Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Loftus helped R&B claim EFL title in '80

Loftus helped R&B claim EFL title in '80

GREATEST ATHLETE NO. 29 RUNNING HARD: Former WHS athlete spent time with New England Patriots

MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2008

As a key member of Watertown's lone Empire Football League championship team, Mark Loftus holds a special place in the Red and Black's storied history.

Loftus, a 1972 Watertown High School graduate, was on the WHS field on Oct. 18, 1980, when the Red and Black posted a 30-10 victory over the Troy Uncle Sams in the EFL title game. Loftus rushed for a team-high 65 yards that night and scored a touchdown.

A week earlier, in a 30-13 semifinal win over Glens Falls, Loftus stood out even more, with 19 carries for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

Loftus's contributions in those games — the final two of his Red and Black career — came just months after he'd chased a loftier sports dream: making it to the National Football League.

Loftus signed a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots and attended the team's training camp, which began in July. Though initially confident about his chances of earning a roster spot, Loftus soon accepted the fact that he was facing long odds.

"You don't realize how competitive it is, especially at running back, until you're part of the situation," Loftus told the Times during his stay at the Patriots' camp. "So many guys seem equal that you have to be really outstanding to get a second look."

New England cut Loftus a short time later. The release, however, led Loftus back to the Red and Black for its championship run.

In 1977, Loftus led the EFL in rushing, finishing the season with 889 yards on 122 carries. He opened that season with 264 yards and two touchdowns in Watertown's 21-14 victory over the Hudson Vikings.

Loftus, who participated in football and track and field for WHS, graduated from Syracuse University in 1980. He briefly played as a defensive back for the SU football team.

Loftus, 52, formerly coached varsity track and field at WHS and varsity baseball at Indian River. He is employed as a line foreman for National Grid.

His sons, Brendan and Jordan, were standout lacrosse players at Immaculate Heart Central. Brendan played lacrosse at Syracuse University and currently plays for the San Francisco Dragons of Major League Lacrosse. Jordan played at Georgetown University before moving on to Onondaga Community College. He will attend Siena College later this year.

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