Watertown Red & Black: History
|Watertown Red & Black Football|
|Based in||Watertown, New York, United States|
|League||World Series of Football (1903)
New York Pro Football League (1916-19)
Empire Football League (1969-Present)
|Team History||Watertown Athletic Association (1896-1902)
Watertown Red & Blacks (1902-Present)
|Team Colors||Red, Black
|Head Coach||George Ashcraft|
|Other League Championship wins||Empire Football League:
The Watertown Red and Black is the oldest semi-pro football team in the United States of America, having been established in 1896. They play in the Empire Football League and are based in Watertown, New York. By virtue of their longevity, the Red & Black hold records for most wins (553), most losses (264) and most ties (43) of any semiprofessional team, resulting in a .670 winning percentage.
It was in 1902 that Watertown Athletic Association became known as the Red & Black Professional Football Team. Though it declined participation in the first World Series of Pro Football, it loaned players to the Syracuse Athletic Club to participate in that contest, the first ever attempted national professional football championship. (The enhanced Syracuse team, which included Pop Warner, won the tournament in an upset.) Football enthusiasm reached a peak locally in 1903, a year which included a 142-0 rout of a team from Cortland (which still stands as the second-biggest blowout in pro football history, behind the Massillon Tigers' 148-0 win over a team from Marion in the Ohio League a year later). The 1903 season ended with the Red & Black participating in the second annual (and as it would turn out, the final) World Series of Pro Football. Watertown lost the championship to the superteam Franklin Athletic Club of Pennsylvania by a 12-0 score; J.B. Wise, Mayor of Watertown and the Red & Black's business manager lost $8,000 in bets during this contest.
The Red & Black team, mostly located too far from pro football's core in Ohio and western Pennsylvania by this point to make it worth not being competitive with local teams, dropped back to the semi-professional level in 1904 and has played with semi-pro status ever since. Several teams during the decades of the 1900s, 1910's and 1920's brought the semi professional championships of New York State home to Watertown. Alex Duffy wore the colors for 17 seasons, the last 15 as captain during the 1910s and 1920's. During the 1923-1925 seasons, the team won 31 games, losing only to Binghamton, 6-0. The 1927 squad was undefeated. In 1935, the Red & Black was reorganized under George (Buzzy) Gibson and produced several outstanding teams.
Jake Devito and Rocco Canale guided the team when it was a member of the Eastern Professional League in the late 40's and early 50's. In 1950, the Red & Black went undefeated until losing the championship game to Hudson Falls at the Fairgrounds in Watertown.
In 1954, after a two year hiatus, the Red & Black was reorganized by Dick Doe and Budjo Alteri, assisted by Earl Cole. Johnny Marra was the sponsor. Boots Gaffney coached the team, assisted by Joe Guardino and Nelson Sholett. In four seasons, beginning in 1954, the team won 28 games, lost one and tied two. In these four seasons, the defense allowed but 50 points. Sadly the team once again became only a fond memory after the 1959 season.
In 1969, Carmen Scudera, Francis Lyng and John Morgia headed efforts to revive the Red & Black. Pat Killorin was selected as coach and the team had a successful season of 4 wins, 3 losses. It was not only competitively successful but financially successful as well. Crowds of 5000 to 6000 were reported at the games.
In 1971 and 1974, the Red & Black went undefeated. In 1980, the team reached its pinnacle of modern history, nearly comparable to that of the 1903 team. The team, playing under the direction of Jim Powers and Tom LaDuke won the Empire Football League Championship and was ranked second in the nation by Pro Football Weekly.
The Red and Black have their own showcase in the NFL Hall of Fame as being the oldest semi-pro team in the Nation. It is the very first showcase.
From 1980 until 1991 the team was under the direction of several different coaches. In 1991 to present, George Ashcraft took over as the Head Coach. Mike Britton was the Offensive Coordinator from 1992 through the 2000 season starting his own semi-pro team, the St. Lawrence Trailblazers in 2002. The Red and Black have made the playoffs every year since 1993. The team briefly played in the New York Amateur Football League (now the Northeastern Football Alliance) in the late 1990s, but a few years later, moved back to the EFL. In 2003 they won the Northern Division Championship.
In 2005 agency producers contacted several AFA member teams regarding use of players and coaches to give their TV commercials the professional football appearance they are looking for. One such Chunky soup commercial, featuring Philadelphia Eagle's quarterback Donovan McNabb did just that. Several Empire League football players were used in the production of that popular TV spot. The agency relied heavily on the coaching experience of AFA Hall of Famer George Ashcraft from the EFL's Watertown Red and Black team. Ashcraft provided the agency with the technical football advice (and several EFL players) they needed to make the McNabb/Chunky soup commercial convincing to the viewers. It is the Red and Black players and other EFL players wearing the Cleveland Brown uniforms.
In 2006 the Red and Black was the floater team for the EFL. They played all of the teams once. They were the only floater team, but were still considered a Northern Division team. They won the Northern Division Championship game against the Vermont Ice Storm and lost to the Albany Metro Mallers in the EFL championship game.
In 2007 the team finished with a 12-4 overall record. They were the 2007 Western Division Champs and lost in the EFL championship game to the Vermont Ice storm 9-8. They went on to play in the National Tournament at Watertown High School. Before the game there was a tribute in memory of a fallen coach and soldier, Dave Connell, who lost his life in Iraq. The Tenth Mountain Division on Fort Drum landed a Helicopter on the field before the game to deliver the game ball. Four members of the Waterown Red and Black team returned home from Iraq that week and played in the game. They were Ben Pritchard, Lorenzo Sanchez, Gregory Duckson, and Mike Jester. The team lost to the Monroe County Sting of the New York Amateur Football League 21-6. Monroe went on to win the National Championship game. Long time veteran Earnie Wash also returned home from Iraq earlier in the season to finish the year.
The 2008 season saw Thomas Schultz of Sports Partners Inc. claim that he "bought" the team, with intentions to move it back to the Northeastern Football Alliance. The owners of the Red & Black denied this, and a court settlement eventually led to Schultz being barred from using the "Red & Black" name. Schultz's team took to the field as the Watertown Revolution for the NFA, with no further connection to the Red & Black. The original Red & Black played in the EFL and finished with a 4-7 overall record.
The Red & Black rebounded in 2009 to win the Empire Football League championship over the Plattsburgh North Stars 6-0 at the Alex Duffy Fairgrounds. Almost 3000 fans packed around the field to watch the team win its first EFL Championship since 1980. The Team finished with a 13-1 overall record. The Red and Black did go to Florida and played the Carolina Express in the Orange Blossom Bowl in January. After a hard fought battle the Red and Black came up short and lost 7-6. Running back Anthony Noel and LB Dustin Houppert received honors for the team for there outstanding play. The team finished with over 3800 yards in offense. The defense posted 7 shutouts. The Red and Black was ranked 20th in the Nation on October 13th.
To start the 2010 season the Watertown Red and Black traveled to Florida to play in The Orange Blossom Bowl. The Red and Black played The Carolina Express. It was a hard fought battle but the Red and Black came up short losing 7-6. Dustin Houppert and Anthony Noel received honors for the team for there great play. The Red and Black took the field in June with no choice but to defend there title. The team finished with a 12-3 overall record making it to there second championship in two years. The team lost to the Plattsburgh Northstars in the Championship game 13-10. The R&B missed a field goal with 22 seconds left that would have put the game in overtime. The Red and Black finished another great season. Running backs Brian Williams and Joe Brennan led the offense both rushing over a thousand yards. This was the first time since 1902. Also Mike Dumaw led the defense receiving all league honors becoming the second player on the Red and Black team to be the EFL Iron man of the year.
In 2011 the team finished 6-6. After starting the season 1-4 the Red and Black regrouped and surge into the playoffs beating the Glenns Falls Greenjackets on the road for the first round of playoffs. The team will never forget that day after the events that led up to the game. Being the true underdogs the Red and Black pulled out a 17-10 victory after trailing 10-0. A week later the team lost to the Syracuse Shock in a hard fought battle to finish the season 6-6. The team also earned many EFL honors at the end of the season.
In 2012 the Red and Black finished with a 9-5 overall record falling to the Plattsburgh North Stars in the second round of the EFL Playoffs. The Red and Black had some very bright moments in 2012 defeating Leauge Champs the Monore County Sting and previously Leauge runner up the Syracuse Shock. The team once again finished with many players receiving EFL honors.
In 2013 the team finished with a 4-7 overall record. With lots of new faces the team was still a forcefull competitor in the Leauge. Unable to keep momentum do to bye weeks the Watertown footballers had some very bright moments. Beating the Northstars at home for the first time since the 2009 EFL Championship and Winning on the Road in a non leauge game vs the Impact who later went on to win the NFA Championship. The record does not indicate how good the team really was with 2014 looking to be a brighter year.
In 2014 the Red and Black made there way back to the EFL Title game in Plattsburgh falling 6-0 to the North Stars. The Red and Black finished the season with a 10-3 overall record and once again proving to be a strong EFL contender.
In 2015 the Red and Black fished with a 8-4 record. The team lost to the Syracuse Strong 14-6 in the EFL Champoinship game. The team had to big road wins to start the season in NEw Jersey and Syracuse. The team also won big at home vs the Plattsburgh North Stars shutting them out 35-0. Another great season in the books for America's oldest semi pro football team.
The Red & Black Football Association has always shown a unique ability to draw players, fans, workers and supporters from all social and economic backgrounds. It is from this unique ability that the organization has drawn its strength throughout its long history and developed a deep sense of pride that can only come from working with such an organization.