Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Red and Black still winless, still optimistic

Red and Black still winless, still optimistic
0-3 START: Defending champion Vermont rocks Watertown

Maybe Brian Williams is right. Or perhaps he's just trying to remain upbeat. Only time will tell.

Either way, an already frustrating season for the Watertown Red and Black took another downturn Saturday night as the visiting Vermont Ice Storm won an Empire Football League game 28-14 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The loss drops Watertown's record to 0-3, as defending champion Vermont (3-0) took advantage of three touchdowns and 248 passing yards from quarterback Brad Ruderman to remain undefeated.

Things can only get better for the Red and Black, which plays at winless Massena next week.

"We know in three weeks, we'll be 3-3," said Williams, who notched seven tackles and two interceptions. "We know we'll make playoffs. As long as we keep that mentality there's no problem. A team's real character is determined when it's down, not when we're winning all the time. That's how we're going to look it at."

In spite of what Ruderman's numbers suggest, Watertown's defense put forth a respectable effort. The team intercepted him four times, and allowed just two second half receptions.

Watertown's offense, which is made up primarily of first year players, wasn't efficient enough to hold up its end of the bargain, however, as it ran only 13 plays —minus punts — in the first half.

Starting quarterback Brian Green, who was taken by ambulance in the third quarter with a possible dislocated shoulder, finished just 4-for-7 with 11 yards. His replacement, Anthony Noel, didn't fare much better, going 1-for-10 with a pick.

Lester Cole shot through the wedge on a first quarter kickoff return to post Watertown's first touchdown.

Ben Pritchard jarred the ball loose on a crushing hit to Ruderman two minutes before halftime, and Ka'mel Brave pounced on it in the end zone for Watertown's final score.

Williams, who also punts, was often the offense's busiest player.

"This whole offense is brand new together," head coach George Ashcraft said. "It takes longer than playing together a few months to get going."

Watertown's challenging task of mounting a second half comeback got even harder when Green was injured while scrambling. Noel completed his first pass, but not another. He rushed for 44 yards from the QB position, but Vermont crowded the line of scrimmage for most of the second half, knowing Watertown's ability to go deep was severely limited.

The Red and Black was forced to punt on four of their six second half possessions.

"They knew I'd run the ball," Noel said. "I have to get a rhythm of the throwing the ball, too. This team needs to be balanced, with a passing quarterback and then we can establish the run."

Long connections weren't a challenge for Vermont, as Ruderman tossed scoring strikes of 34 and 26 yards, respectively, to Rob Joy and Mike Jabour. Vermont's rushing attack (94 yards) was just good enough to prevent the Red and Black from stacking the secondary.

"More power to the receivers and Ruderman," Williams said. "He throws a great ball. We tried to mix up some coverage, but he's going to get his yards and completions. We let up two big plays, and it hurt us."

Vermont got a few breaks, too.

Williams returned a first quarter interception 70 yards, only to watch the ball squirt from his hands and the Ice Storm recover at its own 19. Vermont recovered a couple of its own fumbles as well.

Adam Bossinger registered six tackles and an interception, while Brady Nix and Trevor Fine had eight tackles apiece.

Noel, who rushed just once in the first half, will prepare to be the team's signal caller for the foreseeable future.

"We all just need to be on the same page," he said. "At times we have to be more disciplined, but this is going to be a learning year. It starts at practice, and then it will translate to the game field."

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