Saturday, July 12, 2008

EFL Pre Game Press Coverage Jully 12, 2008


SEMIPRO FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Watertown, Massena starting off fresh


The Empire Football League has a one new team and another ready to continue its standard of success as play gets under way Saturday night.

The Massena Silver and Black spent most of the offseason fighting over players and coaches with the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers. James "Buddy" Compeau left the Trailblazers for the Silver and Black and looks to provide some sparks in the backfield. Compeau took his father, Jim, with him when he left St. Lawrence Valley. Jim will serve as the head coach for the inaugural season of Silver and Black football.

In Watertown, the Red and Black kept its nickname after a lengthy battle with the Revolution. That's about the only thing that hasn't changed with the Red and Black. The plethora of fresh faces makes Watertown look like a young, inexperienced team. But the rookies bring plenty of talent, especially on defense.



Watertown's Brian Williams, right, covers teammate Earnie Wash during Wednesday's practice at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

If Brian Williams had his way, his job would be simply to deflect passes, make interceptions and record tackles. But this is a year of change for the Red and Black, and circumstances surrounding the team will demand more from Williams.

It's time for the Watertown High School graduate to start running his mouth a bit.

As just one of a few veterans who returned to the Red and Black, Williams knew his role would change this year. But he wasn't comfortable with it right away.

"I try to lead by example, and not as much with my voice. At this point I've accepted the responsibility to help guys along," Williams said. "To make it a cohesive secondary.

"I have the utmost confidence in our d-backs. The role I play now is more vocal and to teach."

Watertown's pass defense enters this season profoundly different than when it concluded 2007 with an EFL championship loss to Vermont, as former standouts Keith Jones and Anthony Okonji have departed.

The Red and Black defense appears to be in good shape as it held Massena to just one touchdown during a preseason game, but the unit expects tougher challenges in the future.

"We'd love to shut out every team we play, but we have some maturing to do," said Williams, who notched 23 tackles and four interceptions in 2007. "We won't hang our heads if we give up some points, but we know it will have to be limited."

Defensive coach Rich Potter has taken advantage of Williams's three years of EFL experience.

"He was voted a team captain, and he's a great player," Potter said. "He's helping the younger guys, and teaching them some tricks to help them get better. We're getting better every day."

Williams said that the team's defensive talent is similar to what it's been in recent seasons. That's a good thing because it was the EFL's best in 2006 and '07.

Williams will also take over the punting duties this year.

"We're starting to play well together," he said. "There's things to work on, but we're pretty happy up to this point."



Defensive coach and owner Chris Morin directs the Massena Silver and Black as players warm up before practice Tuesday at Massena.

Running back James "Buddy" Compeau and staring quarterback David Currier both wanted to have fun this season.

Both of them were on the St. Lawrence Valley Trailblazers a year ago and simply weren't enjoying themselves.

It probably didn't help that the Trailblazers went 1-11. The newly formed Massena Silver and Black was a perfect change of pace for Compeau and Currier.

"We just didn't have fun," Compeau said. "We didn't play up to our potential the last few years. With this, it's like a fresh start."

Compeau's father, Jim, who co-coached the Trailblazers last year, says swiping two of the everyday players from the Trailblazers wasn't the initial intent.

"I wasn't looking to take any Trailblazers," he said. "I told guys to play where they want to play. There was enough talent out there that didn't want to go to Potsdam and wanted to play in Massena."

Buddy led the Trailblazers in all the rushing statistics and is enjoying his new offensive line, which he says is bigger, faster and should open holes.

"We have the size," he said. "We just have to read the holes and be productive."

Along with its size, the supreme condition of the front line will play a major role in games. Coach Compeau has a strict program in place to make sure his team won't be tired come the fourth quarter.

"We are one of the best conditioned teams in the EFL," he said.

Buddy agreed and doesn't see how this team will get tired late.

"We've just been working our legs constantly. It's like a military workout," he said. "Right down to the end of practices our conditioning is there."

Not only are the players ready to get the season under way, but the city of Massena is also looking forward to having semiprofessional football back in the region.

"The minute we approached the EFL, it brought up memories of the old rivalries," said coach Compeau. "That's what I'm looking to get back into Massena."

The Silver and Black takes on the defending EFL champion Vermont Ice Storm on Saturday at home. Buddy thinks it should be a close game and that the Silver and Black won't look like a new team once it steps onto the field.

"I think it is going to be a great game," he said. "We just need everyone to show up and be focused. We're definitely going to put on a show."

As for the season, coach Compeau is a touch more modest, saying he hopes the team stays together and that Massena continues its support of the Silver and Black.

"I'm not expecting a perfect season, but we are expecting a few wins. I'm confident in that," he said. "I told them that fielding a team for a whole season will be a success on its own."

North Stars open in Watertown

Contributing Writer

PLATTSBURGH -- Plattsburgh North Stars' players and coaches aren't exactly sure what they'll be up against when they travel to Watertown tonight to face the Red and Black, but one thing is certain -- "Expect Watertown to be Watertown," said Stars' head coach Pat Keleher.

The Stars kick off their Empire Football League season at the Alex Duffy Fairgrounds in Watertown at 7:30 p.m.

Despite returning only a handful of players from last season partly due to the creation of the new Watertown Revolution, the Red and Black still carries a 70-man roster.

"Regardless of who leaves or who comes back, Watertown is always going to be good," Stars' center Nick Moore said.

Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft, however, is anxious to see what his young team is made of.

"It's going to be a different kind of year in some regards," he said. "But if our first preseason game against Massena was any indication of what we can do, then I'll love it."

Last season, Watertown rushed for over 250 yards in its only game against the Stars, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

"They didn't have any big runs on us, but a lot of times they would get a few yards at a time, and those add up," Moore said. "We expect them to be a very strong rushing team."

Ashcraft said he thinks the Red and Black still have the personnel to be strong again on the ground, but added he'll have to wait and see because of the youth.

"It's all very new," he said.

Plattsburgh was less fortunate running the ball against Watertown last season, gaining only 22 yards on 16 attempts.

However, experienced running backs Brandon Keleher and Kyle Nolan behind a new and improved line give the team an opportunity to establish control through the run, opening up the passing game.

Keleher expects Watertown to try to do the same.

"When a team gets control of a game on the ground, it's human nature for defensive backs and linebackers to start cheating up, and then you get beat deep," he said. "That's the trap with a team that can control the game on the ground."

That's just what the Red and Black did to Massena.

"In their preseason game they only threw nine passes, but they completed five of them," Keleher said. "Two went for touchdowns, and both were long touchdowns."

The Stars will be on the lookout for Watertown receiver Lester Cole.

"He's tall, has good feet, and good hands," Keleher said.

Improvements in depth on both lines should make things a bit easier this time around -- something that affected the team in the fourth quarter last year.

"We got worn out last time at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against them last year," Keleher said. "I don't see that happening (today)."

Both coaches are anticipating a tough game from both sides.

"They've got a good ball club, and they played us tough last year," Ashcraft said. "I think that no matter what, Plattsburgh and Watertown is always a good game."

"I expect a battle," Keleher added.

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