Sunday, June 29, 2008

Watertown's Brennan jumps back into fray after time away

Watertown's Brennan jumps back into fray after time away
SEMIPRO EXHIBITION: Former Sandy Creek standout shows flashes of old brilliance in debut as Red and Black rips Massena
SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 2008
Watertown's Joe Brennan carries the ball against Massena on Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Not even a year away from the field fully prepared Joe Brennan for his official introduction to semiprofessional football.

The Watertown Red and Black rookie running back took a second quarter handoff and rumbled about 8 yards before he met a Massena Silver and Black tackler head on. The collision echoed Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, and at first made Brennan woozy. But he did manage a smile as he returned to the huddle.

"He hit me good, but usually that just motivates to want to do it again," said Brennan, who rushed for 67 yards in the Red and Black's 30-8 exhibition triumph over Massena. "I said, 'All right. Let's do this.'"

The 2006 Sandy Creek graduate averaged 5.2 yards on his 13 carries in the game and scored his first Red and Black touchdown on a 10-yard jaunt midway through the first quarter.

Brennan spent time after graduation attending Jefferson Community College, and he was a SUNY Cortland student this spring. But he hadn't played the game since his final high school season, when he was selected the Times' All-North MVP.

He said he wanted to make sure he was strong enough — mentally and physically — to play the game against grown men.

"This definitely isn't high school anymore," he said.

Regular starter Anthony Noel's knee injury allowed Brennan to draw the starting role against Massena. But he has caught enough of the coaching staff's attention to become an important part of Watertown's attack — even when Noel comes back.

"I didn't know him before he got here, but he's impressed me with his work ethic," offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. "He has great vision, makes good cuts, and follows his blocks well. And he's a great kid."

The Red and Black couldn't have scripted a better start to the year, especially considering the team is sporting over 40 new faces.

First-year quarterback Brian Green connected with Lester Cole for a 50-yard touchdown strike on the game's first play from scrimmage. Green, who went 5-for-8 for 90 yards, also threw a touchdown toss to Paul Blouin in the second quarter to give the Red and Black a 23-0 halftime edge.

"Our game plan was to come out big, and score on the first drive. Coach said the first play will set the momentum for the year," Green said. "I saw (Cole) get a step on the outside, and put it up there."

Watertown's defense looked as tough as last year, when it was the top-ranked unit in the Empire Football League. The Red and Black intercepted three passes, capped by Brian Williams's 85-yard return in the final quarter. Demitric White had six tackles, while Michael Hicks added five. Brady Nix notched a safety.

"I couldn't be happier," head coach George Ashcraft said. "I give all the credit right now to the coaching staff."

Massena's most productive play was a 40-yard pass to Mark Wiltshire, and Anthony McClary scored the Silver and Black's first-ever touchdown from a yard out with 44 seconds remaining.

Brennan knows and accepts that Noel's absence isn't expected to be long term, and his own starting opportunities could become limited. He added, however, "The coaches will do what they feel is right. Whatever they do I'll support."

He said he is looking forward to Noel's return as a promising opportunity for the team's rushing attack.

"I hear he's a good back, so it could be a good tandem," Brennan said. "We'll see."

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