WATERTOWN — Wide receiver Keegan Queior said he took the Watertown Red and Black’s week one loss to Plattsburgh personally. With a chance to avenge that loss at home, Queior and the rest of the Red and Black did just that.
Watertown executed a fourth quarter comeback that resulted in a 23-20 victory over the North Stars (4-2) in its home opener Saturday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, earning its third Empire Football League win.
The drama came late in the fourth. After the Red and Black failed to push the ball across the goal line on fourth down, its defense — looking to force a three-and out with the clock winding down — held tough and dropped North Stars running back DJ Barber in the end zone for a safety.
Unsatisfied with the narrow 16-14 lead, Watertown (3-3) tacked on more in its next play from scrimmage. Mickeal Tre Smith busted through the line and shook off a few defenders as he drove his way to the end zone for the 45-yard touchdown.
The offense stumbled at times — on top of the failed play at the goal line, Watertown fumbled the ball four times, three of which resulted in turnovers. But its passing game often prevailed and yielded a few explosive plays.
With the quarterback position split between Joe Brennan in the first half and Jared Hendricks in the second half, Queior hauled in six passes for a total of 121 receiving yards. Though he never found the end zone, the 5-foot-10 slot receiver set up a couple of red zone opportunities. Watertown’s opening score — a one-yard run by Smith — came to be after Queior broke away from the defense and pulled in a sailing pass with just his right hand. The play resulted in a 29-yard gain that moved the ball to the goal line.
Later, in the fourth quarter, he again used his agility by catching a Hendricks’ pass at the sideline and spinning past the defender to gain an extra 28 yards. However, that drive ultimately resulted in Watertown being stuffed on the goal line on fourth down.
“I feel like I needed to have a statement game, it wasn’t really a statement game that I like, but ...” Queior said. “[Furr’s] balling man, I need to meet his level of play.”
In week one, the North Stars’ offense had its way with the Red and Black defense putting up 47 points. But, on Saturday they saw a different Red and Black team. The Red and Black dressed more than 50 players and played more like a unit on the defensive end, according to defensive coordinator Jon Bannister.
Playing against one of the toughest passing teams in the Empire Football League, the Red and Black secondary had arguably the toughest job Saturday night. Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, but was held to 19 completions on 43 attempts. Tyler Hill played lock down defense and took away multiple deep shots attempted by Rascoe.
“This is his first year playing corner and he had a great game, all of our DB’s had a great game this week,” Bannister said. “[Hill] did have some really good knock downs and stuff like that and he was covering their best receiver.”
Hill was often assigned to Tre Bucci, who finished with seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side, Norris Celestine made plays for the Red and Black defense. Late in the fourth quarter, he broke up a would-be touchdown by punching the ball out of the receiver’s hands in the end zone.
Earlier in the season the fourth quarter would be when things would unravel for the Watertown defense. But in the past two games the Red and Black has looked much better in late-game situations.
Two weeks ago versus Mohawk Valley the Red and Black defense successfully preserved a 14-10 lead. Bannister thinks that did wonders for the unit’s confidence.
“I think so, 100 percent, once you get that first win that makes a huge difference,” Bannister said. “Now we’re home for the rest of the season, so it just needs to keep rolling down the line and it’s going to make a big difference.”
George Ashcraft believes that if they continue to get 50 players per game the rest of the season, the Red and Black has a serious chance at winning the league. In his experience a win like this bodes well for participation numbers in upcoming games.
“I’m very pleased with the whole turnout,” Ashcraft said. “I’m just happy with both sides the ball.”
The Red and Black are back at home next week and will host the Tri-City Spartans.