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Red and Black shows results of missing practice

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The Watertown Red and Black suited nearly 50 players for Saturday’s Empire Football League regular season home finale at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

If that many players would show up to practice, according to coaches and team leaders, the nation’s oldest semipro football team would garner better results than the 26-0 blowout loss to the Syracuse Shock.

The Red and Black (4-4 overall, 3-4 league) erased any chance of a first-round bye and, with just a Sept. 21 game at Plattsburgh remaining, all but assured itself a road game to open the EFL playoffs.

“People can say what they want to say and think they’re in the greatest shape in the world, but that field tells the truth,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “That field can haunt the guy that wants to think he’s one thing and doesn’t want to practice.”

“I think if they would come together and play together and practice well for two weeks, we can go up to Plattsburgh and beat Plattsburgh,” he added.

The Red and Black’s offense tallied just 32 net yards on Saturday, compared with the Shock’s 306.

The Red and Black punted on seven of its 10 offensive possessions, lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs.

Red and Black quarterback Tyler Michaelwicz, avoiding pass rushers every time he dropped back, went 0-for-9 and was sacked four times for a loss of 25 yards. He did not play in the second half after suffering a hand injury. Ashcraft was optimistic about Michaelwicz’s chances to play in the regular season finale.

His replacement, Shane Slate, completed one of his eight passes for 19 yards. He was sacked twice for a loss of 20 yards.

“Like every football team I’ve played on for the last decade, these things happen,” veteran offensive lineman Amir Farhat said. “Teams got to grow together. But it’s kind of late now. It’s late in the game to put something together so we have to finish strong with what we have and that’s all we can hope for.”

Justyn Hardwick did most of the damage for the Shock (5-2). He scored on touchdown runs of one and 20 yards, then threw a 28-yard score to Aaron Smith on a flea-flicker late in the fourth quarter to provide the exclamation point.

Hardwick, who finished with a game-high 96 rushing yards on Saturday, ran for 157 yards on 18 carries to lead the Shock to a 30-6 win over the Red and Black in the season opener for both teams.

“I don’t know what it is because they’re a hell of a good team,” Hardwick said. “They’re all big boys so I guess my speed gets them.”

The Red and Black defense forced three interceptions on the Shock’s first four drives. But the offense followed those turnovers with a pair of three-and-outs and a lost fumble by Joe Brennan.

“It’s frustrating. I thought the defense played very well and forced some turnovers. We did as much as we could in the situations we got put in,” Red and Black linebacker Rob Hughes said.

“Guys can’t expect to come out here to games and just win. You got to come to practice,” he added.

Watertown will have a bye this Saturday and end its regular season at Plattsburgh.

The Red and Black beat the North Stars, 28-13, on Aug. 10 in their only other meeting this season. The EFL playoffs are scheduled to begin on Sept. 28.

“It was a rough game,” said Red and Black defensive tackle Alex Tibbles of Saturday’s loss. “Our offense is a little shaky, got to try to get it figured out before playoff time.”

“Syracuse is definitely a game we can win (in the playoffs), we just got to have everybody here and playing 100 percent. If we get that, we’ll definitely take care of them next time,” he added.

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