WATERTOWN — In making his debut with the Red and Black last Saturday, Kalon Jeter had waited for the moment since last winter and teammate and fellow quarterback Justin Stevenson had waited even longer.
Jeter looked forward to potentially playing for the Red and Black ever since he was reassigned to Fort Drum after serving in Germany with the Army. Also a soldier on the base, Stevenson hadn’t played since high school.
“I was in Germany for five years and was reassigned to Drum in February 2020 and was sad to hear that the season was canceled due to COVID,” Jeter said, “It’s been long overdue for me.”
Jeter has been waiting to play, either to help continue his progress in the sport or to continue the tradition of the Red and Black.
“I got here last year at the beginning of COVID,” Jeter said. “I didn’t get the opportunity to play obviously because of COVID, but now this is my stepping stone to either going on to do better things or to continue to make this team better, either of those.”
Jeter and Stevenson each got their chance in the Red and Black’s 34-7 victory over Plattsburgh last Saturday in the team’s Empire Football League season opener at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
The pair accounted for all four of Watertown’s touchdowns, with Stevenson scoring three of them — all coming in the second half.
Jeter, Stevenson and the Red and Black continue their season as they play at the Syracuse Smash at 7 tonight in an EFL game.
Last Saturday, the Red and Black turned to Stevenson at quarterback in the second half after Jeter played the opening half under center.
“That’s what you have to do, that’s how you win ball games,” Watertown coach George Ashcraft said. “We’re truly blessed to have both guys. If they come to every game, I think success like this is going to happen a lot more.”
Jeter rushed for 154 yards on 11 carries, and Stevenson totaled 130 yards on the ground, also on 11 carries.
After Stevenson rushed for three consecutive touchdowns, two in the third quarter of eight and 49 yards, and a 63-yard scamper in the fourth — Jeter followed with a 25-yard score in the final quarter.
“I felt good,” Jeter said. “It was nice to knock the first game jitters off and now I can truly be comfortable.”
“It feels really nice to contribute to the team,” Stevenson said afterward.
A native of San Antonio, Stevenson had rarely played at quarterback before.
“I played running back in high school and I was supposed to go to college and play, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to,” the 21-year-old Stevenson said. “But I joined the military and this is my third year with the Army.”
After being assigned to Germany from Fort Drum some five years ago, Jeter continued to play football, this time for several teams in the German Football League, most recently with the Darmstadt Diamonds, located in southwestern Germany near Frankfurt.
“The team was a mix of German nationals, prior NFL players and collegiate players that are brought over, known as ‘imports,” said Jeter, a Cincinnati native.
Jeter played the athlete position for the Diamonds, a position that included a variety of duties on the field.
“I would move around the field from wide receiver, quarterback and wingback, but predominantly I played wide receiver,” Jeter said. “And I led the league in yards-a-game average with over 100 yards on 4.2 catches (per game).”
Jeter is already comfortable playing in the Red and Black’s style of offense, with his previous playing experience helpful, and as the team has practiced since the first week of June.
“I came from playing the spread so it is identical, (Watertown offensive coordinator Jerry) Levine made it fool proof and helped develop my quarterback knowledge/mechanics to where it was comfortable and formed around my play style,” Jeter said.
He continued: “I played a little bit of quarterback in an option-style offense growing up and I revisited it last year playing for the Diamonds. I’ve been here before, so I’m comfortable with the position.”
Jeter is also encouraged with Watertown’s offensive contingent this season.
“The game actually comes easy because of the gentlemen up front that give me the time,” Jeter said. “I have a great wide receiver core and backs that help create a dynamic backfield. Chris Furr, Keegan Queior, Alex Mencia and Hunter Loftus make throwing the ball simple because routes are crisp and they have good hands.”
The reputation of the Red and Black franchise, which is the oldest in the history of semipro football, many times precedes itself.
“Obviously it’s one of those things where a lot of people talk very highly about the Red and Black and it’s a tradition that goes on,” Jeter said. “You can talk to a lot of different civilians and even military personnel that have been here for a while, and they’ll tell you about the tradition of the Red and Black and how far back it goes. It’s a big part of Fort Drum and Watertown and just this area.”
The aura of the Red and Black’s tradition carries throughout the north country and Fort Drum is no exception.
“Among those soldiers, it’s that opportunity,” Jeter said. “So a lot of times depending on where we get stationed and depending on where we go, we don’t always get that opportunity to get back on the field. So having that opportunity is something that is beyond measure and it’s really hard to describe, because you get another chance to lace them up, you get another chance to envision one of your passions.”
Including tonight, the Red and Black will play three consecutive road games. It plays at Glens Falls next Saturday and at Plattsburgh on Aug. 28.
After a league-wide bye week during Labor Day weekend. Watertown will host Glens Falls on Sept. 11 and Syracuse on Sept. 18 at the Fairgrounds to complete its six-game regular season.
Jeter added: “Hopefully I get to add to the Red and Black legacy and leave another ring with the city of Watertown in the near future.”