SARANAC LAKE - One of eight.
There are eight high school football teams left in the hunt for the New York state Class C title, and Saranac Lake is in the mix.
On Saturday, the Red Storm cruised to the Section VII/X championship with a 55-6 victory over AuSable Valley at Ken Wilson Field to advance into the state playoff round. The win sets up a showdown between two high-powered unbeaten teams, as Saranac Lake and Section II, Class C champion Hoosick Falls play Saturday in a state quarterfinal matchup. That game will take place on the synthetic turf field at the AuSable Valley Central School in Clintonville starting at 1 p.m.
Saranac Lake senior receiver Dalton DeMarco celebrates after reaching the end zone untouched on 22-yard scoring reception in the first half of Saturday’s game against AuSable Valley at Ken Wilson Field in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
When the Red Storm and Patriots played on the seventh weekend of the regular season, Saranac Lake struggled throughout the first half and was clinging to a 7-0 lead at intermission before pouring it on after halftime. When the teams met again Saturday, the Red Storm didn't wait around to settle the issue. Saranac Lake scored touchdowns on all five of its first-half possessions and didn't slow down after halftime, reaching the end zone three more times in succession.
After finishing runner-up a year ago, Saranac Lake has now claimed two Class C football crowns in the past three seasons.
"Our kids came out sharp. They played with purpose," Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. "They were determined to start quick and finish strong. We're excited to represent the section. We're excited to win a championship at home. I'm especially happy for our seniors who were able to go out as champions on their home field."
Saranac Lake has suffered a slew of injures to key starters since the start of the season. But week after week, different players have risen to the occasion on a team that now has a 9-0 record. Back in peak form after missing much of the regular season with a knee injury, senior C. J. Stewart ran for two touchdowns, scored on a punt return and had a standout performance on defense for the Red Storm.
After taking over full-time quarterbacking duties when Michael Phelan was knocked out of the lineup with a shoulder injury against Moriah, Forrest Morgan also had a great day for the Red Storm. Morgan, a senior, connected on all but one of his 11 passing attempts, good for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Making his first start since recovering from mononucleosis, Dalton DeMarco had one touchdown reception, while fellow senior Josh Quinn also hauled in a pair of scoring strikes, both coming in the third quarter on a pass each from Morgan and junior backup quarterback Ben Monty.
"Our quarterbacks can put the ball anywhere," said Quinn, who led Saranac Lake's receivers with six catches for 85 yards. "We started out pretty sloppy the last time we played AuSable. We had a lot of penalties. I had a motion penalty, and that's pretty embarrassing for a receiver. In this game, our plan was no penalties, disciplined football and keep our heads."
Stewart scored both Red Storm touchdowns in the first quarter, starting with a 23-yard sprint to the end zone 6:09 into the game on a fourth-down-and-four play. He then returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown with 4:15 remaining in the period, and Morgan followed with a successful two-point conversion pass to Devin Darrah for a 15-0 Red Storm lead.
Saranac Lake all but sewed up the victory by scoring three more times in the second quarter as DeMarco scored on a 22-yard pass from Morgan, Stewart reached the end zone on a 1-yard dive and senior back Peter Morgan crossed the goal line on a 3-yard run. That touchdown came on a broken play after Morgan mishandled the snap from center, the ball bounced on the ground and Madden was on the spot to scoop it up and run into the end zone.
Quinn's caught his first touchdown of the day in the corner of the end zone on a 20-yard pass from Morgan 2:01 after intermission. Quinn's second scoring catch was on an 8-yard strike from Monty with 3:25 left in the third that lifted the Red Storm to a 49-0 advantage.
The Patriots averted the shutout when senior Jordan Bouyea broke around the left side of the Saranac Lake defense and raced 32 yards into the end zone with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter. Junior Red Storm tailback Ethan Barge rounded out the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run on the final play of the period.
While the Red Storm offense seemingly scored at will, Saranac Lake's defense found similar success, especially in the first half when the Patriots could only manage 21 total yards on offense before intermission. Bouyea, who broke the 1,000-yard rushing plateau a week ago for the Patriots, ran for 100 yards on 17 carries the last time he faced the Red Storm defense. On Saturday, he only mustered 38 yards on 10 carries, with the bulk of yardage coming on his touchdown run. In the first half, the AuSable Valley senior was held to one negative yard on the ground on six attempts.
"After getting gashed a little bit the last time we played, we had to change our scheme a little bit," Bennett said. "Coach (Matt) Raymond came up with a great plan, and the kids executed it. We didn't want to let them have much of a rhythm."
Saranac Lake's balanced offense piled up 462 total yards, with 225 coming on the ground and 237 via the passing game. Morgan and Monty combined for 14 completions on 16 attempts. Stewart was the game's top all-around yardage gainer, picking up 164 yards on five runs, two pass receptions and his punt return for a touchdown.
"We played a very good team," said AuSable Valley coach Heith Ford. "They played very good, mistake-free football most of the time and that will, I think, serve them very well in the playoffs. They have a formidable opponent next week, but I think they are up to the task."
Saranac Lake will face an explosive Hoosick Falls team that has dominated its way through the season in a fashion mirroring the Red Storm's run through their schedule. The Panthers, who were New York's fourth-ranked Class C team a week ago, advanced to this Saturday's quarterfinal by thrashing Chatam 61-28 Friday in the Section II, Class C championship game. Both squads were undefeated heading into that contest.
"We're not going to change much," Bennett said of his team's plan for the Panthers. "We're going with the same formula we've used all season. We're just going to let the chips fall where they may. We're one of eight."
|Saranac Lake 55, AuSable Valley 6|
|SL — Stewart 23 run (Morgan kick), 6:09|
|SL — Stewart 50 punt return (Darrah pass from Morgan), 7:45|
|SL — DeMarco 22 pass from Morgan (kick failed), 3:54|
|SL — Stewart 1 run (Morgan run), 6:38|
|SL — Madden 3 run (Morgan kick), 11:50|
|SL — Quinn 20 pass from Morgan (kick failed), 2:01|
|SL — Quinn 8 pass from Monty (Morgan kick), 8:35|
|AV — Bouyea 32 run (kick failed), 10:19|
|SL — Barge 60 run (kick failed), 12:00|
|AuSable Valley — House 9-33, Bouyea 10-38 TD, Sikandar 4-36, Whisher 1-8, Simpson 2-(-2). Totals: 26-113 TD.|
|Saranac Lake — Madden 5-15 TD, Stewart 6-55 2TDs, Quinn 2-14, Ryan 3-16, Morgan 3-2, Dora 1-7, Barge 2-80 TD, Monty 2-4, Tuthill 1-(-3), Curry 3-12, Pickereign 2-22, Burpoe 1-3, Matt Phelan 1-14, team-(-16). Totals: 33-225 4TDs.|
|AV — House 7-11-1-52.|
|SL — Morgan 10-11-0-185 2TDs, Monty 4-5-0-52 TD. 14-16-0-237 3TDs.|
|AV — Sikandar 2-25, Parrish 2-14, Simpson 1-6, Parrow 1-(-1), Prinsen 1-8.|
|SL — Quinn 6-85 2TDs, DeMarco 3-47 TD, Stewart 2-59, Darrah 1-25, Barge 1-4, Tuthill 1-8.|
|Saranac Lake — Tuthill|