win
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, AUGUST 8, 2010


Is it reallythateasy?

The Watertown Red and Black made it look that way for 15 minutes Saturday night when it disposed of the expansion New York Stallions, scoring a 49-6 Empire Football League victory at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Stallions barely stood a chance.

Quarterback Brian Williams tossed three touchdowns, and ran for two more as the still undefeated Red and Black (4-0) racked up 35 second-quarter points.

Sure, the scoreless opening quarter was competitive.

But this Watertown offense, which entered the game as the EFL's third highest-scoring unit, has been the epitome of quick-striking efficiency in recent weeks.

Just seven days after posting 23 points in just over a six-minute span against Massena, Watertown put on this compact display that buried the Stallions.

"It's been a while since our offense put points on the board like that," head coach George Ashcraft said. "They just kept scoring."

And scoring. And scoring.

Tight end Ben Geurts was the recipient of a pair of touchdown strikes, while rookie receiver Lucas Meyer reeled in the other with a juggling catch as he crossed the goal line.

Joe Brennan scored on a two-yard dive, and Sidney Gottschalk closed out Watertown's attack with a 29-yard run in the fourth quarter.

The Stallions paid a lot of attention to stop Williams, the league's leading rusher. But they sacrificed coverage in the secondary, and he still managed to gain 179 yards on the ground.

"A lot of teams are trying to stop the option, so they load the box," assistant coach Brandon Doherty said. "By doing that, it exposes them deep, and we're starting to take advantage of that."

New York quarterback Noble Champen hurt Watertown early, scooting for runs of 20, 22 and seven yards in the opening quarter.

But Watertown adjusted to that, too, adding to the Oneonta-based squad's frustrations.

"We weren't picking up the blitz well," New York coach Ben Whitehead said. "And when they moved their ends out two or three yards, we couldn't get to the corner anymore."

The Stallions (1-3) finally scored with 2:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Champen's eight-yard floater found Marc Jacobs in the back of the end zone.

The tally denied Watertown's defense a chance to chalk up a third consecutive shutout, and the group wasn't happy about it. Even with a nearly 50-point lead.

"It wasn't meaningless," defensive lineman Garrett Kline said. "It's nice to get the big win, but that six points upset us."

NOTES: DL Demetric White tallied four more sacks, raising his season total to 16. ... DB Ron Troxler led Watertown with 10 tackles, while Dan Robl blocked two field goal attempts. ... The Red and Black is on the road the following two weeks ¡ª at Amsterdam on Aug. 14 and Plattsburgh on Aug. 21, respectively

56: MORE THAN JUST NUMBER

IN MEMORIAM: Red & Black linemen don jersey to remember Towles
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 2010

Jared Cook stared at the No. 56 jersey he was about to wear as the Watertown Red and Black prepared for its season opener on July 10.

He wished he didn't have to put it on, but was honored to do so.

Such emotions are a weekly occurrence this season in the Red and Black locker room.

Each of the 10 offensive lineman listed on Watertown's roster will wear No. 56 once this season in honor of former center David Towles, who died last fall in an auto accident.

Towles will never play football again. His jersey has six more games.

"The first time was emotional because it was our first home game without him here," Cook said Tuesday. "I know his presence will always be with us."

The news of Towles's death took away the euphoria Watertown felt as it still celebrated its first Empire Football League title in 29 years, achieved three weeks earlier.

Fellow lineman Aaron Brown woke up Oct. 31 to a barrage of missed phone calls and text messages, knowing something was wrong.

"It took priority over the championship," Brown said. "It brought us a lot closer than we already were as a team. It was just like losing a family member."

Cook said that Towles's linemates talked in the weeks following the accident about ways to honor him, and every Red and Black helmet now displays a "56" sticker on the back.

But assistant coach Ammbrose Souza, Cook said, was the driving force that ensured the tribute would last all season.

"(Souza's) made it happen every week," Cook said. "He's always making sure someone's wearing it."

Towles's death not only caused sadness, but also created a gigantic hole in a line that paved the way for the EFL's best rushing attack. And Towles, a first-team all star, and honorable mention in 2008, was a significant player in Watertown's championship run.

Cook, who played guard most of the past two years, assumed center responsibilities in January when the team played a national playoff game in Florida.

The Red and Black has honored Towles's contributions in other ways, too.

Head coach George Ashcraft said that Towles's home No. 56 jersey was buried with him, and that each teammate signed the white, road jersey that was presented to the Towles family, which also received his championship ring.

Then Ashcraft ordered another No. 56, for this season's tribute.

"What they're doing is a really nice gesture," Ashcraft said.

The linemen will wear the jersey for this season only, but Ashcraft said the team does not plan to retire the number at this time.

But Cook said he'd like to see the number retired after the team plays its final game this fall.

"I know he was a two-year player, but he loved this game and was going to be back this year," Cook said. "If it's not retired, I understand why. But I think it would be a nice tribute."

Red and Black battles to avoid Zephyrs upset

AMSTERDAM — The Watertown Red and Black has reached the midpoint of the Empire Football League season with a perfect record. But its latest victory was nowhere near as convincing as the first four.

Alan Dwyer scored on a run from four yards out with four minutes, 18 seconds remaining in regulation Saturday at Lynch Middle School, and the Red and Black barely hung on for a 31-27 victory over the host Amsterdam Zephyrs.

Quarterback Brian Williams and Joe Brennan gained 117 and 100 yards, respectively, on the ground to help Watertown (5-0) avoid its first EFL loss since Aug. 15 last year.

Williams added a 60-yard TD pass to Lucas Meyer and a five-yard connection to Ben Geurts — both in the first half — but the signal caller's defensive presence was equally important.

His goal-line interception, and 25-yard return, ended Amsterdam's upset bid with 25 seconds left on the clock as quarterback Scott Lawson, who had driven Amsterdam to inside Watertown's five, was forced right by Watertown's rush on third and goal.

Earlier in the game, Lawson found holes in Watertown's secondary that no other opposing passer has been able to spot this year and finished with touchdowns of 23, 44, 12 and 18 yards.

Amsterdam (1-4) also became the first team this year to lead the Red and Black, posting a touchdown at 1 minute, 21 seconds of the third quarter for a 20-17 lead. But Watertown responded with a drive that culminated on Brennan's 11-yard touchdown.

A blocked extra-point attempt in the third proved to be vital for the Red and Black because the Zephyrs were forced to go for a touchdown in the closing seconds rather than a potential game-tying field goal.

Watertown, which has already notched two shutouts and a 43-point win, also benefited from several Amsterdam unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Those, along with a key 18-yard connection to Nate Bryant on third and eight, set up Dwyer's winning score.

The Red and Black is on the road next week, at Plattsburgh.

"We'll regroup from tonight," head coach George Ashcraft said. "And hopefully be ready next week for Plattsburgh."

SAME FACES, DIFFERENT PLACES

ADDRESS CHANGE: Red & Black, Revolution welcome new players in wake of Silver & Black's demise
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2010
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Craig Hodge has played football in Watertown before. So when the surprising news that the Silver and Black Raiders had ceased operations was announced early this week, Hodge knew he wanted to come back.

This time he brought along three teammates.

Just days after the arrest of Silver and Black owner Christopher Morin, on charges he solicited sex from a 15-year-old girl, former players of the now defunct St. Lawrence County-based squad were looking for new places to play football.

And both of Watertown's semipro teams — the Red and Black and the Revolution — this week added now former Silver and Black players.

Hodge, Peter Kassotis, Shawn Bradley and Filippo Flocco were easy to spot on the field Thursday, their silver helmets shining under the lights as the Red and Black prepared for tonight's Empire Football League game at Plattsburgh.

They were all in agreement that leaving the Silver and Black was the right decision.

"I think in order to clear the players and the other coaches, we had to step back and get ourselves away," Kassotis said.

About 22 miles away as the Revolution wrapped up its own practice in Clayton, Freddy Guay and James Elias expressed similar opinions.

"I'm the father of two kids," said Guay, who previously played for the Revolution in 2008. "At first we didn't want to believe what happened, but we quickly realized it was a nightmare that we weren't going to wake up from.

"For me it was a simple choice. I didn't want to be affiliated with that kind of publicity. If it was another player, or a coach, maybe we could have played through this. But the team owner? That's something that isn't acceptable."

Hodge was a member of the Red and Black in 2006 and he also traveled to Florida with the team in January to play a national tournament game, so he's familiar with the Red and Black and the EFL.

Head coach George Ashcraft said he was pleased to welcome Hodge and his buddies back to Watertown, which is about 130 miles away from each of their homes in Ottawa.

The drive, Hodge said, is well worth it.

"It wasn't about disassociating (from Silver and Black), but more about joining a winning organization with a good coaching staff," Hodge said. "I wish all the guys from Massena could have joined us here."

Elias and Guay are also commuting more than 100 miles one way in order to play in the Northeastern Football Alliance with the Revolution. The two will likely see significant action tonight against Lyndonville, as the Revolution doesn't enjoy the same type of the depth as the Red and Black.

"For us it's about having another chance to play a game that we love," Guay said. "We found a second home, which is a great feeling."

Guay also said that during a meeting Monday, the Silver and Black squad discussed possible ways it could have finished the EFL season. But the group couldn't look past the severity of the charges against Morin, and continue to put on a uniform that he too represents.

"We're trying to represent a community," Flocco said. "But how can they trust us when someone is facing those type of allegations."

PLATTSBURGH 21, WATERTOWN 7

The Red and Black suffered its first Empire Football League loss and fell into a three-way tie for first place in Plattsburgh.

Trevor St. Clair caught two touchdown passes from JD Moore to lead the North Stars (5-1). Jordon Keleher added an 85-yard reception all before Watertown found the end zone.

Earnie Wash caught his first touchdown pass in two years — a 5-yard strike from Brian Williams — with only a minute, 55 seconds left in regulation for Watertown (5-1). Wash had not played in a game for the Red and Black the last two seasons.

Stay steps up in Stars' win

By NICK ST. DENIS
Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — Not having a backup quarterback can be a problem.

Having two starting-caliber quarterbacks, however, is a problem most teams would kill for.

Ken Stay set up shop behind center Saturday night in the Plattsburgh North Stars' Empire Football League bout against previously unbeaten Watertown, filling in for injured quarterback J.D. Moore.

Stay certainly proved he had every right to be the guy calling signals, as he tossed three touchdown passes and no interceptions for 176 yards in the Stars' 21-7 victory over the Red and Black.

"He picked them apart tonight," said Stars offensive line captain Nick Moore. "That's the best game I've seen him play in the last two years."

Stay was the starting quarterback for last year's championship-bound North Stars, so he had plenty of experience to carry onto the field Saturday.

Regardless, Watertown is not the easiest team to go up against in a player's first start of the year. The Red and Black have a vicious front seven, but Plattsburgh was ready.

"The guys did a great job preparing," Stay said. "The offensive line was great."

Stay hit Trevor St. Clair in the end zone for a 31-yard scoring strike at the end of a 70-yard, 7-play drive to open the game.

St. Clair was also the recipient of Stay's last touchdown pass, a 7-yard strike that all but put the game away in the fourth quarter.

"Anything you throw his way, he'll get it," Stay said. "As a quarterback, having guys like that gives you lots of confidence."

Stay's other touchdown came on a perfect seam pass to Jordon Keleher late in the second quarter, which Keleher took 86 yards for the score.

"The corners were definitely playing soft the entire game," Stay said. "We recognized that. Jordan ran a slant down the middle and just took off with it."

Plattsburgh's offense was impressive, but it was the defense that kept Watertown from getting any momentum.

The Stars (5-1) made three crucial red-zone takeaways — two fumble recoveries inside their own 5-yard line and a Shane Racette interception on a play that started on Plattsburgh's 20. Joey Painter also grabbed a pick in the fourth quarter after letting a few slip through his hands earlier in the game.

Watertown (5-1) had a few long drives that got them into scoring territory, but Plattsburgh held tough on everything inside the 30-yard line.

"We're tough to do short-yardage stuff on because we're big and physical," Keleher said. "That's a team that averages 300 yards rushing a game.

"The only time they really got anything was to the outside when they were able to get their athletes involved, but we contained them in the option for the most part."

Watertown got its only points on a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Brian Williams to Earnie Wash.

Stars kicker Mitch Ryder was 3-for-3 on extra points.

Plattsburgh is slated to face the New York Stallions in Oneonta next weekend. With a victory over New York and a home-win the following week against Vermont, Plattsburgh is home for the playoffs.

"Destiny was in our hands to a degree entering the game," Keleher said. "Now, it is in our hands."
   

 



Red & Black attempts to regroup after defeat

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 2010
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The Watertown Red and Black's path to a repeat Empire Football League championship once appeared free of obstruction. But after its loss last week at Plattsburgh, the remainder of the EFL season got a lot more interesting.

The North Stars' 21-7 defeat of Watertown not only came as a shock, but it also created a three-way tie between Watertown, Plattsburgh and Vermont atop the now five-team EFL standings.

While coughing up a chance to complete an undefeated season was disappointing, the Red and Black didn't have time this week to dwell on its first setback of the 2010 campaign. Not with Amsterdam and quarterback Scott Lawson set to visit for today's 7:30 p.m. matchup.

"You want the unbeaten season, but sometimes it's good to get a gut check," receiver Nate Bryant said. "It just sucks when it happens."


With the midseason folding of EFL organizations Broome County and the Silver and Black Raiders, the Zephyrs tonight represent half of the Red and Black's remaining regular season schedule.

Watertown snagged a 31-27 victory two weeks ago at Amsterdam, but it wasn't sealed until Brian Williams made a goal-line interception in the final minute.

Lawson exposed an already suspect Watertown secondary by tossing for touchdown passes on Aug. 14, and Plattsburgh apparently took notice, scoring on throwing plays of 85 and 32 yards last week.

"Our main concern will probably be with our pass coverage," linebacker Kyle Roshia said. "That's pretty much our biggest weakness, and the last two weekends it's shown."

Watertown dealt with a similar mid-August setback during last year's title run, losing 14-2 at Quebec when it committed several agonizing turnovers.

Head coach George Ashcraft said he felt like he was back in Quebec last week.

"We had a bad night. Everybody knows that," Ashcraft said Tuesday. "It was haunting how reminiscent it was. But we still had a decent offensive night. We just fumbled the ball inside the red zone. It's hard to do that and try to win against a good team."

Watertown won't play another league game until Sept. 18 when it travels for a meeting with the Vermont Ice Storm. But the most important date on the Red and Black calendar may be Sept. 11, when Vermont goes to Plattsburgh.

If the host North Stars beat the Ice Storm, they would wrap up home-field advantage for the playoffs, including the championship game if they were to advance.

But the Red and Black isn't placing any extra pressure on itself for tonight.

"Every game was already going to be important," Williams said. "We were going to have to beat each team another time, anyway. It's just about us playing with a little more focus and a little more attitude. A little more consistency."

Brennan, Red & Black recover for needed win

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, AUGUST 29, 2010

Joe Brennan never forgot the fact that he committed a crucial second quarter fumble Saturday night.

But he didn't let it slow him down, either. His Watertown Red and Black teammates and coaches made sure of that.

The third year running back rushed 16 times for 187 yards at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds to power the Red and Black's 34-6 Empire Football League triumph over the visiting Amsterdam Zephyrs.

Brennan capped the team's bounce-back win — a week after suffering a surprise loss to Plattsburgh — with an 87-yard scoring run just after the final two-minute warning.


Sure, the outcome was all but decided, but Brennan thundered for the goal line as if the victory hinged on it.

Fumble forgiven.

"I was thinking I better not get caught because I'll never hear the end of it," the 2006 Sandy Creek graduate said of his long run. "It was a confidence booster for sure. The line did a great job all night, and they stayed behind me and kept motivating me. The whole team did."

"We weren't going to say that just because he fumbled, he wasn't getting the ball again," head coach George Ashcraft said. "We wanted to see him get 100 yards."

Watertown (6-1) saw quarterback Brian Williams eclipse the century mark, too, as he ran for 104 yards on the ground, including a pair of four-yard touchdowns.

The Red and Black's frustrations from a week ago, when it posted a season-low seven points, continued throughout the first half against the Zephyrs (2-5). Despite beginning four of its six first-half possessions in Amsterdam territory, Watertown had just Williams's first scoring run to show for the consistent, favorable field position.

And then there was Brennan's drop. He bobbled a pitch from Williams at his own two, and Amsterdam recovered. Two plays later, quarterback Nick Shepard notched the Zephyrs' only points of the night.

Punter Mike Dumaw bailed out the offense throughout the first half, burying Amsterdam inside its own 10 three consecutive times.

"I couldn't complain about anything that went on in the first half other than we weren't putting points on the board," Ashcraft said.

The points came when the third quarter began.

"All we addressed at halftime was the energy level we needed," said Williams, whose squad led just 7-6 at the break. "We just had to come out and play harder."

Sidney Gottschalk started Watertown's 20-point third quarter outburst with a five-yard TD scamper, and Williams set up his second touchdown with a 48-yard option run of his own.

Amsterdam's offense, playing without starting quarterback Scott Lawson, basically shut down a few minutes later when Dan Robl (nine tackles) forced a fumble that was recovered by Alan Dwyer.

Williams lofted a perfect 33-yard seam pass to Marcus Miles on the next play to make it 27-6.

Shepard finished with 124 yards through the air, but not one completion exhibited any potential of beating Watertown's secondary for a long score. And for a group that had allowed seven touchdown throws in its past two games, the near shutout was a welcomed result.

"Teams are coming out gunning for us," safety Adam Bossinger said. "The last two weeks we were horrible when we were getting beat for big plays. This was a good game for us."

Dylan Kirker added nine tackles, and Amsterdam tallied a mere 13 yards on the ground.

Meanwhile, Brennan himself rattled off gains of 23, 15, 13 and 17 yards before breaking free in the final minutes.

"The holes were there, we just weren't seeing them right away," he said. "Eventually we started hitting them, and getting the positive yards we needed."

R&B Idle today, plans still unclear for Sept. 25

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2010
ARTICLE OPTIONS

The Watertown Red and Black will not have a game today, despite the efforts of head coach George Ashcraft.

Watertown was originally scheduled to host the Silver and Black Raiders in an Empire Football League mathcup, but the St. Lawrence County-based franchise folded last month after owner Chris Morin was arrested on charges of soliciting sex from a 15-year old girl.

The Red and Black planned its annual military appreciation ceremony for the game, which happenned to fall on Sept. 11, but Ashcraft was unable to secure another opponent.

The team's Sept. 25 home game agains Broome County has also been canceled because the Dragons folded during midseason, too. The Red and Black will received two forfeit wins instead.

Ashcraft said the team is still trying to schedule an opponent to come to the Fairgrounds for a nonleague game on the 25th, but had not secured one as of Friday.

Red and Black, Ice Storm play to tie

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Running back Joe Brennan rushed for 153 yards on 33 carries as the Watertown Red and Black tied Vermont, 13-13, in an Empire Football League game Saturday evening at Burlington High School.

As a result of the tie, the second-seeded Red and Black (7-1-1) earned home-field advantage for its first-round playoff game versus the third-seeded Ice Storm (6-2-1) on Oct. 2 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Plattsburgh is the top seed.

Because Vermont decided not to play an overtime period, Watertown was awarded the second seed in the playoffs.

"We played a solid game and kept the score down," Watertown head coach George Ashcraft said.
Brennan started the scoring in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run. Nate McKeever added two field goals in the second and fourth quarters for Watertown.

Brian Williams finished with 91 yards rushing on 15 carries. Ashcraft credited the defense of Mike Dumaw, Dylan Kirker and Todd Kiechle.

For Vermont, Brad Ruderman scored a TD on a run from inside the 1-yard line. Oscar Ody kicked field goals in the first and fourth quarters for the Ice Storm.

Brennan picks up slack

KEY SPARKPLUG: Running back fueling Red & Black in ground game
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2010
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If there's one thing the Watertown Red and Black has learned this season, it's that a lot of things don't go according to plan. Just ask Joe Brennan, who wasn't slated to be the featured running back when the 2010 campaign began.

It's a good thing he spent all that time in the gym during the offseason.

The 2006 Sandy Creek alum took over the top spot on the depth chart in the second half of Watertown's opening nonleague game against the Syracuse Shock. Anthony Noel was lost for the season in the first half of that contest, and Brennan responded by finishing the night with 96 yards on 25 carries.

He's been the main man in the backfield ever since.

"I trained as hard as I could for whatever workload this team needed me to do," Brennan said Thursday, as Watertown (7-1) prepared for tonight's crucial trip to Vermont (6-2).

Brennan has produced more than respectable numbers all season, as his 661 yards is second in Empire Football League. He's also coming off his best career game — a 187-yard performance three weeks ago against Amsterdam.

Brennan said he was looking forward to sharing carries with Noel, the team's top rusher from 2009. But he was eager to show his coaches he was up to the task of being an every-down back, too.

"I think (Noel) and I could have been a powerful duo," he said. "Once he went down, I immediately got in the mindset that I'd have to work harder."

He was supposed to have more help, but several running backs departed, and no other exhibited effective consistency. The coaching staff was concerned Brennan would eventually wear down, but his body has held up well enough to carry the ball 17.25 times per outing and score five touchdowns.

"We had two or three rotations set up at one time," head coach George Ashcraft said. "To where we were going to have fresh backs in the game all the time.

"Joe has always done well, but he knows now how to play four quarters at this level."

Brennan's production will continue to be vital to the Red and Black's success as it aims for another league title, unexpectedly facing the prospect of not hosting a playoff game. Watertown would likely be on the road for the duration of the playoffs with a loss tonight.

But the Red and Black's running attack is still the league's most productive, and Brennan's power style has been a perfect complement to quarterback Brian Williams, the league's leading rusher, who frustrates opponents with the ability to regularly break free for long gains and scores.

That's not to say Williams doesn't enjoy the luxury of handing the ball off to a back he's become accustomed to seeing gain a lot more yards than he loses.

"He is a great running back, and a guy who has to realize that all he has to do is run hard," Williams said after a win over Amsterdam. "The holes will open up for him."

IT'S BEEN HOW LONG?

Tonight's EFL matchup at Vermont will provide the Red and Black with its first on-field action in 21 days. The league-wide Labor Day bye, along with the Silver and Black Raiders' departure, have the team eager to line up against an opponent for real snaps.

Watertown put together an efficient 34-6 win over Amsterdam on Aug. 28, and one of tonight's biggest challenges will be to carry that momentum to Burlington, in spite of the long layoff.

"We've been practicing hard the whole time, and we don't have to worry about people being unhealthy," Ashcraft said. "There's nothing we can do about it, so we can't make a big deal about it."

The continuing erosion of the EFL, which as recently as 2006 sported 11 franchises, will likely force the Red and Black to be idle again next week for what should have been the regular-season finale.

Ashcraft has been unable to secure a nonleague opponent for Sept. 25, but expressed his support and confidence — despite this year's troubles and the fact the team is facing the loss of two home games — in the overall strength of the EFL.

"I truly believe that as far as the league goes, it's still the best league because we have rules and we live by those rules," he said in August. "If it's five teams strong that finish the 2010 season, so be it."

R & B hosts Ice Storm

Protect the ball, R & B stresses

EFL PLAYOFFS: Vermont invades Watertown for key semifinal contest
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2010

 

George Ashcraft needed only to look at the game tape from Aug. 21 to see the No. 1 obstacle standing between the Watertown Red and Black and the chance to play for another Empire Football League championship. And it doesn't wear an opposing jersey.

The memory of a trio of red zone turnovers that night against Plattsburgh, which happened to hand Watertown its only defeat this season, should be enough to remind the Red and Black to take care of the ball, win the turnover battle.

Sure, such phrases are so commonly uttered in the football world they've become cliché. But Ashcraft's squad can attest to their importance.

In the eight games, Watertown (9-1) actually played this season, it enjoyed a plus-7 (13-6) turnover ratio. The only outing in which the Red and Black was negative in the turnover column was against the North Stars, and that setback cost the team a chance to enjoy home-field advantage throughout the EFL postseason.

 

"One bad game this year we turned the ball over," Ashcraft said Thursday. "It was on the one-yard line, the three-yard line and the 15. The rest of the year those were scores for us. It was unusual for us that it happened. We cannot turn the ball over."

The Red and Black played five games without a turnover this season, and equally important, quarterback Brian Williams' only interception of the year turned out to be inconsequential during a blowout victory over Amsterdam.

Those statistics could come into play tonight, when the Red and Black hosts the Vermont Ice Storm in a semifinal at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

During a victory and a tie against the Ice Storm, Watertown, which didn't make a turnover of its own, forced three fumbles and picked off quarterback Brad Ruderman twice.

Vermont managed just one touchdown and a pair of field goals two weeks ago against Watertown, and Ruderman, one of the league's top passers, threw for just 246 yards in the two regular season meetings.

"Our coaching staff has really put together some great game plans, and the guys have been responding to them," Ashcraft said. "I feel really good about that going into the playoffs."

While mistakes with the ball clearly cost Watertown against the North Stars, Ashcraft said the way the team responded was different than in the past, during seasons that didn't end nearly as successfully as this one and last.

He said the team has bought into the idea that once something is done, it can't be changed.

"We're playing well together, and when somebody makes a mistake, they shake it off," the coach added. "Then it's on to the next play. Whatever happens they roll with it, and come back with a positive attitude. There's been no lashing out."

Top-seeded Plattsburgh is hosting No. 4 Amsterdam in tonight's other semifinal game.

R & B defense stands tough

Defense lifts R & B

EFL PLAYOFFS: Watertown digs in deep at goal line, denies Vermont and meets Plattsburgh for crown

By JOHN DAY

TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2010

This is what Watertown Red and Black football is all about.

With the Red and Black holding a precarious seven-point lead and visiting Vermont threatening to score late in the third quarter of Saturday night's Empire Football League semifinal at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, the Watertown defense knew it had to make a heroic stand.

So on fourth-and-inches from inside the Watertown 1-yard line, Vermont tailback Aaron Webster dove for the score only to be thrust back by Watertown's defensive front for a 2-yard loss.

That was but one of several defensive highlights for the Red and Black, which picked off five Vermont passes and limited the Ice Storm to 152 total yards of offense in a 14-2 victory.

That win sends Watertown (10-1), the defending EFL champs, to Plattsburgh on Saturday night for the EFL title. Plattsburgh handed the Red and Black its only loss of the season, so needless to say there's a matter of evening the score.

"We owe them big time,' said Red and Black linebacker Mike Dumaw, who intercepted three passes and was all over the field. "This week we'll put together a game plan and then try to execute it better than last time.'

Quarterback Brian Williams rushed for 124 yards on 10 carries and scored both Watertown touchdowns. He ran it in from 55 yards in the first quarter, then tacked on a huge 4-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter to deny the Ice Storm (6-4) any chance of a comeback.

"They made some mistakes, we made some mistakes,' Williams said. "But when we had to move the ball, we just pushed it down their throats. Our defense came up big as usual, and that just spurs us on.'

The Watertown defense harassed Vermont quarterback Brad Ruderman all night, forcing him to throw most of his passes while retreating. Ruderman completed just 10-of-26 throws for 106 yards.

Todd Kiechle also recorded two interceptions and Vermont's running game managed only 46 net yards in 21 attempts.

As for his interceptions, Dumaw said he just knew where Ruderman was throwing. "He almost always looks off the first receiver and goes for a second,' Dumaw said. "He wasn't setting his feet because of the pass rush, so they were really easy picks.'

Watertown set the tone early by stopping Vermont on its first series, then scoring quickly when Williams kept on the option and raced past several Ice Storm defenders for a 55-yard score with 91/2 minutes left in the opening quarter.

Nate McKeever's PAT made it 7-0, and that was really all the Red and Black needed.

"In a game as defensive-minded as this, one touchdown is huge,' Williams said. "It's nice to get that early momentum and then watch our defense work.'

Vermont recorded just four first downs and only 85 yards of offense the entire first half. However, Williams was also picked off twice to prevent the Red and Black from adding to the lead.

Vermont put together its only drive of the game early in the third quarter, marching from its own 38 to the Watertown 1 in 10 plays. That's when the Watertown defense stood its ground.

Vermont's only score came on the next Red and Black series when a bad Williams pitch to Joe Brennan bounded into the end zone and Brennan recovered for a safety. But the Red and Black held on downs after the free kick, and the Watertown offense accepted the challenge by mounting its best drive of the contest.

With Brennan (29 carries, 146 yards) and Williams sharing the rushing load, Watertown drove 74 yards on nine plays with Williams sweeping left end for the final four yards to the big insurance points.

"We basically gave Plattsburgh the first game with our mistakes,' Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. "But if we limit the turnovers, and play our game, we'll be just fine.'



Dumaw seeking another taste of glory

By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2010

 

The three interceptions Mike Dumaw snagged during last week's Empire Football League playoff game were a career-high for the veteran Watertown Red and Black linebacker.

The fact that he was even on the field was somewhat of a shock, too. Even to him.

Last season was supposed to be it for Dumaw, a 1998 Carthage Central graduate. His decision was made. Once the Red and Black had finally secured its long-awaited championship, Dumaw was ready for his semipro retirement.

But the winter was long, and when he wasn't working, Dumaw was listening to friends trying to coax him to a return to the field.

 

They were successful.

Dumaw, fresh off a 14-tackle performance to go with all those picks against the Vermont Ice Storm, is poised to help lead Watertown to another title. He wasn't ready to leave the game, after all.

"I was sitting around, bored for a while, and all of a sudden it seemed like the right thing to do," Dumaw said earlier this week. "Dylan Kirker and Dan Robl kind of got me back into it."

The former SUNY Brockport standout has been as dominant this season, his seventh with the team, as he was during his rookie year of 2004, when he was selected the EFL's defensive MVP.

His 87 tackles ranks No. 1 on a defense — and in the league — that for the second year in a row yielded the fewest points of any EFL squad, and he and Robl have each forced four fumbles.

But headed into Saturday's championship matchup with Plattsburgh, the only thing on Dumaw's mind is beating the North Stars. It's something Watertown failed to do on Aug. 21, and the loss cost the Red and Black an opportunity to host the title game.

The North Stars rushed for only 86 yards in that game, but still got the victory. Dumaw doesn't expect the defense to experience such a hiccup this week, however.

"I want our defense to dominate the entire game," he said. "A couple games we lapsed a little bit, and I think that's what happened against Plattsburgh."

Dumaw said that in spite of having to deal with a couple nagging injuries during the season, his body feels 100 percent healthy for this week's finale. Even it didn't, he wouldn't be the only guy on the field playing hurt at this point of the season.

"A 30-year-old who has played for almost a decade is usually banged up, and their injuries carry over one year to the next," head coach George Ashcraft said. "Mike wants to be here, and wants to win a championship. He's a big part of this."

FINAL TO BE STREAMED ONLINE

Saturday's championship game at Plattsburgh between the Red and Black and the North Stars will be streamed live on the Internet at www.steveweedproductions.com.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Red & Black sets out to settle score on way to defending title

By MATT CORDOVA

TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2010

The Watertown Red and Black faces a list of challenges as it travels to Plattsburgh for tonight's final game of the 2010 season.

On top is the quest to claim a second consecutive Empire Football League title. But there are other tasks to get done, too.

A victory would avenge Watertown's one loss of the season, and also prove the Red and Black is a better team than the one that went to Plattsburgh on Aug. 21.

The North Stars won that regular season meeting 21-7. The fact Watertown lost wasn't as much of a shock as the fashion in which it happened. That game was nothing like the two Watertown and Plattsburgh played in 2009.

"For us to give up points like that to a team that hadn't scored on us in two years was hard to swallow," defensive lineman Dan Robl said Tuesday. "This time is all about going up there and shutting them out like we did last year. We have something to prove as a defense. We want to prove that those two long touchdowns were kind of a fluke."

North Stars coach Pat Keleher said that a revamped offensive line, rather than luck, was responsible for his squad knocking off the defending champion, despite not scoring a single point in two meetings last year.

In this rematch of last year's title game, whichever team's defense bends the least will likely triumph.

"The past couple years we probably were outmuscled up front," Keleher said Thursday. "That hasn't been the case this year. We have some depth now on the offensive and defensive lines, and we match up a lot better now with Watertown."

The Red and Black managed just a touchdown catch by Earnie Wash in August, as Brian Williams and Joe Brennan were limited, respectively, to 67 and 68 yards.

Watertown suffered a similar setback in 2009, dropping a mid-season game at Quebec.

Head coach George Ashcraft said the Red and Black did just as much to defeat itself this season as Plattsburgh did.

"I didn't think we were outplayed," he said. "We gave the game away, and we're not going to do it twice. We're up for the challenge to go up there and play."

The North Stars are in much the same position as Watertown was a year ago, hosting the title game with a chance to win it for the first time in the 20-year history of the franchise.

Watertown has been around for a bit longer, and had won one in 1980. But it knows the frustration of years of championship-chasing, and also what it's like to be target of every opponent's best effort.

"We took everybody's best shot all year, right from the first game we won against Syracuse," Todd Kiechle said. "We knew going into each game it was like a championship for some teams. Even if they weren't going to qualify for the playoffs. We just have to focus. It's championship week

R&B gives up EFL title

NORTH STARS WIN: Field goal attempt in final minute sails wide

By MATT CORDOVA

TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2010

PLATTSBURGH — Hey, you can't win it every year.

The Watertown Red and Black, playing for a second consecutive Empire Football League title Saturday night, came up just short in that quest at Plattsburgh High School.

Nate McKeever's 34-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds remaining flew inches wide to the left, giving the Plattsburgh North Stars their first-ever title with a 13-10 victory.

Ken Stay's nine-yard touchdown connection to Trevor St. Clair four minutes into the final quarter netted the Stars (10-1) the necessary points to deny Watertown (10-2) another trophy.

Who knows if Watertown's championship drought will linger for 29 years again. But it will last at least one.

"The game should never come down to a kicker missing a field goal," head coach George Ashcraft said. "(McKeever) has done a hell of a job for us this year. You could pick a lot of things apart from this game. It was a great game all around, and a great win for Plattsburgh."

McKeever already connected on a 20-yarder in the second quarter, which after Brian Williams's two-yard touchdown run, gave the Red and Black a 10-3 halftime lead. But Watertown, despite dominating the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field, couldn't orchestrate another drive that ended with points.

The Red and Black converted a fourth down and a third down on its final series to set up McKeever's final boot.

"They got a little bit of a rush, but the kick felt good," McKeever said. "The ball went straight. It was just on the left hash mark, and went a little wide."

Joe Brennan led the Red and Black with 119 yards, putting him over 1,000 for the season. Williams rushed for 96 of his own, but Watertown never broke free for the long one as team had become accustomed. The now former EFL champion put together a pair of drives that chewed up more than nine minutes, but still surrendered the title to the team it beat for the 2009 championship last season at the Duffy Fairgrounds.

"We felt like we controlled the ball the way we wanted, but we didn't get the points we were hoping for," Brennan said. "Plattsburgh is just a real good team."

The Stars, who gave the Red and Black both of its losses this season, converted their first series into a Mitch Ryder 40-yard field goal for the early advantage. They finally seized the lead in the same fashion as they did during August's win over Watertown - through the air.

A blocked punt set up Plattsburgh at the Watertown 27. Three plays later, St. Clair was standing in the back of the end zone with the title-sealing points after his touchdown reception from Stay

Air game lacking for R&B

By MATT CORDOVA

TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2010

 

PLATTSBURGH - Punishing. Relentless. Opportunistic. This is the Watertown Red and Black running game.

For two full seasons now, Watertown's rushing attack, featuring quarterback Brian Williams and Joe Brennan, has been the Empire Football League's most dangerous weapon. And it didn't falter Saturday night, racking up over 200 yards as the nation's oldest semipro squad dropped the title game 13-10 to the Plattsburgh North Stars.

The problem is sometimes the holes aren't there. Legs get tired. Or the other team simply knows what's coming, as was the case for the North Stars, who earned their first title in 20 years of existence.

Williams completed four of only nine throws as Watertown missed a chance to become the league's first repeat champion since Albany in 2005 and 2006. Three were to Lucas Meyer, whose 35-yard catch in the fourth quarter, moments before a crucial interception, set up the Red and Black in Plattsburgh territory.

And when Watertown took over for its final possession with 1:53 left, it attempted just three throws, completing only a seven-yard dump to Brennan.

Williams's ability to make tacklers miss and, Brennan's strength running between the tackles has, negated Watertown's need to throw for most of the past two seasons. The Red and Black doesn't have to air it out on a regular basis. But it should be able to do so with more consistency than it has all year. Watertown finished with 511 yards on the year, which was the lowest of the four playoff teams.

Sure, Plattsburgh QB Ken Stay had only 52 yards in the title game. But Watertown knew it had to protect against the pass. The North Stars did not.

Would it hurt to keep the defense guessing?

R&B claims Harvest opener

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2010

Brian Williams threw two second-quarter touchdown passes to Lucas Meyer to help power the Watertown Red and Black to a 47-13 victory over Finger Lakes in an opening game of the Harvest Bowl on Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Finger Lakes Impact plays in the North American Football League.

Joe Brennan rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries, including touchdown runs of six yards each for Watertown, which led 20-7 at halftime and scored four touchdowns in the final quarter.

Alex Heath supplied a pair of fourth-quarter scores on runs of 14 and 18 yards, and Alan Dwyer scored on a 60-yard interception return for the Red and Black.

 

Defensively, Watertown's Filippo Flocco and Dylan Kirker each recorded 11 tackles, while Dwyer made nine tackles and Dan Robl had eight.

Finger Lakes scored TDs in the first and third quarter, the first on a 10-yard pass, the other on a one-yard run.

Red & Black comes up empty

By MATT MCCLUSKY

TIMES SPORTSWRITER

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2010

CARTHAGE — The Watertown Red and Black, a team that routinely scored off of opponent's turnovers throughout the Empire Football League season, forced two turnovers in the first quarter of its Harvest Classic semifinal game Saturday night.

Watertown, however, was unable to make its opponents pay throughout the game and fell 28-6 to Lackawanna.

Lucas Meyers recovered a Lackawanna fumble on the opening kickoff and defensive back Todd Kiechle intercepted Dynasty quarterback Raymond Braxton Jr. later in the first quarter, yet both times Watertown's offense failed to produce points.

The Dynasty defense stopped Watertown on fourth down conversion attempts after both turnovers.

"Our defense is very smart, they read and react. We play a side-to-side style that was suited to go against their option style offense," Lackawanna's head coach Ricardo Estrada said.

The Dynasty, a team ranked No. 1 in the state at one point during its United States Football Alliance season, shut down the powerful Red and Black option offense all night. Watertown quarterback Brian Williams was held to 32 yards rushing and running back Joe Brennan was limited to 43 yards on the ground.

Unlike the Red and Black (12-3), the Dynasty was able to move the ball frequently thanks to Braxton Jr. and running backs Kendron and James Henley. Henley and Braxton each had rushing touchdowns.

Lackawanna (12-1) got the scoring started as Braxton Jr. hit running back Zak Kendron on a screen pass with 14:44 left in the second quarter that Kendron took 36 yards to the end zone.

"Once Zak gets in the open field like he did on that play, I knew he was gone," said Braxton Jr.

Watertown quickly answered that score when quarterback Brian Williams connected with Meyer for a 44-yard touchdown reception less than three minutes later.

However, that was all the Watertown offense could muster against the stout Lackawanna defense, despite more mistakes made by the Dynasty.

With 1:36 left in the third quarter, and the Dynasty leading 14-6, a snap on fourth down went over Lackawanna punter Scott Baker's head and Watertown recovered on the Lackawanna 16 yard line. Watertown once again failed to produce points.

"Our guys didn't worry about the mistakes and our defense just kept playing," said Estrada, about his team's mind-set.

Lackawanna scored two late touchdowns off of interceptions.

"I give credit to their defense, but we certainly had our chances," Watertown head coach George Ashcraft said. Ashcraft also pointed to the absence of multiple players, including field goal kicker Nate McKeever, as a potential reason for the failure to produce points.

"With a kicker like McKeever, he would have had four to six field goals tonight," Ashcraft said.

Watertown crossed into Lackawanna territory four times in the games first 20 minutes, but came away with only six points.

To add to the Red and Black's frustrating night, Williams left the game with 4:34 remaining and trailing 22-6 with an apparent knee injury. He did not return and was replaced by Kiechle.

The Dynasty will now advance on to the Harvest Classic championship game to be played on their home field against the winner of Red City Outlaws/New Jersey Buccaneers on Nov. 13.

coacha

THE FACE OF THE RED & BLACK

SEMIPRO AND PROUD: Through good times and bad, Ashcraft remains devoted
By MATT CORDOVA
TIMES SPORTSWRITER
SUNDAY, JANUARY 10, 2010 

George Ashcraft has a vision. Call it a premonition for the perfect summer weekend.

He and his wife, Diana, walk to the garage, hop on the new motorcycle, and drive away. Without a watch. The cell phone and clipboard stay at home.

The veteran semipro football coach might as well be looking at this scene through a crystal ball, because the day such a scenario comes to fruition will likely be later than sooner. Someday, Ashcraft might get a Saturday night free. If he allows it.

The brand new Harley-Davidson Diana gave her husband just two weeks ago for Christmas looks nice parked next to his 1980 Corvette. But these summertime toys must wait their turn to come out of the garage and play.

Their owner's summers — his life — are consumed by something else.

The Watertown Red and Black.

Ashcraft, 53, is approaching his 20th season as head coach of the nation's oldest semiprofessional club. And, at the moment, is leading the organization's laborious fund-raising efforts for its trip to Florida for a national tournament game on Jan. 17.

To say he has become the face of the franchise, and his family the foundation, would be stating it perfectly. Son, Troy, plays the music at the games, while Diana and daughter, Sandy, take care of the finishing touches on the program.

It truly has become a family operation.

On the field, the team has enjoyed good seasons under the coach's guidance, and some that could have been better.

But his demeanor has remained constant for the better part of the past two decades. Even when times were bad, like two years ago when accusations swirled over alleged misdoing.

Or when times were better than ever, like in October, when the Red and Black captured its first Empire Football League championship since 1980.

Ashcraft simply enjoys running the organization. Win or lose, he doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. Instead, he wears itunderhis sleeve.

"I just couldn't imagine not being around it," Ashcraft said. "I got a tattoo on my arm that kind of branded me in 2002. Because I believe in it."

Likely more than any coach before him ever has.

?       ?       ?

Ashcraft graduated in 1973 from Carthage High School. He was a lineman on the football team, but wrestling was his first love and he enjoyed an unbeaten senior season before losing in the Section 3 tournament.

That was the same summer his connection to the Red and Black began. Ashcraft played for two full seasons before he suffered a career-ending broken leg in 1975. He never played another snap, but his bond to the team had been cemented.

He became addicted to the crowds at Watertown High School, as thousands of fans used to pack the stands for Saturday night games. And he was mesmerized by the community's connection to what was, except for high school sports, the only game in town.

"From 1976, my wife and I never missed a home game. It didn't matter what was going on Saturday night. For me, it was exciting. I loved to be a part of it," he said.

After the title year in '80, the Ashcrafts had their pick of seats in the bleachers, he said, as fan support dwindled.

Perhaps the team's performance on the field had something to do with the stands being empty.

From 1981-90, under six different head coaches, the Red and Black put together a less than respectable 36-73-1 record.

Ashcraft joined the staff in 1989 as a defensive coordinator, and in 1991 was promoted to head coach.

Consistent leadership may have been exactly what the squad needed. Since his takeover, the Red and Black has endured just four sub.-500 campaigns. Ashcraft's career record is 150-81-1.

Ashcraft coached high school and peewee wrestling for over 20 years, too. But make no mistake, his likeness has become as synonymous with the Red and Black as the lightning bolt depicted on his arm.

"Without him, there would be no Red and Black," defensive coordinator Rich Potter said. "He and his family, they've become a Watertown icon."

Ashcraft never expected such a long tenure, but now can't predict when it may end.

If some people in town would have had their way, however, he would have been out two years ago.

?       ?       ?

The most trying time of Ashcrafts career was in early 2008, when a dispute arose over the Red and Black name. It was probably the worst possible time such a controversy could have surfaced, because 2007 was difficult enough for the R&B organization.

Defensive coordinator Dave Connell was killed in action in Iraq, and, a few months later, then team president Rob Freeman's wife, Heather, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

To ad to the team's real-life sorrows, it lost a heartbreaking championship game to the Vermont Ice Storm, 9-8. It was a difficult end to a tough year, but the team's hopes for brighter days went unanswered in the coming months.

Local business owner, Tom Shultz, contended that Ashcraft had signed over ownership of the team following the 2006 season. Whatever deal they reached, though, went bad, and both sides claimed to be "the Red and Black."

A legal battle ensued, and on March 7, 2008, a state supreme court judge ruled, on a technicality, when, according to Times' archives, Shultz's attorney failed to appear in court, that the "original" team would retain rights to the name.

Shultz eventually formed his own squad, the Watertown Revolution, and about 30 of Ashcraft's former players joined him.

That's when things got ugly. And personal.

Ashcraft was the target.

Most of the talk about Ashcraft's mismanagement of the Red and Black revolved around his handling of the team's financial affairs. Such conversations in this proud semipro football city, whose talent pool would be split between two groups, were shared all over town.

But it wasn't just talk on the street. Shultz voiced his concerns in a public forum, seeming to indirectly accuse Ashcraft of pocketing money from the franchise.

"The money is going somewhere," he said May 8, 2008 during an interview on a local radio show on WATN-AM 1240 . "I don't know if it's tied up in his Corvette. Tied up in his motorcycle. Tied up in his new truck. I don't know where the money is."

Shultz even appealed to Freeman during the same interview, on the condition that Ashcraft not be included, that the two join forces to keep just one team in Watertown.

But according to Red and Black team treasurer John Ramos, accusations of thievery seemed like "they came way out of left field."

Both Ashcraft and his wife work to maintain their household. He at the Fairgrounds YMCA, and she at Fort Drum. Stealing from an organization that he had worked so hard and so long to build and promote seemed self-destructive. But also, according to the Red and Black, the insinuations were simply untrue.

"We had no concerns whatsoever," Ramos said.

Still, after the stress, heartbreak and anger the situation caused, George's family began to think that, maybe, his departure might be a good idea.

"I was like, 'maybe it's time to be done, dad,'" Troy Ashcraft said. "'Maybe you don't have to go through all this.'"

"He was quite upset. If any of it was true, he probably wouldn't have cared. But everything that was brought to the table was all lies."

The whole time, the board and the players who stayed behind supported the team's longest-ever tenured coach.

"It doesn't matter what organization you belong to, accusations pop up. It will probably happen again. So what? We keep all the records," Ramos said. "What was said was completely unfair and wrong."

Quarterback Brian Williams, who joined the team in 2005, echoed Ramos's thoughts.

"I know he felt like he needed to defend himself to us," Williams said. "He didn't have to. I know he was hurt by it, and not just angry. I felt bad he had to untarnish his name. I hope he knew that a majority of the players never needed an explanation."

Ashcraft, though, never considered leaving. "That made me stronger," he said.

He said he's always been accountable to the people and organizations that operate and support the team.

A look at the team program suggests that sponsors weren't turned off, either, as most have bought ads consistently through the years. The continued patronage was the biggest vote of confidence Ashcraft could have received.

"Anybody that's ever asked me since 1990, when I got on the board, to show them what it's for, I do," the coach said. "I will show them on a piece of paper where their money went."

The controversy did have a heavy price, though. Hard feelings lingered. Only about seven players who left in '08, returned for the '09 championship run.

"That's sad," Ashcraft said.

?       ?       ?

Ashcraft doesn't call too many plays anymore.

Instead, he surrounds himself with competent enough assistant coaches and players so that he doesn't have to worry as much about on-field strategy.

Such delegation is one way for Ashcraft to share with others the running of the team. Plus, it's proven to be an effective approach as the team won less than nine games in only two seasons this decade.

"He gives us free reign to do what we want. He'll tell you, he's more of an organizer than an 'X and O' guy," Potter said. "He pretty much leaves the assistants to run practice and basically call our own games."

Most of Ashcraft's efforts now focus on administration and fund raising. Phone calls and meetings take up most of the offseason.

And once a season ends, January arrives quickly. That's when a bulk of the team's bills become due. When insurance, league fees and footballs must be purchased.

The team operates on a yearly budget of $35,000-$40,000, Ashcraft said.

But this year, because of the team's league title, 2009 hasn't yet officially concluded.

He's spent the most of his time recently organizing a bowl-a-thon, a spaghetti dinner, and other events, to raise money for the upcoming trip to play the Carolina Express in the Orange Blossom Bowl.

Ashcraft said it was important for the team to go because it is something they qualified to do by winning the EFL title.

But the trip won't be cheap.

Williams said the players are responsible only for transportation costs, and that once there, meals and lodging will be paid for by the Red and Black.

Long before Ashcraft took charge, the Red and Black organization made it a priority to bear the financial burden for fielding a team.

Red and Black players don't have to buy shoulder pads or helmets. And they don't have to invest in uniforms or transportation to road games, either. They each must only buy their own cleats.

"If you can pay your bills at the end of the year, you've done your part in semipro football," Ashcraft said. "For the ones that say you can make money, they may be lining their pockets because the players are paying for everything."

Ashcraft said one of his first mistakes as head coach was to take 50 helmets to be reconditioned, only to not get any back because they were all more than five years old. He trembled when he had to inform the board, but the team still replaced them.

It's part of what makes the Red and Black unique, Ramos and Ashcraft, both former players, believe. To avoid similar situations, Ashcraft now earmarks money every year to purchase a few helmets, sets of shoulder pads, jerseys, etc. Just in case.

The players appreciate it.

"The fact that everything is provided allows us to focus on football. For many of us, if there was a financial requirement, we probably wouldn't be able to play," Williams said. "We all have families and are trying to make a living."

?       ?       ?

To sum it all up, the Ashcrafts' free time from May through November is spent on football. No matter what.

Sandy, got married on a summer Saturday in 1992, but when the team lined up for 7:30 p.m. kickoff, there was George, on the sideline in his R&B gear.

"I may have witnessed maybe four summer weddings in the past 25 years," Ashcraft said. "We give up a lot of fun, but I couldn't imagine not doing it."

He said it's worth the sacrifice, though, to have forged the lifelong personal relationships he's sustained because of this storied football team.

"I can say George is a friend of mine, as much as a coach," Williams said.

A phone call from a deployed soldier, and an e-mail from a player who hasn't suited up in a decade assure Ashcraft he did at least a few things right.

But he has other goals, too. Now that the team has finally won a championship, one of Ashcraft's biggest endeavors is to find a home for the team's Hall of Fame.

It left its spot in the Salmon Run Mall a few years ago, and now those artifacts of the past 113 years sit in storage. Some are in a room in Ashcraft's house, but, he believes they deserve a permanent home. And, contrary to what some may believe, he knows the Red and Black isn't just his team.

"It would make all these things more real for people," he said. "And that's going back to the tradition of this team."

That's what keeps him coming back year after year.

The tradition.



image

The 2009 Road to the Championship
Week 1  
R&B 41 - Massena 0
Best Buy Player of the game for July 11th 2009.
# 13 - Adam Bossinger - 1 interception for a touchdown and 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Adam was also the Instant Imprints MVP of the game. Instant Imprints will be selling clothing at the next home game.
Week 2 
  R&B 55 - Dragons 13

Offense - QB - Brian Williams - 4 carries - 114 yards - 1 rush td - 2 pass td's.

 

Defense - LB - Mike Dumaw - 9 tackles - 1 QB sack - 1 int for a td.

 


Week 3 
R&B 24 Ice Storm 13

Offense - #5 - Anthony Noel - RB - 21 Carries - 177 yards - 3 TD's

Defense - #7 - Greg Roberson - DE - 2 QB Sacks - 4 Tackles


Week 4 

Best Buy Player of the Game 

 R&B 43 - Ice Storm 0

Offense - #5 - Anthony Noel - RB - 9 Carries - 138 yards - 1 TD
Instant Imprints Player of the Game
Defense - #20 -Anthony Tyrkala - DB - 1 INT - 1 TD
Week 5 

R&B 2 Quebec 14 

Player of the Game

DE - #97 - Dan Robl - 8 Tackles - 1 QB Sack

Best Buy Player of the Game


Week 6

R&B 21 Plattsburgh 0

RB - TJ Williams - 14 carries - 123 yards - 1 TD

 

Instant Imprints Player of the Game 

RB - TJ Williams - 14 carries - 123 yards - 1 TD

DL - Garrett Kline - 2 Tackles

 


Week 7

R&B 48 Massena 0

Offense Players of the Week 

QB - Brian Williams and RB - Anthony Noel

Defense Players of the Week

LB - Dylan Kirker and LB - Demetric White each had 11 Tackles


Week 8 

Instant Imprints Player of the Game Week 9

DB - Antonio Alexander - #26 - Fumble recovery for a TD.

Best Buy Player of the Game.

QB - Brian Williams #24 - 96 yards and a TD


Week 9 - Bye

Week 10

Best Buy Player of the Game

QB - Brian Williams

121  Yards Rushing and Passing 2 TD's

Instant Imprints Week 10 Player of the Game

LB - Mike Dumaw - 13 Tackles - 1 Fumble Recovery


EFL Playoffs Round 2
Dan Robl was Best Buy Player of the Game.

#97 - 9 Tackles and 1 - QB Sack

 

 

Lester Coles was EFL Round 2 Instant Imprints MVP

#6 - 5 Catches - 154 yards - 2 TD's


EFL Championship Best Buy Player of the Game

# 24 - QB - Brian Williams - 114 yards - 1 TD

Instant Imprints

EFL Championship MVP Player of the Game

#10 - LB - Mike Dumaw - 6 Tackles - INT - Forced Fumble 

I ran into an player that has not played in 10 years, but still carries the article in his email when he played Red and Black. Though I should post it. If you have an old article you would like on the website, please email it to

 Watertown Daily Times
July 22, 2000
Headline: ALL JOKES ASIDE: RED & BLACK FINDS OUT JCC'S
SIMPSON CAN PLAY
Byline:    Rob Oatman Times Sports Writer

Kevin Simpson wasn't greeted with much enthusiasm
during his first visit to the Watertown Red and Black
locker room. Simpson, a 24- year-old rookie, played basketball last
season at Jefferson Community College, but hadn't
played football for six years since leaving high school in Summit, N.J.

For a while, Simpson was just a new face to Red and
Black head coach George Ashcraft. But after catching
five passes for 110
yards and one touchdown in his
Empire Football League
debut
on July 15, Simpson appears to have secured his
status as a starting
wide receiver. "I remember the first day of practice I didn't get any
equipment," Simpson said. "But look where I'm at now.
It's pretty good."

Simpson's contributions helped Watertown defeat Lake
City 51-14 in the EFL opener for both teams. Simpson's
play also easedRed and Black concerns over the loss of longtime
receiver Earnie Wash, who could not play this year
because of militarycommitments.

Red and Black quarterback Doug Black completed 16 of
26 passes for 248 yards and two TDs against Lake City. Wideout Odell
Bowens, meanwhile, supplied seven catches for 111
yards and a touchdown, helping to open up the running
game for teammate Al Countryman, who rushed for 96 yards.

According to Ashcraft, though, it was Simpson - the
only rookie of the bunch - who turned in the most
surprising effort, catching
balls with athleticism and breaking tackles with
flair.

"He's been laughing all year so far," Ashcraft said.
"It was a kidding thing last week. I was telling him,
"If you play in the game
like you do here in practice and you can carry that,
then I hope you're a real game player, because I don't
know about you. You've got me worried.' I kid with him a lot."
Simpson admits he likes to have fun on the field, but
said he doesn't want to offend Red and Black veterans.

"I bring speed and all that good stuff," Simpson said.
"I just want to take some of the pressure off Al,
Odell and Doug. That's basically what I want to do. I don't want to be a
superstar. I want to be the silent assassin."

Though off to a strong start, Simpson's EFL career
might be short-lived. He's preparing to begin his
second year at JCC and plans to move from the area after graduating.

"We're not getting paid for this," Simpson said. "So,
a bunch of guys getting out here, it's a chapter in my
life. When I look back at this football career, I can laugh and tell my kids."

Simpson, who isn't sure if he'll play basketball again
next season, said he'd like to eventually enroll at
Life University in Marietta, Ga., before starting a professional career as a
chiropractor. For now, he's content studying the Red and Black playbook.

"He listens very much," Watertown
offensive
coordinator
Mike Britton said. "He's very interested
in learning more concepts of our whole offensive strategy. And he'll ask about the
different parts of what routes he should run and what
he should be looking for in the defensive coverage for recognition."

The 5-foot-11-inch, 165-pound Simpson played the
receiver, quarterback and tailback positions at
Summit
High School
.
The Red
and Black
may utilize that versatility, at least in
part.

"It's mostly his speed and quickness that's helping
him," Britton said. "Once he is able to understand and
master the precise routes aspect of it, he'll be, I think, one of the most
feared offensive threats in the league."
Simpson can only hope the rest of his playing career
goes as well as his first game.

"I just ran out, did the patterns and caught the ball
like I was supposed to do," Simpson said. "(Black) put
me in the situation where
I can catch the ball and run with it."