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.