Saturday, August 13, 2005

For playoffs' sake, Red Black needs victory

After two straight blowout losses, Watertown's home-field advantage hinges on win against Montreal
by Matt Cordova, Times Sports Writer
First published: Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Watertown Red and Black hosted Empire Football League playoff games in 2003 and 2004. The result of tonight's game against the Montreal Titans could determine whether that streak remains intact when this regular season ends.

If the EFL playoffs began today, the Red and Black would be tied for the sixth and final spot, and a postseason game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds would be far from the realm of reality.

With that in mind, the atmosphere surrounding practice Thursday night was, in a word, different. For two full hours, the cracks of helmets smashing against each other and the thuds of linemen colliding filled the air at the fairgrounds. Head coach George Ashcraft is optimistic that his team's work in practice this week will translate into a 60-minute effort tonight.

"Right now we are in a win mode," Ashcraft said. "We've got to win."

Despite being outscored 77-10 in its last two games, Watertown has not been outclassed by its opponents. During a 39-0 loss to Albany and a 38-10 decision at Orange County, the Red and Black had its chances to produce an entirely different outcome. Last week, the Red and Black committed four first-half turnovers inside the red zone.

Albany led just 12-0 after three quarters and Orange County took a 14-10 advantage into the fourth quarter last week. Fourth quarter execution, or lack thereof, has the been the weakness for Watertown.

"We've lost a few ball games but none of those games were unattainable. This team has not yet played three quarters of football," Ashcraft said.

"It's kind of like a bad trend right now and we are trying to break it," veteran wide receiver Earnest Wash said. "Other teams are making adjustments that we aren't right now. We are trying to keep the intensity up. Everybody is hungry to get a win."

Even with its 4-1 record, Montreal has yet to prove itself as a major EFL force. The Titans have won their games by an average of 17 points, but have yet to play either Albany or Orange County - the league's top two teams.

Williams, Eason may play

Running backs George Eason and Vince Williams may be available for tonight's game.

Williams, who had reportedly left the team after the Red and Black's last home game, recently accepted a new job in the Ithaca area and will be unable to attend regular practices. Eason, the EFL's rushing leader in 2003, also is unavailable during the week due to work-related commitments.

"When they can come to the games, they will," Ashcraft said, "which is big."

Watertown, however, has worthy replacements in Anthony Noel, Al Countryman and Eddie Berube

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