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Hughes, Tibbles return to Red and Black after rift

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Alex Tibbles and Rob Hughes thought they were going to be on the other side of tonight’s Empire Football League season opener.

They are two of several players that left the Watertown Red and Black after last season and decided to join the Syracuse Shock to play for assistant coaches that made the same move due to a falling out among the staff.

And yet, they will be in their familiar Red and Black jerseys tonight, Tibbles wearing No. 79 and Hughes in No. 42, for a 7 p.m. game against the Shock at Liverpool High School.

“Things didn’t work out and we all returned, coach (George) Ashcraft accepted us back with open arms,” said the veteran Hughes, who is slated to start at middle linebacker.

“I was down there with some of those guys from Syracuse and they took us with open arms. The guys down there are nice guys, but it’s football. I know they’ll be looking to take our heads off like we’ll be looking to take their heads off,” he added.

Former Red and Black assistant coach Ammbrose Souza led a group of coaches to the Shock after last season ended, and several players went with him.

But Souza and 14-year Red and Black veteran Aaron Brown left the Shock a few months ago to accept coaching positions with Watertown High School, and many of the players — like Hughes and Tibbles — decided to come back to play for the Red and Black.

Other players who departed — like former quarterback Brian Williams — will not play at all this season. No players or coaches that left Watertown are still affiliated with the Shock.

Kenny Anderson, a former Red and Black assistant who coached the Shock for the last three years, also left the team.

“They ended up going other places and now I’m back and just want to give it another run for a championship,” Tibbles said. “I missed it. I missed being home.”

The Red and Black’s rivalry with the Shock was prevalent well before the coach and player movement this offseason.

Last season’s emotional regular-season finale between the two squads was called off with 28 seconds left for security reasons.

The Shock appeared to score the game-winning touchdown on 4th-and-15 in the final minute, but the play was ruled an illegal forward pass.

Shock players and coaches crowded the field to dispute the call and the game was brought to an early conclusion.

There were also two separate squabbles at halftime with players pushing and yelling.

“This game has a lot of meaning to a lot of guys,” Red and Black running back Joe Brennan said. “The adrenaline will be pumping because both teams really don’t like each other.”

For the Red and Black, rather than a clash between former teammates and coaches, tonight’s game is about getting off to a winning start in the EFL and discovering what first-year starting quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz and several other new starters can do in a regular season game.

Syracuse began its regular season with a 64-6 victory over Glens Falls last Saturday.

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