MINEVILLE - A beat-up Saranac Lake football team battled hard but came up short Friday in a Section VII cross-over game, falling 27-24 to Moriah in a back-and-forth matchup played at Linney Field.
Both teams scored four touchdowns in the game, but the host Vikings put the last and winning points on the board when senior tight end Ranier Garnica hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cole Gaddor with 4:30 remaining in the game to make the score a 27-24 final.
Traditionally a running team, the Vikings got all four of their touchdowns on passes thrown by their senior quarterback. Garnica hauled in two touchdowns, and C.J. Raymond and Bill Petro caught a scoring strike apiece for the winners.
Senior Lance Ackerson drags Moriah’s Tyler Pratt into the end zone while scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run for Saranac Lake during the first quarter of Friday’s game in Mineville.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Looking to sweep both games from Moriah this season, Saranac Lake took the opening possession and marched 51 yards into the end zone. The Red Storm pounded the ball on the ground to take a 6-0 edge, running the ball for eight straight plays with senior tailback Lance Ackerson crossing the goal line on a 15-yard run. Ackerson accounted for 39 yards on seven carries during the march, with sophomore quarterback Tristin Fitzgerald gaining 10 yards on one running play to pick up a key first down and keep the drive alive.
Moriah tied the game with 3:45 gone in the second quarter when Gaddor tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Raymond to cap off 49-yard, five play drive. Saranac Lake took a 12-6 lead into halftime when Dan Strack made an acrobatic touchdown catch on a 37-yard pass from Fitzgerald with 44 seconds remaining before intermission.
Saranac Lake upped its lead to 18-6 on its first possession of the third quarter, with Trent Fitzgerald scoring on a 1-yard run after the Red Storm drove 65 yards in 10 plays.
Down by two touchdowns and struggling with their running attack, the Vikings aired it out and found success, scoring three of the game's final four touchdowns. They cut their deficit to a single touchdown on a 29-yard Gaddor-to-Garnica scoring pass with 5:16 gone in the third. Sophomore Jarrod MacDougal tacked on the extra point to make it a 18-13 game. Moriah then took a 21-18 lead 3:29 into the fourth quarter when Gaddor tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Bill Petro, and Garnica followed by grabbing a two-point conversion pass. The go-ahead touchdown came on the heels of a controversial penalty called on Saranac Lake defensive back Jack Martin, who appeared to intercept a pass cleanly near the goal line but instead was flagged for interference.
After falling behind for the first time, it took Saranac Lake just one play to regain the lead thanks to a 54-yard touchdown run by Dylan Gunther, who scored on a sweep around the right end of the Red Storm offensive line. Gunther's touchdown came with 8:12 remaining in the game and gave Saranac Lake a 24-21 edge. But the advantage didn't last, as the Vikings answered on their next possession with a 53-yard scoring march. Moriah took eight plays to reach the end zone, and scored on Garnica's 22-yard catch of a Gaddor pass on a fourth-down-and-two play.
Ackerson gained 89 yards on 19 carries but wound up leaving the game with a knee injury midway through the second quarter. Saranac Lake also played the game without junior Ty Marmion, a two-way starter and extra-point kicker. Senior linebacker Derek Thurber also stood on the sidelines did not play due to an ankle injury.
Saranac Lake fell to 4-4 with the loss, and will next play Saturday, Nov. 2 for the Section VII, Class C title. The Red Storm will face the winner of today's Saranac Central-AuSable Valley semifinal game. The Vikings will next play for the Class D championship, also on Nov. 2, against Ticonderoga. Both games will be held at AuSable Valley High School.
Moriah 27, Saranac Lake 24
SL - Ackerson 15 run (Kick failed), 3:10
M - Raymond 23 pass from Gaddor (Kick failed), 3:45
SL - Strack 37 pass from Tri. Fitzgerald (Pass failed), 11:16
SL - Tre. Fitzgerald 1 run (Pass failed), 4:27
M - Garnica 29 pass from Gaddor (MacDougal kick), 5:16
M - Petro 9 pass from Gaddor (Garnica pass from Gaddor), 3:29
SL - Gunther 54 run (Kick failed), 3:48
M - Garnica 22 pass from Gaddor (Kick failed), 7:30