Sunday, September 25, 2005

Trickery helps lead Red-Black

Watertown's play calls fool Scranton in finale
by Matt Cordova, Times Sports Writer
First published: Sunday, September 25, 2005

When wideout Todd Kiechle approached the line of scrimmage on the Watertown Red and Black's first punt play of the second quarter, there was nobody there to cover him. He was so shocked that he realigned himself in order to protect against a block.

So, imagine his surprise when on Watertown's next possession, after going three and out, he again lined up wide with nobody in front of him. This time, he stayed right where he was and it paid off when Al Countryman faked the punt, and instead fired a spiral to Kiechle, who raced 60 yards and hurdled the only would-be tackler on his way to a touchdown.

The trick play did more than just give Watertown a 13-point edge 10 minutes before halftime, it kept the Scranton Eagles defense off balance for the rest of the night, and the Red and Black used that advantage to post a 34-6 Empire Football League victory Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Watertown improved its overall record to 8-4 and it closed out the regular season with an 8-2 EFL mark. The Red and Black are now set to host either the Montreal Titans or the Broome County Dragons in an opening round playoff game next week.

Countryman fooled the Eagles (4-6) on several other occasions, too. With under a minute to go in the first half, Doug Black connected with Brian Beltz on a 24-yard scoring strike. On the extra-point attempt, Countryman caught the snap and tossed the ball to a wide-open Kenny Anderson for at two-point conversion. Sure, the Eagles' special teams unit was able to apply some pressure, but in the process they blitzed themselves right out of the game. Duped for a second time, Scranton didn't attempt another blitz the whole game.

"The trick plays were nothing planned," said Countryman, who scampered for a one-yard touchdown and rushed for 38 yards. "We just took what they gave us. They brought both corners so I just dumped the ball to Kiechle, and he made a great run.

"(Anderson) said his guy was rushing hard (on the extra point), and said he'd be open."

The school-yard shenanigans started in the first quarter for Watertown. A reverse play to Beltz yielded a 15-yard gain and set up Countryman's scoring run. The Scranton defense also didn't have an answer for Watertown's arsenal of misdirection running plays, on which the running backs would cut back against the blocks of the offensive line.

"We knew we'd have to mix it up," Countryman said. "Doug (Black) called a great game, as usual, and the defense played great. You can't ask for more from them."

Watertown's defense forced four turnovers en route to the team's sixth consecutive win. Brian Williams returned a third quarter interception 47 yards to set up the first of two touchdown runs by James Todd. Todd dashed eight yards for a score on the next play to give Watertown a 28-0 lead and he added an 11-yard touchdown journey in the fourth.

Black completed 15-of-36 attempts for 165 yards. Watertown's offensive play calling and the efficiency with which they moved the ball produced the most balanced effort of the season. And it didn't matter who was on the field for the home team.

"We have starters and we have backup role players," head coach George Ashcraft said. "This team is so full of ability that the backup guys can go in and get the job done. We're just playing great ball."

Andre Chollete provided Scranton's only touchdown on a running play from a yard away. The score was set up by a thunderous 42-yard jaunt by Bill Sandly. It was much too late, though, for the touchdown to be a factor.

Lynn Patrick led the defense with eight tackles while Lorenzo Sanchez contributed five tackles and a fumble recovery. Kyle Roshia and Lamont Lane also made interceptions for Watertown.

  • NOTES: The Red and Black received a scare late in the second quarter when star receiver Earnest Wash suddenly went down while running a pass route. Wash was clearly experiencing some serious pain as he was tended to by the training staff. Wash said, after the game, that he twisted his ankle but doesn't think it is serious and he hopes to be in the lineup next week. ... Kicker Leo Grant recorded his first tackle as a member of the Red and Black. He made a touchdown-saving stop in the fourth quarter on a kickoff return by Chollete.
  • Ottawa 51, St. Lawrence Valley 14
  • Shawn Harkes ran for five rushing touchdowns for the Demon Deacons as the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers endured a tough season-ending loss in its EFL finale at Ottawa.

    The Trailblazers (3-9, 2-8 EFL) sputtered offensively, but did strike first. Joe Hutchinson hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dave Currier, which gave St. Lawrence Valley a touchdown advantage after the first quarter.

    Harkes answered with touchdowns runs of seven and 96 yards to give Ottawa (3-7, 3-7) the lead for good.

    Hutchinson finished with five catches for 80 yards. Currier was intercepted five times, but managed 163 passing yards and a touchdown run. Dan Staton also caught five passes for 43 yards.

    Cheyenne Dashnaw led the defense with 11 tackles, one sack and a blocked kick. Ricky Delaney added eight tackles, and Justin Martel made six tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.

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