Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake are looking to end two-game losing skids as the high school football season enters its fourth week.
Both teams play Saturday in games that start at 1:30 p.m. The Lumberjacks travel to face Gouverneur in a Section X matchup while the Red Storm host AuSable Valley in an important Section VII, Class C contest at Ken Wilson Field.
The 1-2 Lumberjacks have been competitive in all three of their games so far and are coming off a 27-26 setback at Ogdensburg. They will face another one-win team in the Gouverneur Wildcats.
Junior Ty Marmion carries the football during last week’s home game against Ticonderoga. He paced Saranac Lake’s struggling ground attack in the game with 32 yards on five carries.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Tupper Lake head coach Dennis Klossner said he is pleased with the way his team's offense has been able to move the ball, and also said his defense has shown improvement since the beginning of the season.
"We just played an all-around good game against Ogdensburg," Klossner said. "When we put it together on both sides of the ball, we can compete with anybody in our league. We thought our offense would probably gel together first, and now our defense is starting to come around. We've been getting 300, 400 yards of offense or better each week, and it's been a nice mix with the run and the pass."
Seniors Mitch Keniston and Jeremy Roussel have paved the way for Tupper Lake's offense. Roussel has been the Lumberjacks workhorse in the backfield. He carried the ball 23 times against the Blue Devils while gaining 73 yards and scoring one touchdown on a 4-yard scamper.
Meanwhile, Keniston has been the favorite target of senior quarterback Morgan Stevens. Last week, he had seven catches for 128 receiving yards, with one of the receptions going for a 59-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
After losing by a single point to 3-0 Ogdensburg, Klossner said the 'Jacks have been trying out kickers during practice this week in the hopes they could find a player who could possibly come through on point-after attempts. Tupper Lake was unable to tack on extra points on three of the four touchdowns it scored a week ago.
"We had a tough time on our conversions," Klossner said. "Those extra points are really important. Last week, a point here or there could have turned the game in our favor. Finding a kicker is something we are looking at, and so far, it looks like Cody LaPierre could be our guy."
Saranac Lake finds itself in a rare situation with a 1-2 record heading into Saturday's game. A week ago, the Red Storm again struggled moving the football in a 35-13 loss to Ticonderoga. Head coach Eric Bennett said his defense put up a fight but was on the field for way too long in a game that saw two Sentinels running backs combine for 341 rushing yards.
"We can't expect our defense to be out there as long as they have been," Bennett said. "We have to string together some first downs, move the chains and make some plays. This week, we need to establish the line of scrimmage and demonstrate we can throw the ball."
For the second week in a row, quarterbacking duties will fall on the shoulders of Tristin Fitzgerald, a sophomore who had been splitting time at the position with his older brother Trent, who is out with an injury.
The Patriots are one of three Class C teams in Section VII along with Saranac Lake and Saranac Central, and Saturday's game will have a bearing on playoff seedings down the road.
"We're in for a real dogfight," Bennett said. "This is a huge game for us in terms of playoff positioning, but we just want to win a football game. At this point, our goal is to win as many football games as we can and see what happens.
"I know that on Saturday, we are going to have our hands full," Bennett continued. "AuSable is a vastly improved team. They are well coached, and have an incredibly dynamic quarterback. He has a live arm and he's fast on the football field. This week in practice, we've worked on getting run support from our secondary, and we're also looking for some run support on the offensive side of the ball. We've struggled at both."
The Patriots are led on offense by quarterback John Goodnough, who has averaged nearly 200 all-purpose yards per game. They also bring a 1-2 record into Saturday's game.