WATERTOWN — The only thing hotter than the temperature at kickoff was Joaquin Salmon and the Watertown Red and Black secondary.
Salmon recorded four of Watertown’s six interceptions, including a 70-yard touchdown return, as the Watertown Red and Black swept the season series with Auburn Pride in a 41-6 Empire Football League rout Saturday night at George Ashcraft Field at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
The game-time temperature at kickoff was 86 degrees.
Kalon Jeter, Rhashay Whitfield and Chris Furr each added scoring receptions for Watertown (8-0 overall, 7-0 league). Johnathan Williams also picked off a pair of passes, including one covering 30 yards for a score, for the Red and Black.
“We are just trying to have great eye-discipline and after that we just get aggressive and attacking the ball,” Salmon said.
Devon Chamberlin broke the Red and Black shutout bid with a two-yard scoring grab in the fourth quarter for the Pride (3-4). Auburn earned a pair of forfeit wins against Plattsburgh and Syracuse entering the matchup with Watertown.
The Red and Black defense has averaged 4.5 points per game during league play in non-forfeited games. It’s been an all-around effort for the unit this entire season.
“The defense up-front put pressure on the quarterback and make a lot of tackles in the backfield,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said.
Watertown earned 14 points within the first three minutes of play after a Rarday Burrell one-yard scoring plunge and Williams’ interception return. However, there some shaky moments late in the opening quarter as Auburn recovered a pair of fumbles.
“We were not as sharp as we usually are,” Watertown offensive coordinator Jerry Levine said. “We were a little sloppy in the first half.”
The Red and Black defense held the Pride off the board despite Auburn having a short field to work with. Watertown got in the backfield and made life miserable for Auburn quarterbacks Tim Hudson and Joe Pierce. Jeremy Machia and Derrek Dalton each made 11 tackles, and Curtis Dukes chipped in eight tackles.
Watertown then settled down and scored again. Furr caught a tipped pass from 33 yards out to race out to a 21-0 lead. Whitfield’s 10-yard scoring catch gave Watertown a 27-0 lead after Eric Beyler’s extra point was blocked, but Salmon’s third interception helped put the game out of reach. The defensive back picked off Hudson’s pass and returned it for a 34-0 lead.
“That return felt pretty good,” Salmon said. “I was pretty tired but I had to get it (the return) done.”
Watertown’s defense has a penchant for scoring points and that pumps up the entire squad. The Red and Black has scored on the defensive end in all but three games this season.
“We don’t get a chance to score on defense all the time,” defensive end Dylan Bice said. “When the defense takes advantage, it’s huge for us going forward.”
Kalon Jeter sealed the game with an athletic, 39-yard screen pass from quarterback Jason Williams. Jeter weaved around defenders and kept the play alive before finding open space and the end zone.
“We saw the way they were lining up and we ran a play called ‘Jailbreak,’” Levine said. “We got a couple good blocks and linemen made good blocks down the field.”
Auburn added a late score, but Watertown thwarted another garbage-time touchdown, with Johnathan Williams picking off his second pass of the night. The Red and Black stopped a number of Pride drives that started with a short field.
“We thrive on digging deep and not allowing any points inside the 20-yard line when we get pinned down there,” Dalton said.
Watertown is off until Sept. 17, hosting the Broome County Stallions in the regular-season finale. Saturday’s game at Plattsburgh was wiped out due to Plattsburgh folding for the season, and the Sept. 10 game against Syracuse was lost due to its season being suspended. The Red and Black will still be in its normal routine despite the break.
“We have to show up to practice or else it (the season) will fall apart,” Ashcraft said.
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