WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - After a 2020 that saw the Empire Football League cancel their season due to COVID-19, it’s back to the gridiron for the league’s 6 teams with a few changes.
Empire Football league members met last weekend and formulated a plan for the upcoming 2021 season.
With Utica, Hudson Valley and Sussex joining other leagues, the 6 teams left decided to split the league into 2 divisions with the Red and Black playing in the West Division with the Northern New York Grizzlies and the Syracuse Smash. And Tri-City, Glens Falls and Plattsburgh making up the Eastern Division.
”What we did is we, you know, as the 6 teams, we knew we couldn’t play a 10 game schedule, so everybody agreed to play East and West. That way it would cut down on travel anyway for at least those first four games and the crossover games. I was lucky enough to where we only have to travel to Plattsburgh and the other 2 teams come to us, so we don’t have to take the trip to Glens Falls or Schenectady,” said Red and Black Head Coach George Ashcraft.
March is usually a time the Red and Black are on the field at the Alex. T Duffy Fairgrounds getting some early practices in before the start of the season in July, but another change the EFL made was pushing the start of the regular season back to August 7th.
”I’m gonna start sign-ups the end of next week. Probably gonna start practicing outside like the first week of June, but that’s not saying we can’t maybe do a few things before that, you know, at the Fairgrounds, but we’ll be practicing June, July and start playing games in August,” said Ashcraft.
After a year away from the sidelines and his players, Ashcraft says he’s ready to get back into his normal routine and is looking forward to providing some much needed entertainment for not only Red and Black fans, but football fans in general.
”Well, you know, the last game that we played in 2019, I was laying in the hospital. So I, I’m ready. I’m ready to get back on the sidelines and see the guys and just make it happening again. The area, I think, always looked forward to it. We got a solid base, 3-400 fans and it could be 3 or 4 thousand hopefully this year with nothing else that’s been going on so it would be great to see it, you know?” said Ashcraft.
The oldest semi-pro football team in the country is looking to make it back to the EFL Championship game, which is set to be played October 9th.
The South Lewis Boys’ Basketball Team closed out their 2021 season Saturday at home with a 72-54 win over Sackets Harbor to finish with an 8-4 mark on the season, matching their win total from last year when they finished with an 8-13 overall record.
Coach Ted McCall’s team is making the most of the abbreviated season, one that saw senior guard Ian Anderson score his 1,000th career point.
”But it’s been a really good year. Just getting back in the gym and being able to play a little bit meant a lot for them. As a team, I know they were together during the summer playing in the parks, but this is high school basketball. You get one opportunity. They’re not gonna get to do this again,” said McCall.
”Yeah, we have. We were expecting to have a good year. We thought we could, if it was a normal season, we could have went to sectionals and made a run,” said Ian Anderson.