WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Watertown Red and Black are scheduled to open their 2020 Empire Football League schedule on the 4th of July as they host Utica in a 7 PM kickoff at the Alex Duffy Fairgrounds.
Last season, the Red and Black finished with a 7-3 record and lost to the Mohawk Valley Nighthawks in the Empire Football League semifinals.
In 2019, the league was comprised of 5 teams with the Seaway Valley Venom folding before the start of the season.
This season, the league has added 4 new teams and Red and Black Coach George Ashcraft feels the addition of the new teams will add a new dimension to the league and make things much more competitive this season.
“Yeah, it was great. You know, we’ve got Sussex Stags who was in the league for 2 or 3 years back in ’15 and ’16- ’17. The team that won the league in ’18 from down in the Kingston area is back in the league this year and they look like they’re gonna be a very, very good opponent. With those 2 teams coming in, then there’s a new team in Syracuse called the Syracuse Smash. I’ve never known of really a bad team out of the Syracuse area. They’ve got a lot of players to pick from down there,” said Ashcraft.
The area’s other semi-pro football team, the Carthage Revolution, start their season a month earlier than the Red and Black, and are hopeful their 2020 Northeastern Football Alliance season starts on time with a new man leading the team.
The Carthage Revolution head into the 2020 season with a new head coach as Jon Fisher replaces Leon Eldridge. Eldridge has assumed front office duties for the team.
Fisher says this has been his ultimate goal after almost 3 decades in semi-pro football as a player and an assistant coach.
“Part of being here for 28 and a half years and playing on 2 different organizations- I’ve been wanting to be a head coach for a long time, and this was one of the goals. So, I wanted to be a defensive coordinator originally for a while and then the Carthage Revolution did give me that opportunity. So I did that for a few years and now I’m finally reaching the goal to be the head coach,” said Fisher.
Fisher says he has around 40 players on the roster and adds the team had been holding practices at the Fairgrounds YMCA before the coronavirus outbreak.
Now the Revolution, like all other teams, are in a holding pattern waiting to get back on the field.
“Everybody’s on hold. We’re just having the guys study their playbooks and working out individually, and of course, taking care of their families. Safety first, always safety first. And you know, just studying their playbooks until we get the O.K. to continue on,” said Fisher.
The Revolution have 5 road games and 5 home contests scheduled for Carthage High School and will be looking to bounce back from a 4-7 season.
Fisher likes the talent he has on on both sides of the football, but adds he could use a few more offensive lineman.
“Defense is gonna be very, very stacked. Wide receivers are looking good. Quarterbacks are looking good. Running backs- we have some very good running backs, like I said, I need some offensive lineman and I think we’ll be all around very good,” said Fisher.
The Revolution are set to open their N.F.A. schedule on the road May 30th against the Broome County Stallions. But Revolution owner, Leon Eldridge, says while the league is still on track for opening weekend, that could change due to COVID-19.
“Well, after talking with the commissioner a few times back and forth and a couple of the other team owners, like I said, right now with COVID-19 going on, we’re still gonna try and go ahead and push forward with the season, we may have to push, postpone to a later date. But as of right now, we’re still gonna push forward as to actually having a live season for the fans and the community,” said Eldridge.
With less than 2 months to go before the start of the season, the Revolution and the rest of the N.F.A. are hoping time doesn’t run out on them to start the 2020 season on time.
For the first time ever, The Boilermaker 15k race in Utica, which was scheduled for the 2nd weekend in July, has been postponed until September 13th due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The race, which is celebrating it’s 43rd year and usually draws 15,000 runners from around the world, has never been postponed or rescheduled before.
An official announcement regarding the rescheduling is set to take place on Tuesday.