SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake football teams are in action again this weekend. The Lumberjacks are hosting Massena tonight in their second straight Section X cross-over game before they play for a championship next week, while the Red Storm will battle for the Section VII, Class C title Saturday against Saranac Central in a triple header at AuSable Valley.
In a game that may be played under windy and rainy conditions at Frank Tice Field, Tupper Lake's gridders are hoping for a better outcome than when they first met up with the Red Raiders, who thumped the 'Jacks 47-20 during the second week of the season. Since then, the Lumberjacks have gone 3-3, with two of their losses being decided by a single point. Tupper Lake currently has a 4-4 record.
"We are so much better than when we played them the first time," Tupper Lake head coach Dennis Klossner said. "We walked off that field knowing we didn't play as well as we could have. That was the most disappointing part of that game. Our kids are really excited to get another shot at Massena."
Tupper Lake senior running back Jeremy Roussel, pictured here during his team’s first game against Massena, enters tonight’s contest with more than 900 yards rushing.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Central running back John Maye finished the regular season as the top ground gainer in the CVAC. It will be the job of Saranac Lake defenders, including Trent Fitzgerald (22) to slow Maye down if the Red Storm hope to win a fourth-straight sectional championship.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Tupper Lake was unable to stop Massena tailback JP Reagan the first time the teams squared off, as the senior ran wild while piling up 309 yards rushing, which included touchdown runs of 80 and 64 yards. Klossner said he expects his defense will fare much better this time around against the 6-2 Red Raiders.
"JP Reagan has been running around a lot of teams, and we'd like to put a stop to that," Klossner said. "The first time we played Massena, we were in position a lot to make tackles. We were just over-penetrating and we weren't wrapping up. Our defense has done a lot better job containing since then."
In addition to winning the game, the Lumberjacks also have some secondary goals heading into tonight's game. One objective is seeing senior tailback Jeremy Roussel reach the 1,000-yard rushing plateau. The last time Tupper Lake has had a back achieve that feat was during the 2007 season with Logan Klossner.
Tupper Lake is also looking to see its solid passing attack continue with senior quarterback Morgan Stevens, who has thrown for more than 1,300 yards so far. Klossner said a big factor in the 'Jacks success on offense has been the steady improvement of the line, which includes juniors Nathan Boyea, Nash Batola, Zack Boushie and Tom Barton and sophomore Brandon Picerno.
"We've gotten better in all phases of the game, but I think we've shown the biggest improvement has been with our linemen," Klossner said. "They've really come a long way."
Win or lose, Tupper Lake will be back in action next week as it plays for a regional title against the Section VII, Class D champion, which will be either Moriah or Ticonderoga. Massena will also play at least another game when it competes for a Class A regional title in two weeks against a Section II foe.
The opening kickoff for tonight's Tupper Lake-Massena game is slated for 7 p.m.
Before the season started, Saranac Lake's football players received T-shirts with the words "Next Man In" emblazoned on them." That motto couldn't be more fitting as the Red Storm won't have their top player in the lineup when they clash with Saranac Central on Saturday in the Class C championship game. During last week's 27-24 setback at Moriah, senior running back Lance Ackerson left the game early in the second quarter with a knee injury and will be watching the title tilt from the sidelines.
"You go with who you have available, and we've got a bunch of people ready to carry the load," Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. "Ackerson has been our main guy in the backfield, and at this point, it looks like Trent Fitzgerald will get a lot of carries."
Both teams enter the game with 4-4 records. Saranac Lake nailed down the top seed and had a bye for the first playoff round while the Chiefs blanked AuSable Valley 28-0 last week to advance to the final. The Red Storm fell 34-13 to the Chiefs two weeks ago in a game that saw Saranac's offense have its way on the ground and through the air.
The Chiefs have the top ground gainer in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference in senior running back John Maye, and a very capable quarterback in Ethan Goslin. The first time the teams collided, Maye rushed for 186 yards and four touchdowns on a whopping 40 carries, and Goslin completed half of his 20 pass attempts for 171 yards.
"We couldn't stop the run, and we clearly allowed their quarterback to have too much time," Bennett said. "We've got to limit his ability to scramble and find targets downfield."
The good news for Saranac Lake is two starters are returning after missing last week's game, as junior Ty Marmion and senior Derek Thurber are back in the lineup.
Although the Red Storm has struggled to a .500 mark, which includes a forfeit win, the playoffs provide a brand-new season, and along with it, the opportunity for Saranac Lake to claim a fourth consecutive sectional championship.
"There's no question we've had an up-and-down season," Bennett said. "As far as we are concerned, the slate's wiped clean and every team out there is 0-0. I'm sure Saranac is feeling pretty confident, and we're fine with that. It's going to be a game of heart for us. We have pride, and we are looking forward to having the chance to hang up another banner. We are going to give it our best shot."
The Saranac Lake-Saranac Central matchup is the second of three games being played at AuSable Valley Saturday and starts at 3 p.m. The day's action begins at 11 a.m. with the Class B final between Peru and Beekmantown, and ends with the Class D game starting at 7 p.m between Ticonderoga and Moriah.