HOME OF THE WATERTOWN RED AND BLACK: 2016 R&B News

Monday, June 27
Watertown Red & Black Football Team Sold to F.X. Caprara Owners WATERTOWN, N.Y.
 
Calling all North Country football fans: the Watertown Red and Black football team is holding tryouts. Dozens of people showed up for the first event Saturday morning. However the team won't just have new players this season. It will also have new owners. An optimistic group show off their football skills Saturday, hoping it's enough to make the Watertown Red and Black team. "I'm hoping I can make the team. It'd be good to be doing something instead of being at the barracks," said Fort Drum resident Kameron Brown. While tryouts will continue over the next few months, new faces have already joined the Red and Black family. The team has been sold to Billy and Charlie Caprara, of F.X. Caprara Car Dealership. "We want to promote it. We want to give something back to an area that has been so good to us," said Charlie Caprara. "This is the oldest semi-pro football team in the United States. So, it's something to be proud of not for only us, but for Watertown," said Billy Caprara. Head Coach George Ashcraft says selling the team will help him out financially and allow him to focus more on coaching. "Between $30,000 to $40,000 a year is what the budget is and to make that, it's tough in this area," said Ashcraft. "I'm excited. I can't wait for this thing to move forward. It gave me new life." Billy and Charlie Caprara say their focus will be on promoting the team and helping fill the stands with fans every game. They're also hoping to play a role in bringing back the popularity of the Red and Black. The Red and Black's first game will be May 21 against the Carthage Revolution.
 
Watertown Red and Black Organizing Tonight  
 
The Watertown Red and Black semipro football team is holding sign-ups for the upcoming season from 6-10 tonight at the Fairgrounds YMCA. The event is for anyone interested in playing, coaching, or volunteering to help with the team’s season, which begins in July. There will be drills and stationary work for players interested in trying out. The Red and Black finished last season with an 8-4 record and made its second straight trip to the Empire Football League championship game.
 
Watertown Red and Black announces Hall of Fame inductees
 
 Watertown Red and Black Selection Committee has announced its Hall of Fame Class for 2016. It consists of eight former Red and Black players as well as two people in the non-player category. This will be the first Red and Black Hall of Fame induction since 2006. The following players will be inducted: Doug Black, Lonnie Mancini, Al Countryman, Pat Nulty, Isaiah Cantey, Mike Moran, Gary Gerken and Lynn Patrick. In the non-player category, former Watertown Daily Times sportswriter John Day and former radio and TV broadcaster Glenn Gough will also be inducted. Inductions will be held on Thursday, May 26 at a dinner to be held at Savory Downtown in Watertown, with cocktails from 5-6 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Former Syfacuse University and NFL assistant coach Bob Casullo will be the guest speaker.
 
Red & Black to hold Hall of Fame dinner May 19
 
Tickets are still available for the Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame banquet, scheduled for May 19 at Savory Downtown. The cost is $35 per person. Social hour will run from 5-6 p.m. and dinner is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Player inductees include Doug Black, Isaiah Cantey, Al Countryman, Gary Gerken, Lonny Mancini, Mike Moran, Pat Nulty and Lynn Patrick. Non-player inductees are former Times sportswriter John Day and radio/TV broadcaster Glenn Cough. The guest speaker will be former Syracuse and NFL assistant coach, Bob Casullo. To reserve a spot or make a donation to the banquet program, contact John Morgia by phone (777-7917 or 788-3718) or by email (jjmrogia1@hotmail.com).  
 
Semipro football: Levine, Call to be inducted into Hall of Fame
 
Watertown Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine and former offensive lineman Jamee Call will be inducted into the American Football Association Semipro/Minor League Football Hall of Fame this summer. Levine held the head coaching position for the 1985, 1987 and 1990 seasons, and has had several stints as an assistant coach in the years since. Call, the head varsity wrestling coach at Indian River, played on the offensive line for 11 years before retiring in 2005. The AFA’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, featuring 17 inductees, will be a two-day event on June 30 and July 1 in Canton, Ohio. ? The Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame dinner is tonight at Savory Downtown. Social hour begins at 5 p.m. and dinner is slated for 6:30 p.m. Player inductees are Doug Black, Isaiah Cantey, Al Countryman, Gary Gerken, Lonny Mancini, Mike Moran, Pat Nulty and Lynn Patrick. Non-player inductees are former Times sportswriter John Day and radio/TV broadcaster Glenn Cough. Entry costs $35 per person for the event, which will feature former Syracuse and NFL assistant coach Bob Casullo as the guest speaker.  


Monday, June 27

Watertown Red and Black eager to get season off to early start

 Following the most energetic offseason in the careers of those playing for the Watertown Red and Black, the team will take the field for the first time this year when it kicks off the preseason to its 120th year of semipro football. The Red and Black, coming off an 8-4 season that ended with a loss to Syracuse in the Empire Football League championship game, will host the Upstate Predators at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duff Fairgrounds. “We’re crazy excited to get out there,” said Tristan Jones, a returning middle linebacker expected to anchor the defense in his third season. “To see somebody else in pads, have our fan-base there with that game atmosphere, everyone’s adrenaline is definitely going to be up.” Tonight’s exhibition game will cap off a thrilling four-plus months for the nation’s oldest semipro team. George Ashcraft, the team’s head coach of 26 years, announced on Feb. 20 that the organization was sold to brothers Billy and Charlie Caprara, who own numerous F.X. Caprara car dealerships in the area. The franchise has been busy participating in public events ever since. In addition to the team’s annual spring events like the city’s Heart Walk, they were involved with the Armed Forces Day Parade, Salvation Army picnic, a meet-and-greet event at Savory Downtown, and also held its first Red and Black Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 10 years. “I couldn’t think of something better that could have come along for us,” Ashcraft said of the ownership change. Tonight’s game is the first of three straight preseason tilts at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, which is more exhibition work than most of this year’s roster has ever experienced. Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said the full preseason schedule is especially important this season with a younger roster than normal. “We have a lot of new players and that’s the fun but challenging part,” Levine said. “We’re very young this year. We’re very athletic but it’s young guys, so these three weeks are huge to get them adjusted and get them ready for (the season opener in) July.” One of the young players who will see his first action tonight is General Brown senior Evan Will, who made the Times All-North first team last fall after accounting for 1,765 total yards (1,173 passing, 592 rushing) and 30 touchdowns (16 pass, 14 rush). The fast and shifty Will, whom Levine said has stood out through the first six weeks of practice, will form a quarterback tandem with the tall, strong-armed Ryan Semor. Semor, a Fort Drum soldier, quarterbacked the team to the EFL title game in 2014 and missed last season because of military obligations. Joe Brennan will return to his role as the team’s workhorse back this season, after forming a tandem with former Indian River and Penn State player Curtis Dukes for the last two years. Dukes will play for the Carthage Revolution this year. Levine said Brennan will see limited preseason work in an effort to keep him fresh, while allowing other backs, notable former Watertown High standout Anton Gadson, to compete for a role behind their veteran bell-cow. Chris Furr and Keegan Queior return to lead a speedy stable of wide receivers, while veteran center Avery Barney will anchor the offensive line. In addition to Jones returning in the middle, Tony Ivey is back to produce for the defense at nose tackle, while former Indian River standout Connor Brown will look to build on a rookie season in which he led the team in tackles. “We got guys coming in and learning a new system, a new style compared to what they saw in high school, and guys are getting used to each other,” Jones said. “The next three weeks are going to help with that. We’ll get guys thinking more, seeing different situations and getting their timing down.

Semipro football: Will powers Red & Black to preseason victory

Evan Will made a strong debut in his first start with a touchdown run, pass and reception as the Watertown Red & Black routed the Upstate Predators based out of Western New York, 43-8, Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Will, who will graduate from General Brown in two weeks, went 8-of-15 for 130 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Will found Keegan Queior for a 59-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter after Queior found Will from four yards out on a trick play. The General Brown signal- caller started the scoring with a four-yard TD run. “It was a great start to his Red & Black career,” assistant coach Jerry Levine said. Anton Gadson scored a pair of rushing touchdowns from four and five yards out, while Connor Brown recorded four tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack as part of four turnovers forced by Watertown. “The defense was ruthless and we were fast on both sides of the ball,” head coach George Ashcraft said. Upstate scored on a safety and 100-yard return of a missed field goal in the fourth quarter. Watertown will host the Connecticut Ravens in an exhibition game Saturday at the Fairgrounds. The Red & Black start the Empire Football League regular season hosting the Glens Falls Green Jackets on July 9.

 

Semipro football: Red and Black whitewashes Wolverines in preseason game

Ryan Semor went 4-for-4 for 81 yards and two touchdown passes as the Red and Black routed the Cataract City Wolverines 41-0 Saturday night in a preseason game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Semor found Chris Furr for a 59-yard scoring pass in the first quarter and then hit Keegan Queior with a 14-yard score as the Red and Black won its second straight preseason game. Rakawan Allen scored on a 54-yard run and totaled 100 yards on just two carries. Andre Witter added a blocked punt recovery in the end zone. The fourth quarter was not played due to lack of players after injuries to Cataract City, which is based in Niagara Falls. Watertown will wrap up the preseason with a game Saturday at the Fairgrounds against the Henrietta Spartans.

Semipro football: Red & Black to host preseason finale tonight

 The Watertown Red and Black semipro football team will wrap up its preseason with a game against the Henrietta Spartans at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. The Red and Black has rolled to two blowout victories thus far in the preseason with a 43-8 win over the Upstate Predators on June 4, and a 41-0 shutout of the Cataract City Wolverines last Saturday. After tonight’s exhibition, the Red and Black is idle until its Empire Football League regular-season opener against the Glens Falls Greenjackets at 7 p.m. July 9 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Watertown finished with an 8-4 record and lost in the EFL title game for the second straight season. Semipro football:

Red & Black defeats Spartans in preseason finale, 34-20

The Watertown Red and Black wrapped up its longest preseason in more than a decade Saturday night and left little doubt that the team is poised and ready for its regular season to kick off in three weeks. The Red and Black rode a dominant first-half performance from its defense and special teams units to capture a 34-20 victory over the Henrietta Spartans in front of about 150 fans at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Watertown finished its exhibition season with a 3-0 record, outscoring its opponents by a combined 118-28. The nation’s oldest semipro football team will host Glens Falls on July 9 in its Empire Football League regular-season opener. “Going into July, we’re going to be so much farther ahead than where we’ve been the last few years,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “So when certain things happen, I think we’re going to be able to get through it better. We’ve seen a lot of different stuff from these three teams that have come in here.” Keegan Queior returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown about six minutes into the game to put the Red and Black up 6-0, invigorating the club after its first two drives resulted in an interception and a three-and-out. “I just tried to bring something, a little energy,” Queior said. “I saw that we weren’t really doing anything on offense so I just tried to bring a little spark to the team.” The defense took over from there. On Henrietta’s next possession, Red and Black defensive end Jarod Dukes recovered a fumble after a high snap and rolled into the end zone to give the Red and Black a 14-0 lead following the extra point. Mike Hibbard led a swarm of defenders to block a punt midway through the second quarter, setting Watertown up at the five-yard line for an easy touchdown run by former Watertown High standout Anton Gadson. Connor Brown, a second-year linebacker and 2015 Indian River graduate, scored on two safeties by sacking Henrietta quarterback Jon Sharp in the end zone, and the defense forced four turnovers overall. The Red and Black held the Spartans scoreless in the first half and entered halftime with a 23-0 lead. “We know that (defense) will be a big strength for us,” Brown said. “Coach Ashcraft said this was going to be one of the top-five defenses that he’s coached throughout all his years here, and we feel like our defense did what we had to do tonight.” Gadson, who has served as the lead back while veteran Joe Brennan was held out of the preseason, was injured at the end of a six-yard run up the middle. He was holding his arm as he walked off the field and left in an ambulance. RaKwan Allen took over the backfield after Gadson’s injury and finished with team highs of 16 carries for 69 yards. He scored on a 24-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give the Red and Black a 29-0 advantage. Evan Will, a General Brown senior who will graduate on Friday, started at quarterback and completed 4-of-8 passes for 30 yards, adding four rushes for 28 yards. Veteran quarterback Ryan Semor, who was limited with a shoulder injury, completed 3-of-10 passes for 30 yards. “This was good for us because we rolled pretty easy through those first two games, and we found out tonight that we got a lot of work to do still,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “It exposed us a little bit and showed us some areas that we have to clean up heading into the regular season.” Linebacker Tristan Jones finished with a team-high seven tackles, Brown recorded six tackles, and each player registered a sack.  



Tuesday, July 12

Semipro football: Red and Black boasts Lion’s share

WATERTOWN — Evan Will, Dylan Bice, Jacob Beckwith and Drew Heise turned in their blue and gold jerseys for the Red and Black.

All four recent General Brown graduates will make their regular-season debut Saturday when the Watertown Red and Black opens its 120th year of semipro football with a 7 p.m. game against Glens Falls at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The group will follow in the footsteps of their former high school coaches and lifelong mentors — Lions legend Steve Fisher and Doug Black — who both starred for the Red and Black in their respective playing days.

Watertown went 3-0 in the preseason and is coming off an 8-4 campaign that ended with a loss to Syracuse in the Empire Football League championship game.

“I think all the guys’ love for football pretty much was the key in our decision to play,” Bice said.

“Coach Fisher and Coach Black have had a big impact on our lives in general,” he added. “They’ve been there for us since we were about knee-high on them. We talked to them and they said that if you don’t know what you want to do in life, this is a great place to start. To come here and play football, you’re still local and your families can still watch you play. We’ll still always get to carry that General Brown football name.”

Will is in the mix for the starting quarterback job, and will be used in a variety of other roles alongside returning veteran signal-caller Ryan Semor regardless of who takes the first snap. Will tallied 1,765 total offensive yards as a senior under center for the Lions last fall (1,173 passing and 592 rushing). He threw 16 touchdown passes, scored 14 rushing touchdowns, and returned an interception and a punt for scores.

Bice is expected to contribute at linebacker, could see some time in the backfield, and will make his most immediate impact as the team’s kicker. Bice scored 13 rushing touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last fall, while leading the Lions defense with 58 tackles and four sacks. He also converted 33 of 35 extra points as a senior, and booted a 36-yard field goal during the Red and Black’s final preseason game.

Beckwith has played his way into a starting role at offensive tackle, and Heise will help to provide depth on both lines.

Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said that throughout preseason practices, the foursome has displayed characteristics that illustrate the influence of Fisher and Black’s tutelage.

“Those guys have all done a great job and it doesn’t feel like they’re rookies, because they get onto the field and they understand it, and that’s from being coached well,” Levine said. “They have great discipline, that’s another Steve Fisher trait, and they’re willing to learn and willing to sacrifice anything to help the team, and that’s an attitude you don’t find from young kids all the time.”

Each of the four teenagers volunteer as firefighters serving Brownville, and Will, Bice and Heise each plan to study fire safety and prevention in college. That decision, Will and Bice said, limited their options to pursue playing college football and helped lead them to the Red and Black.

“None of us were going to college to play football or any sport, so we thought we might as well come out here and have fun and play,” Will said.

Will said that each member of the foursome quickly learned during the Red and Black’s 3-0 exhibition schedule that they’re no longer lining up against fellow high school players.

“The defenses at this level, some of the guys are huge and these linebackers are coming at you full-force, and they all want to wreck you,” Will said.

Bice added: “It’s definitely bigger and faster. There is a lot more competition and skill-position wise, there are a lot of faster guys so you really have to step up your attitude, your pursuit angles and the way you attack.”

Fisher, who coached the Lions from 1966 to 2009 and again in 2013 and 2014, was inducted into the American Football Association Semipro/Minor League Hall of Fame in 2008 for his contributions to the Red and Black as a player and coach.

Black — who holds Red and Black records with 1,253 completions, 17,989 passing yards, and 197 passing touchdowns — received Hall of Fame honors last summer, just five days before he officially replaced Fisher as General Brown head football coach.

Watertown Red and Black 2016 outlook

OVERALL

Watertown went 8-4 last year, reaching the playoffs for the seventh straight season and finishing with a loss in the Empire Football League championship game for the second year in a row. The defending champion Syracuse Strong return to the EFL, along with perennial contenders like the Plattsburgh North Stars, Sussex Stags and Glens Falls. The Seaway Valley Venom and Mohawk Valley Titans are new additions to the seven-team league. The Red and Black won all three of its preseason games behind relentless defensive performances.

OFFENSE

Ryan Semor has returned from a one-year absence due to military obligations, and will handle the quarterback duties along with recent General Brown graduate Evan Will. The tall, strong-armed Semor threw 11 touchdowns in 2014 and led the Red and Black to the EFL title game. The duo is expected to share time early in the season and Will could be used in a variety of other roles. ... Incumbent starter Joe Brennan, the team’s second all-time leading rusher, will miss roughly half of the season due to a calf injury. That leaves 2013 Watertown High School graduate Anton Gadson to lead a running back committee in the interim, hoping to replace the production that Brennan and the departed Curtis Dukes provided a season ago when they combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards. Gadson is entering his second semipro season and first since he played a limited role behind Brennan in 2013. RaKwan Allen, Demetrius Robinson and Dylan Bice will also get carries. ... Chris Furr returns as the top receiving target. He led Watertown with 20 receptions, 637 yards and six touchdowns last year. Keegan Queior, the team’s top kick/punt returner who scored on a return in the preseason, will start opposite Furr in his second season. ... Sandy Creek alum Avery Barney will anchor the offensive line from the center position. Jacob Beckwith and Jordan Chambers are the favorites to start at tackle, and veteran defensive tackle Tony Ivey will start on the offense and work on both sides of the ball this year.

DEFENSE

The linebacker duo of Tristan Jones and Connor Brown, both of whom eclipsed 100 tackles last year, headline a defense that allowed just 7.3 points per game during the preseason. ... Jones is in his third year with the team and tallied 102 takedowns, including a team-high 45 solo tackles, last year. Brown, who graduated from Indian River last summer after helping the Warriors capture the first-ever state championship for a north country high school football team in November 2014, will enter his second year after leading the squad with 119 tackles as a rookie last year. ... Ivey, who ranked third on the team with 44 tackles last year, will still rotate in up front, and talented newcomer Jarred Dukes is expected to wreak havoc at defensive end. Tyler Sloley, also a member of Indian River’s 2014 state championship team, is coming off a strong preseason and is a player to watch in the defensive backfield.

 Semipro football: Red and Black starts season tonight at home

WATERTOWN — The Watertown Red and Black will open its regular season by hosting the Glens Falls Greenjackets in an Empire Football League game at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Red and Black is entering its 120th year of semipro football. The team has reached the EFL title game in each of the past two seasons and is coming off an 8-4 campaign. The Greenjackets finished 4-5 last year and suffered a 34-13 EFL playoff loss to the Red and Black.

Watertown went 3-0 in the preseason while Glens Falls won its only exhibition game.

? The Carthage Revolution will host the Ithaca Warriors in an Northeastern Football Alliance East Division game at 7 tonight at Carthage High School.

The Revolution (1-2) is coming off an 8-6 loss to the Broome County Stallions on June 25, while Warriors (1-3) claimed their first win of the season, 30-12 over Glove Cities, on the same night.

Semipro football: Red and Black defense makes auspicious debut

WATERTOWN — Players and coaches for the Watertown Red and Black expressed confidence in their defense entering Saturday night’s Empire Football League season opener.

Less than five minutes into the game and their regular season, it was easy to see why.

The Watertown defense intercepted Glens Falls quarterback Denny Willhelm’s first two pass attempts of the game — the second by Robert Russell was returned 30 yards for a touchdown — and the Red and Black claimed a 20-6 victory over the Greenjackets behind a commanding defensive performance at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“We want to get to the quarterback, and we want to make them look twice at receivers, and we want to make them move their feet a little bit, and that definitely happened tonight,” said Red and Black linebacker Tristan Jones, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles and two sacks. “If we can keep that going all year, we’ll be great.”

Princeton Nealy came up with the first interception for the Red and Black. On the next Glens Falls possession, a host of Watertown defenders busted through the line to get to Willhelm, who was hit hard and dropped the ball right into the hands of the pursuing Russell. He ran 30 yards to the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.

“Our defensive line had really good penetration and it was really on them,” said Russell, who also recorded eight tackles. “They smashed the quarterback, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was awesome.”

Elijah Collins recovered a fumble in the first half and picked off a pass in the third quarter for Watertown, which held the Greenjackets to 144 yards of total offense.

The Red and Black forced four turnovers, registered three sacks, and forced the Greenjackets to punt away eight possessions. In the first quarter, Glens Falls recorded just two offensive yards on 16 plays and failed to pick up a first down.

“We try to set that mentality, every practice and every week, and it carried over into the game,” Jones said.

The Red and Black maintained its 7-0 lead before finally creating some seperation in the fourth quarter.

Recent General Brown graduate Evan Will, who entered the game at quarterback in place of Ryan Semor on the team’s second possession of the third quarter, threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Michael Cook early in the fourth to give the Red and Black a 13-0 lead. Cook caught the ball and spun out of a tackle around the 25-yard line before taking it to the house.

“I turned around and saw two defenders and I just lowered my shoulders like I was always taught, and did a quick spin move and headed to the end zone,” Cook said. “I want this feeling all the time so from this point forward I’m just going to work hard and try to motivate my team and get more feelings like that.”

Anton Gadson ran in an 18-yard touchdown later in the quarter to give Watertown a comfortable 20-0 lead. The Red and Black’s offense struggled until about midway through the third quarter. After missing a long field goal attempt on its first series, Watertown was forced to punt after a three-and-out on its next five possessions heading into halftime.

“The defense played an excellent game and kept the offense in it,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “We moved the ball at certain times pretty well on offense, but overall, our offense has to pick it up.”

Gadson picked up 67 yards on 19 carries, Keegan Queior caught four passes for a team-high 65 yards, and Will completed 7 of 11 attempts for 109 yards to go with 30 yards on four carries.

The Red and Black will play at Syracuse in a rematch of last year’s EFL title game, which was won by the Strong, at 7 p.m. next Saturday.



Saturday, July 23

Red and Black plays at Syracuse in EFL title game rematch

Before returning home to his cake or going to the emergency room for a fractured foot on his 26th birthday last October, Chris Furr began anticipating his next opportunity to play the Syracuse Strong. Furr, like many of his Watertown Red and Black teammates and coaches, said he started eagerly awaiting the rematch just moments after the Red and Black’s 14-6 loss to the Strong in last year’s Empire Football League championship game. That anxiousness ends tonight for the Red and Black — especially for its top wide receiver, Furr — who caught a 65-yard touchdown to help Watertown to a 6-0 halftime lead in that game, but later fractured his foot and suffered the loss on his birthday. “I’m not saying I’m looking for revenge,” Furr said, “but at the same time, I’m trying to come out and at least get this win and get that redemption that I feel like we deserve.” The Red and Black (1-0) is coming off a 20-6 victory over Glens Falls in its season debut last Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, while tonight’s game serves as the season opener for the Strong. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Meachem Park in Syracuse. “Playing them in week two is big for us,” Furr said. “If we win (tonight), throughout the whole season, we’ll know that we’re capable of beating them and if we end up seeing them in the championship again, we’ll know that we’re capable of beating them in the championship.” Tonight’s game will feature a pair of the EFL’s most fearsome defenses. The Strong rode a smothering pass rush to the championship in its inaugural season last year, limiting opposing teams to just seven points per game and posting three shutouts. Syracuse went 2-1 with a pair of shutouts in the preseason, allowing only eight points overall. “I think we go in there with the top two defenses again and that just brings out something extra, a little more adrenaline,” Red and Black defensive coordinator Brian Gessner said. “We want to show them that we are the better team, the better defense and the better offense.” Watertown’s defense gave up 11.2 points per game last season to rank as the second stingiest in the EFL, and is coming off an impressive performance in the season opener. The Red and Black defense finished with three sacks and forced four turnovers, including a pick-six by Robert Russell in the first quarter, and held Glens Falls to 144 yards of total offense. During its 3-0 preseason, Watertown limited opponents to 7.3 points per game. “I think that both defenses are going to be up to the challenge to see if they can’t pitch a shutout,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “It’s going to be up to the offenses and the special teams to do something special in this game.” Watertown and Syracuse split their two regular-season matchups last year, with each team scoring a road victory. “I think that with everybody knowing what a chore this is going to be, it’s going to have them ready,” Ashcraft added. “I think this team is truly ready to go down there and try to redeem what happened last October.” The Red and Black returns to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds for back-to-back home games on July 23 and July 30 against the Sussex Stags and the Seaway Valley Venom, respectively.

Strong overpowers Red & Black, 34-3

A bad start doomed the Watertown Red and Black as it was routed, 34-3, by the defending Empire Football League champion Syracuse Strong in the Strong’s season opener on Saturday night at Meacham Park. Syracuse (1-0) got out of the gate quickly as Quon Green returned a punt 60 yards within the 1 minute, 30 seconds elapsed after forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive by Watertown (1-1). The Shock then scored 27 of its 34 points in the first half to put up an insurmountable lead. “We got beat pretty badly,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “They just dominated us from the start,” Red and Black assistant coach Jerry Levine said. “We got off to a bad start and it snowballed from there.” Marty Clanton threw a pair of touchdown passes, including an 11-yard strike to Tyler Gage for Syracuse. The Strong added a third-quarter touchdown before the Red and Black finally scored on a 20-yard field goal by Dylan Bice. Watertown quarterback and former General Brown standout Evan Will went 10-for-30 for 102 yards and two interceptions. Levine was pleased with Will’s toughness. “He hung in there and we had a couple of really good drives at the end,” Levine said. Princeton Nealy intercepted a pass and Tristan Jones recorded nine tackles to highlight the Red and Black’s defensive effort. Syracuse defeated Watertown, 14-6, in the 2015 EFL title game. Watertown will host the Sussex (N.J.) Stags at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. Saturday. SYRACUSE — A bad start doomed the Watertown Red and Black as it was routed, 34-3, by the defending Empire Football League champion Syracuse Strong in the Strong’s season opener on Saturday night at Meacham Park. Syracuse (1-0) got out of the gate quickly as Quon Green returned a punt 60 yards within the 1 minute, 30 seconds elapsed after forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive by Watertown (1-1). The Shock then scored 27 of its 34 points in the first half to put up an insurmountable lead. “We got beat pretty badly,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “They just dominated us from the start,” Red and Black assistant coach Jerry Levine said. “We got off to a bad start and it snowballed from there.” Marty Clanton threw a pair of touchdown passes, including an 11-yard strike to Tyler Gage for Syracuse. The Strong added a third-quarter touchdown before the Red and Black finally scored on a 20-yard field goal by Dylan Bice. Watertown quarterback and former General Brown standout Evan Will went 10-for-30 for 102 yards and two interceptions. Levine was pleased with Will’s toughness. “He hung in there and we had a couple of really good drives at the end,” Levine said. Princeton Nealy intercepted a pass and Tristan Jones recorded nine tackles to highlight the Red and Black’s defensive effort. Syracuse defeated Watertown, 14-6, in the 2015 EFL title game. Watertown will host the Sussex (N.J.) Stags at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. Saturday.

  With Ivey leading the way, Red & Black hopes to make sweet music tonight

Watertown Red and Black fans witness how much Tony Ivey enjoys playing semipro football every home game when they see the big No. 77 jamming to the music on the sidelines. Ivey’s coaches and teammates see his fondness for the game when he shows up committed to work hard at every practice, sacrificing personal preference to play any position he’s asked. Ivey said that he is just grateful to play in front of a dedicated fan-base at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, as he will tonight when the Red and Black (1-1 overall) hosts the Sussex Stags (2-0). Kickoff for the matchup between a pair of Empire Football League contenders is scheduled for 7 p.m. “To have fans come out to our games and to hear them cheer and yell for No. 77 to go start dancing and stuff, it lights a fire under you,” said Ivey, a versatile two-way lineman who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs nearly 400 pounds. “You get moving and it’s a lot more fun than you might expect. I love when we get a little dance music on and I love going up to the kids and high-fiving and signing autographs. There’s really no other feeling like it.” Ivey said he was born in Watertown and his family moved to Atlanta when he was an infant. He grew up and lived in Georgia until playing college football at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. Ivey was recruited to play defensive tackle for the Chargers of the NAIA, but was eventually shifted to guard, and finished his career as the team’s center. He then played a few semipro seasons while living near Atlanta, he said, in front of crowds that rarely topped 15 people. Ivey said he was more than willing to follow that pattern and play various roles for the Red and Black when he moved back to the area and started playing for the team five years ago. “I’ve got enough beef for the entire team,” Ivey said. “I’m rotating in at guard, tackle, and nose tackle. I’m a little bit of a do-it-all guy and I like it that way. I consider myself a fat swiss army knife.” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said that he has long been impressed with the agility and energy with which Ivey operates through the trenches on either side of the ball, and views his versatility as a priceless asset to the coaching staff. “That’s the kind of guy Tony is,” Ashcraft said. “He’ll move over to fill a different spot, doesn’t matter where, and he won’t give you any crap about it. He’ll just say ‘yeah,’ because he’s here to play. He’s here to win.” Ivey received honorable mention on the EFL All-Star team as an offensive lineman in 2012 and 2013 then missed the 2014 season with a torn Achilles tendon, an injury he suffered at the end of the previous year. He returned last season and finished third on the team with 44 tackles, garnering second team EFL all-defense honors, and started being worked into the offensive line rotation to help the team reach its second straight EFL title game. “I told them: ‘Look I just want to get back on the field,’” Ivey said. “I didn’t have a solidified starting spot anymore. At that point, I went wherever they could put me.” Ivey said that pursuing a championship for the Red and Black in recent years, including home games in front of hundreds of fans, has been among the most enjoyable experiences of his football career. “This is everything that you want,” Ivey said. “You really have to soak up as much football as you can in this area, because you only get it for a short period of time. You have to have fun with it while you can.”



Friday, July 29

No Stag party this time around for Red & Black

As the Watertown Red and Black and Sussex Stags players huddled together for a postgame prayer, George Ashcraft approached the group to commend Ben Cramer on a fine performance. Ashcraft yelled to the group that Cramer, the 20-year-old Sussex running back, was perhaps the best rookie rusher that Ashcraft has ever seen in his 26 years as Red and Black head coach. Cramer ran for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries, and Sussex added several big plays through the air and on special teams to capture a 42-30 comeback victory over the Red and Black Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. The Stags improved to 3-0 to remain atop the Empire Football League standings, while the Red and Black (1-2 overall) suffered its second straight loss. “We very easily could have folded up,” Cramer said. “These guys were pounding us in the beginning and we said: ‘Screw that.’ We came back and started pounding back a lot harder than they were pounding us and it worked in our favor.” Cramer scored on an eight-yard run with 17 seconds left in the second quarter to cut the Red and Black’s lead to 28-22 entering halftime. His second touchdown came from 11 yards out early in the fourth quarter to put Sussex up 42-28, capping a run of 26 unanswered points. Cramer, who graduated from Newton High School in 2014 as a standout in football and baseball, broke off six runs of 10 yards or more, with a long of 45. He had two additional lengthy runs, both topping 30 yards, called back because of holding penalties. “I’ll put my 26 years of being a head coach on it, that kid is one of the finest football players I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Ashcraft said of Cramer. “This kid is the real deal. If he hangs around you better hold onto your hat because he’s almost unstoppable.” The Stags’ running game kept the Red and Black offense — which had been gaining momentum throughout the first half — off the field for much of the second half, especially in the third quarter. The Red and Black was outscored 13-0 in the third and ran just four offensive plays in the period. The first was a lost fumble inside the Sussex 10-yard line, followed by a botched snap that went for minus-nine yards, a reception that lost two yards, and an incomplete pass. Watertown was held to 35 yards of total offense over the final two quarters. “We went out there for four plays in the third quarter and couldn’t get a first down, and it’s hard to get into rhythm like that,” Red and Black quarterback Evan Will said. Sussex quarterback Joe Eslin made several big plays in the second half, the biggest of which was an 82-yard touchdown pass to Kasson Thomas on third-and-15 late in the third quarter to give the Stags a 35-28 lead. “I think we made a great statement,” Cramer said. “Watertown came out real tough and kind of got us in the mouth a little bit, and we came fighting back and showed how tough we were.” Will ran in a seven-yard touchdown on Watertown’s first possession and later found Chris Furr for touchdowns of five and 25 yards in the first half. Keegan Queior scored on an 86-yard kickoff return with five minutes left in the second quarter to put Watertown up 28-16, matching its largest lead of the game. “I felt like we did slack up a little bit when we had that lead coming out of halftime,” Furr said. “So I think that got to us and when we came back out, we thought we could just do it again and the game turned on us.” Will completed 15-of-28 passes for 109 yards and an interception, while Furr caught seven passes for 47 yards and Queior finished with five receptions for 52 yards. The Red and Black was held to just 34 team rushing yards on 13 carries.



Monday, August 1

Red and Black’s Sawyer waits to run again

Ky Sawyer has served as an inspiration for the Watertown Red and Black since his lower left leg was amputated following a motorcycle accident last year.

And the former defensive lineman hopes that his motivational tale is just getting started.

Sawyer — who has remained a fixture with the team since suffering the accident, this year as a defensive assistant coach — said he hopes to eventually suit up and resume his role along the defensive line for the nation’s oldest semipro football team.

Sawyer will be on the sidelines coaching his former teammates tonight when the Red and Black (1-2 overall) hosts the Seaway Valley Venom (0-2) in an Empire Football League matchup. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“I still get cold chills pretty much every play that I watch because I want to be out there,” said Sawyer, a Black River native and 2008 Carthage Central School graduate. “I’m too competitive to just sit around. I’ve been playing football since I was about 5 years old for the Carthage Bears, and I’ve never gone a season without playing until this happened.”

Sawyer, who has adorned his prosthetic leg with a Red and Black helmet decal, played three seasons for the team beginning in 2012. He lined up mostly at defensive end during his first two years, and in 2014, he shifted to nose tackle and finished with 20 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Sawyer earned EFL All-Star honorable mention that season, and was poised to return to the team for 2015 and build off his breakout season.

But on June 29 that year, just a few weeks before the EFL season opener, Sawyer was riding his motorcycle through the intersection of Factory and High streets in Watertown when he was struck by a sport utility vehicle.

Sawyer said he was run over after being struck by the vehicle. He was treated for leg injuries on the scene and flown to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where he eventually underwent surgery to amputate part of his lower-left leg.

Less than a month after the accident, Sawyer was on the sidelines for Red and Black home games, cheering on his teammates in a wheelchair. The accident also occurred about two weeks before the birth of Sawyer’s first child, a daughter named Lachlyn.

“What he’s overcome is miraculous but the way he’s handled it has really been amazing,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “You never see him down, you never see him holding any animosity towards anything. Since it’s happened, it’s been all: ‘I’m going to get better and I’m going to show people I can do this.’ I think his attitude is what’s really carried him through this.”

Sawyer frequently attended games and practices last year, and decided to join the coaching staff this past winter when he attended the team’s offseason training camps.

“This is kind of like my family here, so I couldn’t just spend my time not doing something with the team,” Sawyer said. “It’s definitely a huge transition (becoming a coach). It’s weird telling my old teammates what to do, it’s kind of fun, but it’s hard watching everyone else play when you want to be out there.”

Last August, a few months before receiving his first prosthetic leg, Sawyer was back in the weight room with former teammate Alex Tibbles, who was coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Tibbles slimmed down dramatically while training with Sawyer and credited his teammate with helping him land a pro contract with the Budapest Cowbells of the Central European Football League this past winter.

“He really got me back into the gym and is the reason I’m in good shape now,” Tibbles said in February. “I felt like a turd. If a guy is in the weight room with one leg, working out in a wheelchair, what was my excuse?”

Sawyer said he still has a hole in his injured leg, and his time wearing the prosthetic is limited each day while the often unpredictable healing process continues.

When his leg is healthy enough, Sawyer said, he hopes to begin working with a more durable prosthetic that is often called a “running leg,” and begin training to play football again.

“What he’s done so far is phenomenal,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “He’s in great shape and he’s still a big, strong man. When he gets things straightened out with his leg and that heals, don’t tell me that anything less than the sky is the limit, because he’ll show you.”

Watertown Red and Black overwhelms Seaway Valley, 89-0, to get back on track

Demetrius Robinson chased the ball carrier into the end zone on the game’s opening kickoff, and when the ball quickly popped loose and rolled to him, Robinson simply bent down and scooped it up to give the Watertown Red and Black a touchdown 16 seconds into Saturday night’s Empire Football League game.

The momentum stayed entirely with the Red and Black the rest of the way as the team rolled to an 89-0 shutout of the Seaway Valley Venom at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown improved to 2-2 overall after suffering back-to-back losses to undefeated Syracuse (3-0) and Sussex (3-0) in its previous two games. The Red and Black will travel to rival Plattsburgh (1-3) next Saturday, aiming for its first victory on the North Stars’ home field since 2007.

“I think we showed tonight that we can be one of the best teams in this league,” said Robinson, who also scored on touchdown runs of one and 10 yards. “We just came in with the killer instinct and a killer mind-set to do what we had to do.”

Ten different Red and Black players recorded a touchdown, and the team scored on 11 of its 12 offensive possessions, adding a pair of special teams touchdowns.

“We had to win and get back to .500,” said Red and Black linebacker Tristan Jones, who ran in a three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. “I’m just glad we came out with that mentality. We had to get it done tonight.”

The Red and Black built a 35-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and held a 63-0 halftime advantage. The victory was especially satisfying after consecutive losses in which Watertown was outscored 76-33.

“We’re better than what we played the previous two weeks and I’ve said that right along,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “I don’t know if these guys really believed it until now. That’s what it takes is a game like this. Now you go into next week, and the week after, and you just keep playing and try to keep it going.”

Red and Black quarterback Evan Will threw an 18-yard touchdown to Keegan Queior, a 31-yard score to Tristen Richards, and a nine-yard touchdown pass to Chris Furr. Will added an eight-yard touchdown run, and Queior also scored on a 55-yard punt return.

Anton Gadson scored on a 27-yard touchdown run, Michael Cook ran in a score from 23 yards out, while Warren Spies and Joe Martinez each added a short touchdown run.

“We got a lot of guys in the end zone and everyone’s happy and that what tonight was about, lifting the team morale a little bit and getting these guys feeling good about their selves again,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “We were hungry after we felt like we let one get away last week. Overall I thought we got great effort by everybody and it was a fun game for the guys.”

The Venom, which dropped to 0-3 in its first EFL season and second year of existence, suited about 20 players for its first road game.

Seaway Valley coach Elijah Winfrey requested to play the second half with a normal clock as opposed to running time, and the Venom picked up 70 yards on the game’s final play before Joel Castro was tackled just short of the end zone.

“I’m proud of the way they didn’t quit, that’s been a big mantra of ours,” Winfrey said. “When we took over this team, we had five people at the meeting. Last year’s team was getting blown out by 80 points every game. I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress from last season and so we have to learn from these experiences and keep building.”

After next Saturday’s game at Plattsburgh, the Red and Black will return home to host the Mohawk Valley Titans on Aug. 13, which will be followed by the team’s bye week.

 



Monday, August 8

 Red and Black looks to end nearly decade of misery in Plattsburgh

The majority of Watertown Red and Black players expected to suit up tonight have yet to experience the long and often miserable bus ride home from Plattsburgh.

But for the few veteran players who have, ending the near decade-long losing streak on the home field of the team’s longtime Empire Football League rival is the main objective when the Red and Black (2-2 overall) and North Stars (1-3) kick off at 7 p.m. at Penfield Park.

No active players were on the roster in 2007, the last time the Red and Black won a road game at Plattsburgh, a stretch of nine losses that includes three playoff tilts and two EFL finals matchups in 2010 and 2014.

“Every time we get ready to go play Plattsburgh up there, we go back to the championship we lost there (in 2014),” said wide receiver Chris Furr, a fourth-year veteran who is 0-4 in his career at Plattsburgh.

“I know we haven’t won in Plattsburgh since ’07 and we’re trying to go up there and end that, no question, and get that win up there,” he added. “No matter what happens, calls or anything like that, we’re just trying to leave with that win.”

The North Stars have raced out to a fast start in their three most recent home victories over the Red and Black.

Last season, Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe threw a 63-yard touchdown to Brandon St. John on the second play of the game.

In the previous matchup — the 2014 EFL championship game — Jamil McCray ran in a 14-yard touchdown on the first drive for the North Stars, which held on for a 6-0 victory.

In the 2014 regular season finale at Plattsburgh, a victory that gave the North Stars home-field advantage over the Red and Black for that season’s playoffs, JeVaughn Pinnock returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown.

“It’s ultimately just the way we played in those games,” said Watertown’s third-year linebacker and defensive captain, Tristan Jones. “I felt like we gave them the game in those last few losses up there. So if we can come out strong from the start and stick to what we’re good at and keep running the ball down their throat and do our defensive responsibilities, we will be perfectly fine.”

The North Stars are winless in two home games this year, including a 20-7 loss to Glens Falls last Saturday.

Plattsburgh has also suffered losses to the Sussex Stags and Syracuse Strong, the same teams responsible for Watertown’s two defeats.

The Red and Black is coming off an 89-0 home victory over the Seaway Valley Venom, which Plattsburgh beat in its season opener for its only victory of the year.

“We need to keep that confidence that we had against the Venom,” Jones said. “If we can keep that, and we can keep everybody’s morale high, and bring that killer mentality that we had for that Venom team, we’ll be fine. It may not be an 89-point game, but we should be able to put some points on the board.”

The Red and Black leads the all-time series against the North Stars, 16-15, and has posted a 5-1 record in games played between the two squads at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds since 2007, including Watertown’s last EFL championship victory in 2009.

“What’s nice about the trip this year is that about 80 percent of this team is new, so to a lot of these guys, Plattsburgh is just another game,” Ashcraft said. “I think we’ve got a very good team and we’ll take 40 or 45 people, and if they play the game they’re capable of playing, we should happy on the bus ride home.”

The Red and Black returns home to host the Mohawk Valley Titans next Saturday.

Overtime kickoff return extends Red & Black’s Plattsburgh misery

The Watertown Red and Black suffered yet another heart-wrenching loss at Plattsburgh on Saturday night.

Tevin Connors returned the opening kickoff of overtime 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown, lifting the North Stars to a 33-27 overtime victory over the Red and Black in a matchup between longtime Empire Football League rivals at Penfield Park.

Watertown, which fell to 2-3 overall this season, suffered its 10th straight loss at Plattsburgh and hasn’t won on the North Stars’ home field since 2007. That streak includes the 2010 and 2014 EFL title games, and three playoff games overall.

Plattsburgh rallied from a 27-14 third-quarter deficit to force overtime on Saturday.

Harry Rascoe, a veteran quarterback who made his first appearance for the North Stars this season, ran in a six-yard touchdown late in the quarter to trim Watertown’s lead to 27-21 following the extra point.

Plattsburgh fullback Elijah Parks then punched it in from four yards out in the fourth quarter, and after a failed extra point, the game was tied at 27 points apiece, as it remained through the end of regulation. Connors then put a quick end to the extra period with his 80-yard return.

RaKwan Allen and Evan Will each scored a on a short touchdown run in the first half for Watertown, which trailed 14-12 at halftime.

The Red and Black came out firing to start the third quarter. Jordan Clentmack returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown, and following Allen’s 2-point conversion run, Watertown took a 20-14 lead.

Will then found Keegan Queior for a 56-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter to put the Red and Black up, 27-14. Queior, a primary option in the passing game and the team’s return ace, left the game soon after with a knee injury and did not return.

“That was a big blow when he went down,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “He was having a monster game.”

Rascoe threw two touchdowns to Tre Bucci, of 82 and seven yards, in the second quarter as Plattsburgh opened up a 14-6 lead.

Will completed 12 of 25 passes for 156 yards for the Red and Black, and Queior led the team in receiving with six catches for 103 yards.

Anton Gadson tallied 60 yards on 12 rushing attempts, and Allen carried the ball 14 times for 46 yards.

The Red and Black will host the Mohawk Valley Titans (1-3) at 7 p.m. next Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds and will be on bye the following week.

Plattsburgh evened up the all-time series between the longtime EFL rivals at 16 victories apiece.

Watertown has posted a 5-1 record against the North Stars in games played at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds over the duration of its winless draught at Plattsburgh. The teams are not scheduled to face off again during the regular season.

Red and Black Hall of Fame aims for annual inductions

As the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined its latest class Saturday night, John Morgia and Tom LaDuke continued working on plans to honor local semipro football legends.

Morgia and LaDuke operate the Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame, which is a separate organization from the Red and Black football team, with assistance from other members of their committee consisting of past inductees.

Morgia and LaDuke’s ties to Red and Black football date back nearly 50 years and they helped establish the Hall of Fame in 1988 as a way to honor the elite players, coaches, and other contributors to the nation’s oldest semipro football team that was founded in 1896.

Morgia, who holds the title of president for the Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame, said that Steve Fisher, Michael DeTraglia, and Jim Powers were among the committee members who played large roles in helping launch the corporation nearly 30 years ago.

“We started taking a look and thought, there’s a lot of great talent here that we need to recognize somehow, in some way,” Morgia said.

This past May, the Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame inducted its first class since 2006 with a ceremony at Savory Downtown in Watertown.

About 70 people attended the event and 10 new inductees were honored, bringing the tally to 94 members. The night was highlighted by guest speaker Bob Casullo, who has decades of coaching experience in major college football and the NFL, and coached in a pair of Super Bowls.

“The young guys that came in this year, it was exceptional for them to be inducted,” LaDuke said. “We didn’t really know how they would react, being away from the Hall of Fame for a long time before re-organizing and setting this up again this year, but these guys were excited to be a part of this.”

Since that ceremony, Morgia, LaDuke, historian Michael Britton and other committee members have met regularly to update bylaws, dissect nominations, and make other preparations for next year’s enshrinement.

Morgia said that the group hopes to induct a new class annually, and desires to eventually display artifacts they’ve collected over the years at a permanent site in Watertown.

Nominations are submitted to the committee by current Hall of Fame members. Individuals must be at least five years removed from the team to be considered for induction — other than a few deviations due to extenuating circumstances — one of the many criteria that the organization modeled after the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s bylaws.

“I would love to see it happen every year because there are enough players out there that were very successful in their careers that should be in,” Morgia said. “You have a list of players that goes on and on.”

Morgia never played for the Red and Black but headed the efforts to revive the semipro team in 1969 after a 10-year dormant period. He served as team president and later shifted to the board of directors, tallying more than two decades with the club’s front office.

LaDuke joined the Red and Black as a player/coach when the team was reformed in 1969, and later served as head coach and a board member.

LaDuke, along with Jim Powers, coached the team to one of its most successful seasons in 1980, capturing the Empire Football League championship and the No. 2 national ranking by Pro Football Weekly.

Morgia and LaDuke said that the brotherhood formed with fellow coaches and players during that time has helped ignite their passion to honor all of the elite players, coaches and contributors that have passed through the organization. They also hope to play a role in educating the public on the history behind the team and its importance as a community tradition.

“The thing is that we were a family,” Morgia said. “I know that gets said a lot, but we were. The guys hung out together, and their wives and their girlfriends supported us all big-time. That’s just the way it was, a very close-knit group of individuals.”

Many longtime members of the Watertown Red and Black Hall of Fame gather at noon each Wednesday at the Clubhouse Diner to share old stories and chat about their love for the game.

“I think the sport of football is the medium that we use, but the lasting friendships we have with the people that we played Red and Black with, it’s tremendous,” LaDuke said.



Tuesday, August 16

Craft brings experience at Army to first Red & Black game tonight

The Watertown Red and Black will recognize past players and coaches during halftime of tonight’s game as part of its annual alumni celebration.

But it’s the debut of a new linebacker that has several players and coaches buzzing for today’s 7 p.m. Empire Football League matchup against the Mohawk Valley Titans (1-3 overall) at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

James “Buddy” Craft, who played four years for the Army West Point Sprint Collegiate Football team, will take the field for the first time tonight after joining the nation’s oldest semipro football team earlier this week.

The Red and Black, coming off a 33-27 overtime loss at Plattsburgh, has lost three of its last four games and enters with a 2-3 overall record.

“You go from one minute being retired, so to speak, and then you get to strap it on again, it’s going to be a blast,” said Craft, a 24 year-old from Matthews, N.C.

“I’m excited to get it going and get to know some of these guys,” he added. “It’s great to be around a like-minded community of dudes that love to play football and are taking time out of their days and their busy jobs to go do this stuff.”

Craft works with first-year safety Jordan Clentimack and the two quickly bonded over their love for football. Clentimack said he talked to Craft about joining the Red and Black on several occasions and when the subject came up again this past Tuesday, Craft said he talked to his wife and with her blessing, decided to attend Tuesday’s practice.

“We were kind of joking about it and he asked when the next practice was, I said tonight, and he was like: ‘OK. Let’s do it,’” said Clentimack, who returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown in last Saturday’s loss.

“He has great quickness and I was very (impressed) with what he could do on the football field. It was pretty awesome.”

Craft played four seasons for the sprint football team at West Point, which is a college football division that features players at 172 pounds or less and consists of eight teams. Craft manned the middle and outside linebacker positions during his career and was a senior captain for the 2014 team.

Last year, following Craft’s departure, Army West Point won the Collegiate Sprint Football League championship.

“It was tough because I don’t weigh 172 pounds naturally anymore, so I basically had to cut weight and watch myself, like I did when I wrestled in high school,” Craft said of his collegiate experience. “So it was tough when you’re basically eating rabbit food for months on end and trying to still stay in good football shape, but that said, it was a great experience, a lot of my closest friends played for that team, and I wouldn’t trade it.”

Craft, who said he now weighs about 204 pounds and stands at 5-foot-9, was also a three-year captain on the football team at Charlotte Christian High School, which is the alma mater of the NBA’s reigning two-time Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry.

Craft’s father was a football coach and Red and Black defensive coordinator Brian Gessner said that Craft’s knowledge of the game and ability to read offenses and call out assignments on the fly stood out during his first practice with the team on Tuesday.

“Communication is something I’ve been trying to instill in the guys,” Gessner said. “They need to talk to each other, and hopefully with him calling certain things out, that will start to rub off on everybody.”

Craft’s addition to the team is especially critical with several of Watertown’s major defensive play-makers going down with injuries during the first half of the season. Defensive end Jared Dukes, safety Michael Hibbard, and linebacker Connor Brown, all of whom were starters entering the season, are likely to miss the remainder of the year.

“I’m not the most talented guy by any stretch of the imagination but I take a lot of pride in preparation for games and breaking down film as best I can,” Craft said. “Eventually I’d like to work closely with the coaches on developing our scheme and seeing how we can beat these other teams, then putting that into practice on the field at linebacker.”

Queior returns from injury to highlight Red and Black rout

Keegan Queior was carried off the field and taken to a hospital during last week’s game with a potential knee injury.

The elusive wide receiver/kick returner was back on the field Saturday night, showing his Watertown Red and Black teammates how fortunate they are that the incident was just a scare.

Queior caught a five-yard touchdown pass on Watertown’s opening drive, and later scored on a 55-yard punt return to help the Red and Black roll through the Mohawk Valley Titans, 47-6, in an Empire Football League matchup at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown improved to 3-3 overall entering its bye week and will next play on Aug. 27 at Glens Falls.

“There were no breaks or anything like that, just a dislocated knee, so I wanted to come out and try to work it out tonight,” Queior said. “We definitely wanted to get ahead early and get a jump on them quick, other than that we were just able to execute.”

Queior caught five passes for 98 yards and did much of his damage on Watertown’s opening possession. He hauled in three receptions for 68 yards on the drive, including a 55-yard gain on a short pass across the middle. On the next play, he caught a five-yard slant from quarterback Evan Will in the end zone.

“If you had told me last Saturday night that he would be out here scoring touchdowns, returning punts, breaking tackles, I would have laughed because when he was carried off the field (last week), I honestly thought he was done for the year,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “He was here limping on Tuesday, a little bit less on Thursday, and tonight he showed up and was ready to go. He’s an electric player and he has a lot of heart.”

Jordan Clentimack returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a pick-six for the second consecutive game. Last Saturday, the first-year safety ran an interception back 85 yards for a touchdown in a 33-27 overtime loss at Plattsburgh.

“I saw he was looking deep and he overthrew the receiver and it came right to me, and there was nothing but grass in front of me,” said Clentimack, whose interception gave Watertown a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.

“I love to score touchdowns and do whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I’m happy about,” he added.

RaKwan Allen caught a short swing pass and took it 49 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter, putting Watertown up 34-6 entering halftime. Allen led Watertown with 14 carries for 70 yards.

James “Buddy,” Craft, a former linebacker for the Army West Point Sprint Collegiate Football team, making his team debut, scooped up the ball after a botched snap to the Mohawk Valley punter and ran it back 25 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Will completed 10 of 17 passes for 209 yards and threw for a pair of touchdowns. He also scored on a quarterback sneak from one yard out to give the Red and Black a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

Dylan Bice connected on two field goals — from 21 and 32 yards out — and converted five of six extra point attempts for the Red and Black.

“I truly believe that if we avoid a few mistakes in two of those losses, this could be a different thing right now,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “Those two losses (to Sussex and Plattsburgh) we were up by two touchdowns in the second half of both games, and we were in control of everything. But because of all the youth that we do have, I mean, there needs to be more urgency. We have to play with that. When you get up by two (scores), you have to want to get up by four. That’s something that’s within the players, they have to want it and if they do, we’re going to finish very well.”

Alex Heath returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter for the Titans (1-4).



Sunday, August 28

Watertown Red and Black wary of dwindling practice numbers

 George Ashcraft redecorated his coaching office at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds this past week to add a collection of trophies the Watertown Red and Black has earned over the past few decades.

Ashcraft and his staff hoped the mementos would show players what dedicated squads throughout the organization’s history have been able to accomplish, and also serve as a reminder to the goal that this year’s team started working toward almost six months ago.

With practice attendance dwindling ahead of tonight’s Empire Football League game against Glens Falls, a critical matchup with heavy playoff implications, coaches and fully committed veterans can only hope the message is received.

The Greenjackets (3-3 overall) will host the Red and Black (3-3) at 7 tonight at East Field in Glens Falls.

“Practice is where everything gets put in place for Saturday and you can’t just show up and say you’re going to change everything,” Ashcraft said. “It doesn’t work that way. The teams that practice, it shows, and that’s a fact at every level of football.”

The Red and Black beat the Greenjackets, 20-6, in the season opener for both teams July 9 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds behind a dominant defensive effort.

Watertown’s defense forced four turnovers, finished with three sacks, and surrendered just 144 yards of total offense. In the first quarter of that game, Glens Falls mustered just two yards on 16 plays.

“Showing up to practice and giving 110 percent, that’s pretty much how we can get back to that,” Watertown outside linebacker Tyler Sloley said.

The Red and Black suited about 50 players for the season opener and more than 60 players are listed on the roster, though some have been lost to injury or work commitments.

Tuesday and Thursday practices this week were attended by about 25 players each and Ashcraft said the team would be “lucky,” to bring 30 active players to tonight’s game.

“We had everybody coming to practice more and everybody had the same goal (before the season opener),” Sloley said. “There was no one super hero or anything on the team, no, everybody came through as a collective group and we came out and executed.”

The winner of tonight’s game will move into sole possession of third place in the EFL standings entering the league-wide Labor Day bye.

Watertown will return to host first-place Syracuse (6-0) and travel to second-place Sussex (5-1) in consecutive weeks as it hopes to at least earn a home game in the first round of the six-team playoffs that begin on Oct. 8.

“It’s kind of about consistency for us,” said Anton Gadson, a Watertown High School graduate and one of three running backs sharing the workload this season. “I know as far as the players, we’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder, getting that win (last game) but also having a few losses before that. But we have to stay positive as well because we know Glens Falls has actually improved since we last played them.”

The Red and Black is coming off a 47-6 victory over the Seaway Valley Venom in its last game on Aug. 13, a night on which roughly 50 players were suited and active.

“You want to suit everyone who is a part of this as often as you possibly can,” Ashcraft said. “I want to win down at Glens Falls, and I would hope that anyone who wants to say they’re a part of this wants to go down there and win, too.”

 

Will leads Watertown Red and Black to wild, one-point victory 

  Evan Will ran for two touchdowns in the second half, and rushed for a pair of first downs in the closing minutes to help the Watertown Red and Black run out the clock and secure a 35-34 victory over the Glens Falls Greenjackets on Saturday at East Field.

The Red and Black defense forced a turnover on downs with one minute and 55 seconds left, and Watertown never relinquished possession to improve to 4-3 in the Empire Football League.

“We’re very proud of this team,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “Everyone pulled together and made this thing work tonight. They played their (tails) off.”

Will ran for a five-yard score midway through the third quarter — a touchdown that was set up by a long punt return from Keegan Queior — and Dylan Bice made one of his five extra points to put the Red and Black up 28-27.

Following a Tristan Jones interception late in the third quarter, Will then added an 11-yard rushing score to give Watertown a 35-27 lead.

Glens Falls (3-4 overall) responded on its next drive when Paul Hanna scored on a three-yard run, but rather than attempt a game-tying two-point conversion with 13 minutes remaining, the Greenjackets opted to kick the extra point to trim Watertown’s lead to 35-34.

Will also threw two touchdown passes in the first half. He connected with Queior on a 20-yard score on Watertown’s opening drive, and hit Chris Furr for a 44-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left before the half.

Will, who graduated from General Brown in June, completed 13 of 24 passes for 160 yards, while adding 45 yards on 11 carries.

“Evan Will played a phenomenal game tonight,” Red and Black offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “He made some big plays throwing and running and played well all-around.”

Queior provided another big punt return in the second quarter, setting his team up at the Glens Falls 10-yard line, and Anton Gadson followed with a touchdown run on the first play of the possession.

Queior also had a 55-yard punt return touchdown called off for a block in the back in the fourth quarter.

“We overcame some adversity tonight, which is a good sign for this team,” Levine said. “This was a big, big win for us.”

Furr caught four passes for a team-high 87 yards, and Queior finished with 42 yards on six receptions.

James “Buddy” Craft finished with a team-high 11 tackles to go with a sack, while Jones and Warren Spies each provided seven tackles.

All EFL teams receive a bye next Saturday for the Labor Day holiday. The Red and Black will return to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds to host the undefeated Syracuse Strong (6-0) at 7 p.m. Sept. 10.