WATERTOWN — The Watertown Red and Black’s long-standing rivalry with the Plattsburgh North Stars added another dramatic chapter Saturday night.
Curtis Dukes ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns, and Shawn Davis scored the game-winning touchdown on a 78-yard interception return as the Red and Black held off the North Stars for a 40-35 victory at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Watertown improved to 3-0 and took over first place in the Empire Football League, while Plattsburgh dropped to 2-1.
“This gives us the ability to think that we can do anything that’s possible,” said Dukes, who ran for touchdowns of 80 and 61 yards. “We came together as a team and we believed in each other, and we just got to keep doing the same thing every game.”
Trailing 40-35 with 28 seconds left, the North Stars blocked a punt to set themselves up at the Red and Black 17 yard-line.
Plattsburgh quarterback Harry Rascoe — who completed 34-of-59 passes for 498 yards to go with four touchdowns and four interceptions — threw three straight incompletions, the last of which was a heave to the back of the end zone as time expired.
“That blocked punt at the end, wow that’s a shocker,” Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. “We don’t get a lot of them but when that happened and the defense can keep it together to at least not give up a score, we had the 12th person somewhere helping on that one.”
With about six minutes left in the third quarter, Davis picked off a pass from Rascoe and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to give the Red and Black a 40-28 lead.
“That whole play put our confidence over the top. It just built us up more,” Davis said. “We knew after that our defense could hold anybody.”
Jamil McCray caught 10 passes for 161 yards and Tory Bouyea caught 10 for 122 for Plattsburgh.
McCray and Bouyea caught two touchdown passes apiece from Rascoe, who was completing passes up the middle all night long.
“The philosophy we live by up in Plattsburgh is whatever they’re giving us, we’ll take it,” Rascoe said. “We were trying to get into run formations and, man for man, they were bigger and stronger. Where we had the advantage was our passing so that’s what we went with.”
Dukes busted off his first carry for an 80-yard touchdown. His 61-yard scoring run capped off a big first quarter and gave the Red and Black a 28-14 lead.
In the last two games, Dukes has 380 rushing yards.
“What he does is just, it’s incredible,” Ashcraft said. “There’s no other word for it. He’s a very well-disciplined man on the football field, and he makes a lot of things himself. If you give him the two or three seconds to get past that interior line, anything is liable to happen.”
Watertown wide receiver Edgar Givens caught a pair of touchdown passes — for 51 and 12 yards, respectively — from quarterback Ryan Semor.
Semor completed 5-of-11 passes for 127 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Mike Dumaw registered 13 tackles to lead Watertown’s defense, while Matt Kepler and Evan Buckingham finished with 10 apiece.
Rob Hughes, Ben Cornish and Anthony Bell each grabbed an interception for the Red and Black.
The Red and Black has a bye on Saturday and will host the Glens Falls Greenjackets in its home regular-season finale on Aug. 16.