SARANAC LAKE - Five games into the season, Saranac Lake's football team has been unstoppable while rolling out to a 5-0 start in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference.
The Red Storm claimed their fifth win Saturday, cruising to a 50-6 victory over Plattsburgh on homecoming day at Ken Wilson Field. Saranac Lake's offense overcame some shaky ball handling early before it got on track and put five touchdowns on the scoreboard before halftime. Meanwhile, the Red Storm's first-team defense, which still hasn't given up any points this season, swarmed the Hornets from the outset during another dominating performance.
Saranac Lake ran for five touchdowns, senior quarterback Matt Phelan tossed two scoring strikes to Kevin Morgan, the Red Storm defense recorded a safety and Seth Pickreign was good on all six of his conversion kicks to account for the winners' points.
After breaking through the line, Saranac Lake defensive tackle Taylor Pellerin sacks Plattsburgh quarterback D’Andre Lemieux, who coughed up the football on the play Saturday. The Red Storm won 50-6.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake quarterback Matt Phelan takes a shotgun snap close to the Plattsburgh goal line as Kyle McGrain (52) gets off the line to block during the first half of Saturday’s game at Ken Wilson Field.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Playing without their starting quarterback, the Hornets got their lone points on a 1-yard run by backup signal caller D'Andre Lemieux. In addition to recording its first safety of the season, the Red Storm defense also forced Plattsburgh to cough up the football five times on two interceptions and three fumbles.
By defeating Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake can clinch the CVAC regular season title on Saturday with a victory over the Beekmantown Eagles, who will bring a 4-1 record to Ken Wilson Field for the matchup that starts at 1:30 p.m.
The Red Storm opened Saturday's game on offense at their own 44 and marched to the Plattsburgh 2-yard line before turning the ball over on a fumble. The Hornets were able to move the ball away from the shadow of their goal line but also fumbled the ball, which gave Saranac Lake possession 11 yards away from the end zone. The Red Storm stumbled again after being flagged with a holding penalty and eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Saranac Lake picked up its first points on its third possession, taking the ball 68 yards in six plays with Ackerson reaching the end zone on a 3-yard run with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
Plattsburgh then coughed up the ball on its next possession when Red Storm defensive tackle Taylor Pellerin sacked Lemieux, who fumbled to set up Saranac Lake's offense at the Hornets 16-yard line. After being flagged for a 5-yard penalty, Saranac Lake was in the end zone a second time after Phelan tossed a short pass to Morgan, who cut across the field for the score to put the Red Storm on top 14-0 with 12 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Pellerin and fellow lineman Kyle McGrain then teamed up to tackle Plattsburgh running back Jonas Miller in the end zone for a safety on the first play of the second quarter to make it a 16-0 game, and from there, the Red Storm took control.
Saranac Lake only had to advance 31 yards for its next touchdown, which came on a 1-yard run by Ackerson. The Red Storm had luck on their side on that scoring drive after Phelan and Mike Burpoe fumbled on running plays but teammates were there to recover the ball.
Morgan grabbed his second touchdown catch midway through the quarter on a 29-yard toss from Phelan, and Craig Leahy scored for the first time this season, crossing the goal line a 22-yard run to give Saranac Lake a 37-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Red Storm extended their lead to 50-0 in the third quarter as Pickreign and Guy Grebe each rushed for 49-yard touchdown runs. Lemieux rounded out the game's scoring when he reached the end zone on a 1-yard run with 5:26 left on the clock to cap off a 86-yard drive by the Hornets.
In its five victories Saranac Lake has put 204 points on the board while allowing opponents a combined 45 points, which have come against the Red Storm backups with the exception of one touchdown scored on a punt return. The Red Storm defense gave up 146 total yards in Saturday's game, including just 61 in the first half.
"We have guys who are working hard at all levels," Pellerin said of the Red Storm defense. "Our first-string defense has not been scored on, and we take great pride in that. You can't tell from the scoreboard, but we still have a big goose egg up there."
Saranac Lake's offense accounted for a combined 437 yards, with 290 coming on 34 rushing attempts. Phelan finished the game with nine completions on 12 attempts for 103 yards.
"We have a few really good athletes who always stand out on offense, but we don't have any dominating players on defense," Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. "Our defense is 11 kids playing in concert, and they've just been stifling. We're playing team football.
"I wasn't happy with our ball security early in this game," Bennett added. "We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but at the end of the day, we executed, we made some big plays, and we got the job done."
Saranac Lake did suffer one setback in the game, as starting center Hajro Cecunjanin left during the second half with a shoulder injury. Bennett said the senior is not expected to dress for the Beekmantown matchup.
Saranac Lake 50, Plattsburgh 6
SL - Ackerson 3 run (Pickreign kick), 10:44
SL - Morgan 21 pass from Phelan (Pickreign kick), 11:48
SL - Safety, :05
SL - Ackerson 1 run (Pickreign kick), 3:24
SL - Morgan 29 pass from Phelan (Pickreign kick), 5:51
SL - Leahy 22 run (Pickreign kick), 8:40
SL - Pickreign 49 run (Kick blocked), 3:00
SL - Grebe 49 run (Pickreign kick), 8:05
P - Lemieux 1 run (Pass failed), 6:34
Plattsburgh - Lemieux 9-26 TD, Shea 7-44, Miller 15-41, Rhodes 4-10. Totals: 35-121 TD.
Saranac Lake - Ackerson 6-22 2TDs, Pickreign 4-88 TD, Phelan 8-79, Burpoe 1-8, Leahy 2-28 TD, Thurber 1-(1), Monroe 1-1, Grebe 2-51 TD, Fitzgerald 4-20, Gibson 3-(-2) Stankus 2-(-4). Totals: 34-290 5TDs.
Plattsburgh - Lemieux 6-8-2-25.
Saranac Lake - Phelan 9-12-0-103 2TDs, Fitzgerald 2-2-0-44. Totals: 11-14-0-147 2TDs.
Plattsburgh - Leopard 3-22, Shea 2-0, Matthews 1-3.
Saranac Lake - Burpoe 4-39, McCabe 1-15, Ackerson 1-1, Morgan 2-50 2TDs, Grebe 1-(-2), Bevilaqua 1-5, Fischer 1-39.
Saranac Lake - Pickreign 2.