WATERTOWN — As other teams in the Empire Football League are folding, the Watertown Red and Black is preparing to enter its 118th season feeling confident.
The nation’s oldest semipro football team will take the field for the first time this summer in a preseason game against the Western Connecticut Militia at 7 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Two of the EFL’s six teams – the Syracuse Shock and Vermont Ice Storm – ceased operations for the year in early June.
“It’s their call and there’s not much we can say or do about it,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said.
“We move forward in a positive fashion, don’t make a big deal out of it, go play football and just get some games. That’s all there is to it and that’s what we’re supposed to be here for.”
The Red and Black and the EFL’s other three remaining teams — Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and Glove Cities — will fill the open dates with nonleague games and their respective league records will determine seeding for a four-team playoff at the end of the season.
“It doesn’t really matter because I think the four teams that are in the league, if we were in any other league, we could compete with anybody. All four of us,” Ashcraft said. “You can look at it in a lot of different ways and come up with the same answer: The EFL is very solid in the teams that we got.”
Ashcraft said the situation makes tonight’s game against the Militia — which sports a 44-5 record in its four years of existence — all the more important.
The Militia plays in the New England Football League and has been named the NEFL Organization of the Year for the past two years.
“We don’t do scrimmages. … When you’re bringing in someone who’s 44-5 over four years, if you want to scrimmage them, you better hold onto your jock because they’ll rock your world,” Ashcraft said.
The Red and Black will open the regular season on July 12 at Glens Falls. The home opener is July 19 against Glove Cities.