WATERTOWN — Last week while in the clutch, the Watertown Red and Black’s defense carried the team to victory.
Facing tough field conditions, the Red and Black gutted out a win at Glens Falls, with the defense leading the way.
With its first shutout of the season, Watertown will try and keep this momentum going when it plays at the Plattsburgh North Stars at 7 tonight at Beekmantown High School.
On the strength of last Saturday’s 9-0 win at Glens Falls, the Red and Black (2-1) is now tied for first place in the Empire Football League, though it currently holds the tiebreaker against Glens Falls.
“It was awesome,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said of the win. “The defense played every series, they bent a little bit, but they never gave up.”
“Credit the whole team for getting down and dirty because that field wasn’t very good,” Red and Black first-year defensive end Jeremy Machia said. “Everyone’s been putting in the work and it’s showing on the field.”
Against Glens Falls, linebacker Connor Brown was in on 14 tackles and Machia was in on nine and recorded three sacks as the Red and Black shutdown the Greenjackets’ passing attack.
“I honestly think, I’ve played with the Red and Black for six years now and I think this is one of the top defenses I’ve played with,” Brown said. “We’ve got athletes and athletes everywhere, everywhere there’s speed on defense.”
Brown, Machia and teammate and linebacker Derrek Dalton rank first through third, respectively, in the EFL in tackles.
Brown has been in on 32 tackles, with nine solo, Machia has totaled 31 tackles, with 11 solo, and Dalton has tallied 25 tackles, with seven solo, according to the league’s website.
“These guys for the most part are playing really, really (well),” Ashcraft said. “Machia is spot on. The things that he’s done so far, he’s doing well and he’s really playing ball for us.
“We expect it out of Connor because he always has and Dalton has been a solid player for us every year he’s played.”
“They’re definitely the voices on the field that you listen to them because they put you right where you need to be to make the plays,” Machia said of defensive team leaders such as Brown and Dalton.
Also against Glens Falls, Dawayne Balcom and Detrevion Cherry each made an interception and teammate Tevin O’Steen leads the league with two.
“This defense follows the ball very well and you can’t say enough about that,” Ashcraft said. “We’ve got, two, three, four guys on every tackle and that means a lot.”
“He’s an athlete, that’s just a kid that knows how to play football, he just makes the plays,” Brown said of Machia. “And that’s all it comes down, is ‘on gameday, can you make the plays that have to made?”
This Red and Black team has plenty of local flavor on defense. Brown played at Indian River and Machia played at General Brown.
“But that’s what helps, you’ve got me, (Curtis) Dukes and Derrek, we all went to Indian River going through all those programs,” said Brown, who helped lead the Warriors to the state title in 2015. “So we all have that camaraderie and we’re all linebackers. Once you’ve played together for a while, you just can look at each other and you don’t have to talk, you already now what each other’s thinking.”
“I love it, it’s been really good so far,” said Machia, who helped lead General Brown to a Section 3 title. “I played (defensive end) in high school. I played lacrosse in college, so this is my first year back playing football in about four years.”
Against Glens Falls, the Red and Black’s touchdown came on a 26-yard scoring reception by Keegan Queior from quarterback Kalon Jeter and later it added a 37-yard field goal from Eric Beyler in the fourth quarter.
“We moved the ball on the offense, we just didn’t seal it to score (many) touchdowns,” Ashcraft said. “I feel confident in the team. Right now, I think the players have got to the point where they know if they make a mistake, they made the mistake and it’s like ‘let’s just get over it and move on and make up for it on the next play,’ so that’s a good thing.”
“That felt pretty good to get the shutout, but you’ve got to credit the whole defense with that, everybody showed up for the whole game,” added Machia, who was encouraged to join the Red and Black by defensive end Ky Sawyer.
This week also marks the last of three consecutive games on the road for Watertown.
“We’ve been playing really well on defense,” Brown said. “But the offense has to step up for the rest of the season. That’s the main focus on our team this year is to get the offense where the defense is so we can just match each other.”
After a league-wide bye next Saturday for Labor Day weekend, the Red and Black will host Glens Falls on Sept. 11 and host Syracuse on Sept. 18, both 7 p.m. starts at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, before the league playoffs begin Oct. 2.
Watertown beat Plattsburgh, 34-7, in the season opener for both teams Aug. 7 in Watertown.
“It should be a big game,” Ashcraft said. “Being 3-1 looks pretty good right now, but we have to get there first.”
Since then, Plattsburgh (1-2) lost to Glens Falls and blanked Syracuse, 6-0, last Saturday at home.
“They shut out Syracuse, so they can obviously shut teams out,” Brown added. “And we always know that they play (well) at the their place, too. They’re a totally different team at their place, so we have to be ready.”