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Red & Black seeks breakthrough final

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The Watertown Red and Black is sick of hearing the all too familiar chant: “Our house.”

It’s the refrain the Plattsburgh North Stars chant after every victory on their home field.

The nation’s oldest semipro football team has heard it every year since 2007.

Watertown will try to leave Plattsburgh High School without hearing “Our house,” after today’s 7 p.m. Empire Football League regular season finale against the North Stars.

“They know it. We haven’t won up there in five years,” said Red and Black offensive coordinator and former player, Nate Bryant.

“It’s their thing not to let us win up there. We want to beat each other every time but when we’re up there and they beat us, they let us know that we’re in their house. But when we leave that field, win or lose, they always know we were there to play a tough football game.”

The six-year drought includes five losses.

Plattsburgh captured two home wins over Watertown last year, including a 23-17 heartbreaker in the EFL playoff semifinals.

The North Stars won at home in 2011 and pulled off another sweep in 2010, which included the EFL championship game.

“We’ve won a lot of games, for years we won up there,” Red and Black head coach George Ashcraft said. “The last couple years, we’ve gotten snake-bit up there.”

In that same six-year span, The Red and Black is 3-1 against the North Stars at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“I don’t want to make any excuses, the bus ride is difficult and that goes both ways,” Watertown running back Joe Brennan said.

“Any time we go up there, it’s tough to get off the bus and this team has been working on some things this week to know how to get off the bus this week. It’s just a tough place to go in and play.”

The Red and Black leads the all-time series with Plattsburgh 14-12, and the teams played in consecutive EFL title games in 2009-10, trading victories.

“I think the true rivalry in the EFL is Watertown and Plattsburgh,” Bryant said. “Everybody says there’s a rivalry with Syracuse. That’s just nothing but a trash-talking contest. There’s a true rivalry between Watertown and Plattsburgh with no mouth involved. It’s two good football teams that get together on a field and we pound on each other.”

Watertown beat Plattsburgh at home, 28-13, in the first meeting of the year between the two teams on Aug. 10.

Since then, the Red and Black has lost its last two games with bye weeks in between.

“We’ve struggled offensively this year, and scoring points, we’ve really struggled compared to years past,” Brennan said “But when we have our guys, we’re deadly. It depends on which Red and Black team, which offense shows up that day. I know this week, we’ve been putting in a lot of work and hopefully it pays off out on the field.”

The EFL playoff bracket will be finalized at the annual year-end league meeting Sunday afternoon.

The six-team field is expected to be broken down into divisional play. If that remains the case, the Red and Black will be seeded third and travel to Syracuse for a first-round matchup against the Shock next Saturday night at Liverpool High School.

The winner would play the top-seeded NEPA Miners in Scranton, Pa. in the EFL semifinals on Oct. 5.

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