Saturday nights game was exactly what Rob Hughes needed.
The seven-year Watertown Red and Black veteran and defensive captain played in a pivotal Empire Football League game at the urging of his wife, Beth, who suffered a minor stroke on Thursday.
Hughes finished with seven tackles and four different players scored a rushing touchdown, including defensive tackle Alex Tibbles, as the Red and Black captured a 28-13 victory over the previously unbeaten Plattsburgh North Stars at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Hughess teammates dedicated the game to their middle linebacker and his wife, who is still in the hospital undergoing tests.
I wasnt going to play, I was going to stay with my wife, but she told me to come play. So I took it to heart, Hughes said.
I know the guys Thursday (at practice) had a prayer for her and dedicated the game to her. I told her about it and she teared up, and you know, were family. It means a lot for the guys to do this and then to come out here. We played a football game that was almost flawless and beat one of the best teams in the league, and it feels good.
I called my wife (after the game) and she was ecstatic, Hughes added.
The Red and Black improved to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in league play. The team is scheduled for a bye this Saturday, but head coach George Ashcraft said he is awaiting word from a team in Rochester about playing a nonleague game at the Fairgrounds.
Watertown has three league games remaining on its schedule. It will play the NEPA Miners, Syracuse Shock and another game with the North Stars (4-1).
This was a very big win, Ashcraft said. Its one of three more that we have to get if were going to be where we want to be come October.
Ive stressed that every week this team is going to get better, and it does. It just does on both sides of the ball, he added.
The Red and Black defense held the vaunted Plattsburgh offense, averaging 50 points per game before Saturday, to just 186 yards.
Plattsburghs only offensive touchdown came late in the game on a short run after a botched snap on a punt attempt set them up at the Red and Blacks two-yard line.
If this carries through for the rest of the season, were going to dominate. Everyone is finally doing what theyre supposed to do, said Tibbles, who starred at Indian River High School.
Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe, who threw 17 touchdowns in his first three games, completed 16-of-34 passes for 137 yards. He threw two interceptions to Josh Cox and Jordan Johnson and was held without a touchdown for the first time this year.
I think the Red and Black had a good game plan defensively, and I think that we didnt click on all cylinders, Plattsburgh coach Scott Aguglia said.
Joe Brennan finished with 115 yards and a five-yard touchdown on 24 carries. It was his second straight 100-yard rushing effort.
Anton Gadson ran for a 16-yard touchdown and Angel Hickman provided an eight-yard scoring run.
Tibbles, the reigning EFL Defensive Player of the Year, scored the first offensive touchdown of his life on a one-yard run that put Watertown up 21-7 with just less than a minute to play in the first half.
I just hit someone and dove in, Tibbles said. That was the first one (Ive scored). It felt great knowing I contributed to the win. We won by two touchdowns and I scored one of them.
Dexter Geohagan returned a punt for a touchdown a minute into the game to give Plattsburgh a 7-0 lead before its offense took the field.
Red and Black quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz completed eight of 16 passes for 126 yards. Chris Furr caught six passes for a career-high 111 yards.
Plattsburgh had won the past six games between the old rivals, including a 20-13 victory to end the Red and Blacks season in last years EFL semifinals.
Before Saturday, Watertowns last win over Plattsburgh was in the 2009 EFL championship game at the Fairgrounds. Saturday also marked the first time the North Stars have played in Watertown since that game.
The two teams are scheduled to play again in the regular-season finale on Sept. 21 at Plattsburgh High School.