WATERTOWN — Deante Hall and his teammates made Watertown’s return to Section 10 in football this season a triumphant one on a blustery Saturday.
Hall figured in all six Cyclones touchdowns — running for five scores and passing for another — as Watertown rolled past Canton, 44-28, in Section 10’s Class A final on Watertown’s turf field.
The Cyclones, who returned to Section 3 this year after 18 seasons competing in Section 3, claimed their first sectional championship in 21 years.
“It feels really good, being a sophomore coming up and helping this team win a championship,” Hall, a quarterback, said after the Cyclones gathered behind the championship banner.
Hoping that a move back to Section 10 would allow the team to be more competitive, Watertown (5-3) also finished with a winning record for the time since 2011.
“It feels great,” Cyclones senior linebacker Kaleb Conway said. “We just worked hard all year, focused on this sectional championship and went and got it. Because Watertown hasn’t seen one in a long time and it was a goal of ours right from the beginning.”
Hall, a sophomore quarterback in his first year on the varsity team, ran for 195 yards on 16 carries and four touchdowns and also threw for a score.
Senior running back Jaiden Ramsey rushed for 180 yards on 16 carries for Watertown, which ultimately ground Canton down in the second half.
“It’s good, we’re getting people out here,” Hall said of the team’s return to the Northern Athletic Conference, where they posted a 4-3 record in the regular season. “But we want to be even better then this next year.”
Said Canton coach Tom Cloce: “Give them credit, they’ve got three great running backs and they had a great game plan.”
Watertown won its previous sectional title back in 1998 when it was in Section 10, three seasons before moving on to Section 3.
“It’s a great feeling,” Watertown coach Kyle Lalone said. “It’s such an exciting moment not only as a staff, but I feel so happy for the players, they work so hard in the offseason. And to be able to come out here and put together a winning game and see those guys lift that banner — it’s just an awesome feeling and I’m so proud of them.”
On Saturday, the Cyclones found themselves down 20-16 with five minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter after Golden Bears quarterback Adam Calton scored on a three-yard run.
Hall capped off a 68-yard Watertown drive on 10 plays by scoring on a 13-yard run to the right side with 18 seconds left in the half and after the two-point conversion failed, the Cyclones forged a 20-20 halftime tie.
After Canton was forced to punt on the opening possession of the second half — the first punt by any team — Hall then broke loose on an 85-yard scoring run, gliding down the left sideline to provide the Cyclones the lead for good with 7:29 left in the third quarter. Hall then connected with Trenton Robinson on the conversion pass for a 28-20 lead.
“In the second half, we just realized that we could compete with these guys and that was the momentum that kept us going,” Hall said. “We put pressure on the gas and didn’t take it off.”
On Watertown’s next possession, Donavon Millan hauled in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Hall and after Jude Converse’s conversion run, Watertown led 36-20.
Hall then completed the Cyclones’ four-touchdown surge as he scored on a nine-yard run with 5:17 left in the game and led 44-20 after a Converse conversion run.
Originally from Watertown and from a military family, Hall returned last year after his family moved from El Paso, Texas.
“He had a great game today and I’m really proud of him,” Lalone said of Hall. “And he’s gotten better as the season went on. To be able to go in at the beginning of the year and just constantly improve, is just a testament to his hard work and his knowledge.”
Lalone added: “I thought Deante Hall and Jaiden Ramsey played outstanding games offensively. I thought our line played very well and defensively as well, it was really a collective unit.”
Sophomore running back Zachary VanBrocklin rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries and ran for two touchdowns in the first half to pace Canton (2-6).
VanBrocklin ran for his two scores in the first half on rushes of 17 and six yards as both teams traded touchdowns.
“We played well in the first half and we had the ball coming out of halftime,” Cloce said. “We really figured it was going to be one of those games where whoever had the ball last was going to win it. It just didn’t happen that way — they got away from us a few times and they stopped us a few times.”
The Cyclones claimed their previous Section 3 championship with a 41-6 victory over Potsdam in a Class A final on Nov. 7, 1998.
“Different competition,” said Conway, who led Watertown with 11 tackles on Saturday, of joining Section 10. “Section 3 has a lot more speed, this (Section 10) is about more power, we had to switch up our game plan to compete with power runners. It was way more fun.”
“To be able to win a sectional championship for the first time in 21 years, I’m just so happy for the community to be able to bring that back to the school and to the community,” Lalonde said.
Canton, which won Section 10’s Class A title last year, defeated Massena, 26-21, in a semifinal to reach this year’s championship game.
“We knew this year was going to be an uphill battle,” Cloce said. “After we lost here earlier in the season and when we had the opportunity to come back down to Watertown again, we knew it was going to be one of those games. We’re just a couple players short of being really where we need to be.”
Watertown won’t move on to state regional play as this is the third straight year that Section 10 has chosen not to compete in states in Class A. But next season, the section hopes to send its Class A champion on to state tournament play.
“It’s a fun section, it was fun playing against all these guys all year long,” Conway said of the NAC.
“They’ve done a great job and we get them at home next year, which I’m excited for,” Cloce added. “Maybe this will be new rivalry that starts up.”