TUPPER LAKE - After suffering two lopsided losses to start the season, Tupper Lake's football team found itself in a real battle Saturday against unbeaten Gouverneur.
But for the third time in as many games, the Lumberjacks came up on the short end of the scoreboard, falling 14-13 on homecoming day at Frank Tice Field.
Tupper Lake battled back twice from deficits and had a chance to pull off the win on the game's final drive, but the Wildcats' defense blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Lumberjacks' place kicker Ian Gillis to preserve the victory.
Tupper Lake senior captain Marcus Richer (53) and Jeremy Roussel close in to drag down Gouverneur running back Hunter Ayen during Saturday’s homecoming game at Frank Tice Field.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Each team came up with key defensive stops throughout the contest, but Gouverneur may have made the two biggest plays of the game with two blocked kicks. The Wildcats first block came after Tupper Lake senior Tyler Minogue took a Mitch Keniston screen pass 24 yards into the end zone in the third quarter to pull the 'Jacks to within a point at 14-13. The second block then sealed the win for the visitors when Tupper Lake lined up for a possible game-winning field goal with 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter after a long drive stalled at Gouverneur's 15-yard line.
"The good thing is we put ourselves in position to win the game," Tupper Lake head coach Dennis Klossner said. "We have confidence in Ian Gillis, he's a good kicker, and we thought we corrected what happened on the blocked extra point. Unfortunately, they got through again."
Gouverneur scored both its touchdowns in the first half, with senior Tanner Spilman reaching the end zone on runs of 50 and nine yards. Cody Woods also notched two big points for the winners on a pair of conversion kicks.
Tupper Lake came up with its first defensive stop on the game's opening possession when the Wildcats punted after failing to gain a first down. Taking over at their own 43, the Lumberjacks fumbled two plays into their first set of snaps when the ball was ripped from Minogue's grasp as he was fighting for extra yards. With the ball at their own 36, the Wildcats went to the ground game and got a touchdown four plays into their possession when Spilman sprinted 50 yards into the end zone. Woods followed with a successful kick, putting Gouverneur on top 7-0 with 6:59 left in the first quarter.
The Lumberjacks, who were guided by backup quarterback Mitch Keniston, answered in the second quarter when they mounted a 75-yard, 16-play march capped off by a 1-yard touchdown dive by senior Elliot Kerst. Gillis sent the conversion kick through the uprights to deadlock the contest at 7-7 with 8:54 remaining in the opening half. The Lumberjacks converted two fourth-down situations on the scoring drive, which ate up more than eight minutes of clock.
Gouverneur got its second and final touchdown of the game on its next possession. In seven plays, the Wildcats drove 65 yards and scored on a Spilman 9-yard run, with Woods adding the extra point to carry a 14-7 edge into halftime.
Gouverneur looked like it could take control of the game at the start of the third quarter after recovering the kickoff. The Wildcats mounted a drive deep into Tupper Lake territory, but the 'Jacks defense came up with a turnover when Mitch Keniston recovered a fumble at his team's 6-yard line. The Lumberjacks then drove the length of the field, going 94 yards with Minogue taking a screen pass 24 yards to pay dirt with 1:55 left in the third quarter. Tupper Lake, however, missed out on the chance to tie the game when Gouverneur's Levi Love blocked the conversion kick.
The Wildcats drove well into Tupper Lake territory again on their next possession, marching all the way to the Lumberjacks 4-yard line. But the 'Jacks defense stiffened again and put the ball back into the hands of their offense with 5:02 left in the game. With the game on the line, Tupper Lake found room to move and got two big completions on the drive when Keniston hooked up with Minogue for gains of 12 and 54 yards. But facing a fourth-down-and-five situation at the Gouverneur 15-yard line, Tupper Lake opted to go for a possible winning field goal. Instead of pulling out the win, all the Lumberjacks could do is watch Wildcats quarterback Mark Horne take a knee on the final two plays of the game after the blocked kick.
"We were fortunate to get penetration to block both of those kicks," Gouverneur head coach Sean Devlin said. "We knew Tupper Lake was going to be a tough opponent. They played two good teams to open the season, and we knew they had some good players.
"I don't think we played that well, but we played good enough to win," Devlin added. "We're 3-0 and nobody can take that away from us, but we're going to have to get better to compete in this league."
Keniston, a junior, got his first start at quarterback after Tupper Lake starter Morgan Stevens was lost for the season a week ago with an ACL tear. Keniston completed 5 of 12 pass attempts for 110 yards.
The Wildcats rushed for 222 yards in the contest, and Spilman led the way with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Minogue had a solid outing for the Lumberjacks, accounting for 176 of his team's 301 total yards on offense. He rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries and had 97 receiving yards on four catches.
Keniston picked up 61 yards rushing on 13 attempts, and junior Jeremy Roussel gained 39 yards on 10 runs.
After dropping three straight games, all at home, Tupper Lake will look for its first victory on Saturday in a road matchup against winless Canton.
"I was proud of our kids, they just kept fighting," Klossner said. "We just had a few miscues. I liked how we moved the football, we just need to come up with a few more defensive stops. We were one stop short in this game."
"We knew we had to play our hardest to win this game," Keniston added. "I thought we did, and we came close. I don't think anyone on our team is discouraged right now. If anything, a game like this has us wanting to fight harder."
Gouverneur 14, Tupper Lake 13
G - Spilman 50 run (Woods kick), 5:01
TL - Kerst 1 run (Gillis kick), 3:06
G - Spilman 9 run (Woods kick), 7:43
TL - Minogue 24 pass from M. Keniston (Kick blocked), 10:05
Gouverneur - Barley 1-4, Horne 9-52, McShane 3-24, Cummings 3-4, Spilman 10-113 2TDs, 3-13, Love 6-12. Totals: 35-222 2TDs.
Tupper Lake - Minogue 13-79, Roussel 10-39, M. Keniston 13-31, Kerst 4-12. Totals: 40-191 TD.
Gouverneur - Horne 2-4-0-30.
Tupper Lake - M. Keniston 5-12-0-110 TD.
Gouverneur - Spilman 2-30.
Tupper Lake - Minogue 4-97 TD, Tarbox 1-13.