SARANAC LAKE - If Saranac Lake winds up playing Saranac Central in the Section VII, Class C championship game that's set for Nov. 2, the Red Storm have plenty of work to do if they want to win a postseason title for the fourth straight year.
On Saturday, Saranac Central showed that it is very much in the mix to claim that championship this season, as the Chiefs rolled past the Red Storm 34-13 Saturday in a Class C matchup at Ken Wilson Field.
After already locking up the top seed in Class C and playing in its final game of the season at home, Saranac Lake was no match for Saranac this time around. Behind stellar performances by senior running back John Maye and senior quarterback Ethan Goslin, the Chiefs piled up nearly 400 yards of offense against a porous Red Storm defense. Saranac scored five touchdowns, all on running plays, and Maye led the way with four scores and 186 rushing yards on a whopping 40 carries.
Saranac running back John Maye is hauled down by Saranac Lake’s Derek Thurber while Red Storm safety Torin Smith assists on the play in Saturday’s game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Although Goslin didn't have any touchdown throws, he made a number of key completions throughout the game and finished with 171 passing yards and no interceptions.
Except for giving up two big gains on runs by Saranac Lake senior running back Lance Ackerson, the Chiefs defense also held the Red Storm in check most of the day. Heading into the game, Saranac Lake sophomore quarterback Tristin Fitzgerald had averaged more than 200 yards through the air and connected on six touchdown strikes in his previous two starts, which were both Red Storm victories. But against Saranac, Fitzgerald completed 11 passes for just 68 yards, with most of the receptions going for short gains. Fitzgerald also a number of passes batted down by a tall trio of Saranac defensive ends.
"We made too many mistakes and we couldn't handle them up front," Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. "They made more plays than we did."
The Red Storm never led, but they were able to keep things close until the Chiefs pulled away by scoring the final 20 points of the game. Trailing 14-7, Saranac Lake was poised to tie the game when Ackerson rambled 60 yards for a touchdown early in the second half. But a bad snap on the conversion attempt left the Red Storm looking at a 14-13 deficit.
Saranac then answered with three touchdowns, including one on its next possession to pull away for the win.
"I've been the coach here for seven years, and although we haven't played Saranac Lake every year, I've never had a team beat them," Saranac head coach Mark Burrell said. "I don't know if Saranac has ever beat Saranac Lake.
"Saranac Lake has a great screen game, and that's something we really worked on defending during the past week," Burrell continued. "We did a really good job defending the screen passes. We played a good game all around."
The Chiefs took a 14-7 lead into halftime. Saranac scored the only points of the first quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Maye and a Paul Herrera conversion kick. Saranac Lake tied the game at 7-7 when senior Dylan Gunther caught a short pass from Fitzgerald and sprinted 14 yards into the end zone. Ty Marmion followed with the conversion kick to deadlock the score with 4:23 gone in the second quarter. The Chiefs took the lead for good on Maye's 20-yard touchdown run and Herrera's second successful conversion kick of the day with 3:31 remaining in the opening half.
After being caught from behind on a 53-yard gain on Saranac Lake's second offensive play of the game, Ackerson made it to the end zone on his 60-yard run with 3:56 gone in the second half to make it a one-point game. That play, however, wound up being the last shining moment of the day for the Red Storm, who dropped to 4-3 with the loss.
On the possession following Ackerson's score, Saranac mounted a 78-yard, 13-play scoring drive capped off by Maye's 5-yard touchdown run. The Chiefs also scored on their next possession, going 67 yards in eight plays, with Maye crossing the goal line on a 39-yard ramble through the Red Storm defense.
An interception by Herrera with 3:47 left in the game led to the Chiefs final score. With the ball in its hands at the Red Storm 17, Saranac reached the end zone in four plays, with Lance Hackett running 15 yards for the touchdown.
Ackerson finished the day with 145 yards rushing on 12 attempts to lead the Red Storm offense. Tristin Fitzgerald also picked up 41 rushing yards on eight carries.
Saranac improved to 3-4 with the win. The Chiefs will next host AuSable Valley Saturday in a Class C playoff game, with the winner taking on Saranac Lake for the championship.
"Our kids have really come together the past two weeks, and we're playing some good football," Burrell said. "Our guys knew they let some games slip away earlier. Hopefully, we will be seeing Saranac Lake again in two weeks."
"That line and that 26 (Maye), they just handled us," Bennett said. "We have to fix what went wrong. When it comes time to play our next game, we have to be focused and disciplined. We weren't today."
Saranac 34, Saranac Lake 13
S - Maye 3 run (Herrera kick), 10:34.
SL - Gunther 14 pass from Tri. Fitzgerald (Marmion kick), 4:23
S - Maye 20 run (Herrera kick), 8:29
SL - Ackerson 60 run (Kick failed), 3:56
S - Maye 5 run (Herrera kick), 9:47
S - Maye 39 run (Kick missed), 2:20
S - Hackett 15 run (Herrera kick), 10:17
Saranac - Maye 40-186 4 TDs, Goslin 7-(-7), Church 3-8, Hackett 3-12 TD. Totals: 53-199 5TDs.
Saranac Lake - Tri. Fitzgerald 8-41, Ackerson 12-145 TD, Fischer 1-3, Gunther 2-8, Tre. Fitzgerald 1-6, Kilner 1-(-7), Marmion 2-15, Ryan 1-0. Totals: 28-211 TD.
Saranac - Goslin 10-20-0-171.
Saranac Lake - Tri. Fitzgerald 11-21-1-68 TD.
Saranac Christopherson 1-12, Kneussle 4-71, Hackett 1-20, Maye 2-49, Moulton 1-7, Earp 1-12.
Saranac Lake - Gunther 4-33 TD, Smith 1-13, Bevilacqua 1-1, Martin 1-10, Fischer 1-(-2), Ackerson 1-1, Strack 1-7, Donaldson 1-5.
Saranac - Herrera