The Vermont Ice Storm is an opponent that evokes plenty of memories from Red and Black players and coaches.
Both good and bad.
Watertown will play Vermont for the first time since 2010 in its home opener at 7:30 tonight at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Both teams enter with a 2-1 record, and are in an early three-way tie with Syracuse for second place in the Empire Football League standings.
Im looking forward to playing Vermont again, Red and Black coach George Ashcraft said. Theyre always competitive. Theyre a well-coached team, and their system has always been good.
The Ice Storm has returned to the league after a self-imposed one-year hiatus due to a low number of players.
The team debuted in 2001 in Colchester, Vt., and personally requested the Red and Black, in existence since 1896, as its first opponent.
Ashcraft recalls his team winning that game, 56-6, but said the Ice Storm had its moment.
They scored with about 30 seconds left, and you would think they won the Super Bowl, just because they scored on us, Ashcraft said. They were just the happiest bunch of guys, and they were a bunch of good guys too. It was nice to see.
The rivalry took off from there, and hit its first major point in the 2007 EFL title game.
Vermont won that game, 9-8, after putting together a 14-play, 65-yard drive to score the winning touchdown with four seconds left.
Ashcraft, as if it happened yesterday, talked of a long pass play from that drive on fourth down in which the Ice Storm receiver ran out of bounds for about 15 yards before stepping back onto the field and making the reception for a first down.
They got that first down, and two plays later they scored, Ashcraft said. They should never have got that. It was fourth down, we shouldve got the ball back, we couldve just knelt on the ball and we wouldve won the championship.
For veteran quarterback Brian Williams, it was a pair of blowout losses to Vermont from the following season that stuck out in his mind.
He believes those losses sparked a fire under the Red and Black, and helped set the team up for its 2009 championship season its first title in 29 years.
We played them twice in 2008, and they really handed it to us twice, Williams said. So, those three games between 2007 and 2008 have really created a little bit of a rivalry between us. And every time we step on the field, both teams, they really give it their all.
Defensive end Ben Call, coming off a five-tackle game at Montreal last week, discussed growing up in the area as a Red and Black fan, and said that Vermont was always a game he would circle on the calendar.
When I was growing up, that was always what wed do, at least make it to the Vermont game because it was always a good game and we always played them hard, said Call, a General Brown product. Im definitely excited to play them.
History aside, tonights game will see one team drop to .500 with a loss, and the other remaining near the top of the EFL standings in the early portion of the season. Albany (2-0) sits atop the league.
Vermont coming in 2-1, same record as we have, this is a very important game, Williams said. Vermonts been out of the league for a year, but theyre still the same Vermont team thats ever been in the EFL. Theyre going to come, theyre going to play 60 minutes, theyre going to play hard. All we have to do is be prepared and match their intensity.