Vacation time is over for the Watertown Red and Black.
The nations oldest semipro football team, coming off two straight bye weeks, will begin its stretch run in the Empire Football League with a 7:30 game tonight at the Amsterdam Zephyrs.
Watertown hasnt played since Aug. 18, a game that was suspended at halftime when it was discovered that opponent Albanys locker room had been broken into and players had money and personal belongings stolen.
So in reality, the Red and Black has played just two quarters of football in the last month. While routines could be thrown off and rust could start to set in, the team welcomed the break.
We were able to get fresh, with a lot of guys being banged up at this point in the season; we did have practice and when we were out there we were working hard, but it was nice to not have the physical contact of a game and really let our bodies heal, said Joe Brennan, the Red and Blacks leading rusher with 381 yards and six touchdowns through five games.
I think its definitely a refresher. Its huge going into the end of the season with four games left, being strong and being at the top of our game, Brennan added.
The Red and Black (3-2) is in third place in the EFL standings with four games left. After tonights game, Watertown will host Glens Falls, travel to Plattsburgh, then close with a home game against second-place Syracuse.
If Watertown was to win out, a second-place finish would be the worst-case scenario.
Were in the drivers seat, we control our destiny, Red and Black center Jared Cook said. If we win out, that will put us right at the top of the division.
It doesnt get any easier than that. Just win, bottom line, coach George Ashcraft said.
Amsterdam, meanwhile, isnt thinking about playoff positioning. The Zephyrs are 0-6, have given up a league-high 235 points and scored a league-low 19. They have been shut out four times, and given up more than 50 points on two separate occasions.
Watertown beat Amsterdam, 54-0, in a preseason game on July 7 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. In their only meeting last season, the Red and Black claimed a 50-16 victory.
But the Red and Black isnt looking at todays game as a nice way to ease back into game action.
If you think you got a light night, just go in light-hearted and see what happens, Ashcraft said.
With every team in this league, you cant take anybody lightly, Brennan said. Especially going to their field, they got a home game. For us, we cant go in there flat because theres upsets and we dont want any of that.
For today and potentially next Saturdays game, the Red and Black will be short-handed due to military training exercises taking place in California.
According to Ashcraft, the team has close to 30 active military members on the roster, about a dozen of which have already made the trip cross country. That list includes several starters on defense.
Ashcraft said that, on the positive side, it creates opportunities for other players.
This is going to be some peoples chance to step up, Ashcraft said. If theyve been looking for their opportunity to show what they can do, youre being showcased. Go knock your socks off because right now is your chance.