Saturday, July 09, 2005
Ex-Deacons at home wearing Red Black
New Watertown players return to Ottawa for game
by Matt Cordova, Times Sports Writer
First published: Saturday, July 9, 2005
When the Watertown Red and Black travel to Ottawa for tonight's Empire Football League regular season opener, a group of first-year players won't have to ride the team bus. They live down the street.
Nine members of the 2005 Red and Black squad defected to Watertown after spending previous years playing with the Deacon Demons and Montreal.
Gary Pelletier, a former Ottawa backup quarterback, will serve a similar purpose for the Red and Black behind veteran Doug Black.
Some may wonder why a man would make the long drive, which sometimes can last more than two hours, several times a week when playing time is anything but guaranteed. Pelletier said his motive is simple: He just wants to enjoy the game of football.
"I just wanted to start having fun," Pelletier said. "The drive doesn't bother me and I am (having fun)."
Without being specific, Pelletier and the others said the atmosphere around the Ottawa team simply wasn't conducive to building a consistent winner. Rifts among players and coaches and also management caused the Deacon Demons' 2004 roster, which originally listed 50 guys, to dwindle to about 30 players by the end of last season, according to Pelletier. He said he felt the need for a change. Eight others joined the cause.
New Red and Black kicker Leo Grant, another ex-Demon Deacon, said his relationship with ex-teammates in Ottawa wasn't the problem.
"I love the guys I played with, I just want to win," Grant said, "and that's what it comes down to."
Watertown should benefit greatly in the trenches with the group of Canadian transplants. Offensive linemen Dan Massie and Kevin Gaffney will help to open holes for running backs Al Countryman and Vince Williams, who will be joined in the backfield by former Ottawa player Eddie Berube.
Desmond Hodge and his massive frame gives Watertown an edge on the defensive line as his mere presence could intimidate the competition. He will be joined on the D-line by defensive end Graig Hodge.
Scott Cowick and Kris Gourley will lend their services to the already vastly experienced linebacker corps.
Watertown has long been famous for drawing some of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds in the EFL. The management structure and certain perks offered by the Red and Black also make Watertown an attractive place to play football. While some teams carpool to games, the Red and Black travels by charter bus. In addition, Watertown is one of the only EFL franchises that provides its players with equipment. Head coach George Ashcraft seems to take pride in what he is able to offer his players.
"That's what makes this whole thing work," Ashcraft said, "they get taken care of."
Added Cowick, "the support the city gives the team is great. With everything, it's just a totally different atmosphere."
Pelletier said he is impressed with how he has been able to grow as a quarterback here in Watertown.
"Everybody here is friendly and respects me," Pelletier said. "You get a lot of motivation from the coaches and you don't always have to be worried about making mistakes."
Ashcraft seems to appreciate the high esteem with which the organization is obviously held around the league. The fact that nine players from Ottawa travel from so far away to play for the team confirms it.
"I'm honored," he said.