CLINTONVILLE - Section VII's Moriah rolled to a 29-14 win over Section X's Tupper Lake Friday night in a Class D playoff game.
"It feels good for these guys," said Moriah coach Don Tesar. "They've worked hard all year. This was a goal that they really wanted to accomplish."
The Vikings took control of the game in the first half with the help of a couple of key turnovers.
Tupper Lake running back Mitch Keniston picks up yards on the ground during Friday night’s game against Moriah at AuSable Valley High School. The senior scored two touchdowns for the Lumberjacks.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Lumberjacks quarterback Morgan Stevens tosses the ball downfield as Jeremy Roussel blocks during Friday’s game against Moriah.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
The first came midway through the first quarter when Tupper Lake's Mitch Keniston was unable to handle a punt return. Moriah recovered the ball at the 30-yard line.
On the first play after the turnover, Moriah quarterback Cole Gaddor connected with receiver Ranier Garnica for a 30-yard touchdown. After a successful extra point kick, the Vikings went up 7-0.
In the second quarter, Tupper Lake got on the board after Keniston scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Keniston had runs of 43 and 19 yards to key the drive. Tupper Lake failed on a two-point conversion, leaving them behind 7-6.
Moriah responded later in the quarter when Gaddor connected with Tyler Pratt on a 52-yard touchdown pass to give them a 13-6 lead.
Then, with less than three minutes left in the half, Moriah took advantage of another turnover. This time Vikings linebacker Cody Stockwell returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 19-6 advantage.
"I thought we were two evenly matched teams," Tupper Lake coach Dennis Klossner said. "Turnovers hurt us. That's the key right there. Just the turnovers."
The Vikings tacked on a field goal shortly after to take a 22-6 lead at halftime.
Tesar thought the key for his team was being able to get a passing game going. Gaddor had 228 yards passing, with many of those going to Pratt, who finished with five catches for 134 yards. Garnica had two touchdown catches for 81 yards.
"We were able to pass," he said. "They put nine guys up in the box, so they took away our run, so we had to take advantage of the pass and that's what we did."
Tupper Lake came into the game hoping to take advantage of Keniston's speed on offense. The senior has played receiver most of the season but moved to the backfield for much of this game and responded with a big night on the ground.
Keniston finished with 14 rushes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. His first score was a rushing one while the second was a 3-yard catch late in the second half. He also had three catches for 31 yards.
"We were just trying everything and anything," Klossner said. "Mitch is a really good ballplayer. We knew him handling the ball was key to us. Jeremy (Roussel) does a good job running, but we knew Mitch was a little quicker and had that extra step, so we thought we'd give him the chance. We worked on it all week."
Tupper Lake quarterback Morgan Stevens finished with 117 yards passing and one passing touchdown. Devin Larson had six catches for 50 yards.
Roussel finished with 11 rushes for 30 yards.
The game ended the season for Tupper Lake, which finished 4-6. Moriah will advance to regional play with a 6-4 record.
"Overall, all 25 guys I'm proud of," Klossner said. "They've worked hard right from the beginning of the season right to the end. They did a great job and couldn't have asked for anybody better."