CLINTONVILLE - After watching his unbeaten football team cruise to a 42-12 win over Ogdensburg in Saturday's Section X/VII, Class C championship game, Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett told his players they were on a "field of dreams."
The victory gave the Red Storm their third X/VII title in a row, setting up a third-straight meeting with undefeated Section II champion Hoosick Falls, currently New York state's second-ranked Class C team. The 11-0 Panthers also nailed down their consecutive sectional championship, blanking Chatham 40-0 Friday.
The state quarterfinal game will be played Saturday on the same AuSable Valley field where Saranac Lake claimed a dramatic overtime win over Hoosick Falls two years ago. Last year, the Panthers turned the tables, routing Saranac Lake 48-14 in Stillwater. The winner of Saturday's postseason rubber-match will advance to the Class C semifinal in Kingston on Nov. 17.
After catching a pass from Matt Phelan, Saranac Lake senior receiver Craig Leahy battles for yardage while Ogdensburg defenders, including Josh Liebstein (12) attempt to make a tackle during Saturday’s Class C championship game in Clintonville. Saranac Lake won the game 42-12 to advance to the state quarterfinal game next Saturday on the same field against Hoosick Falls.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake defenders Mike Burpoe (44), Grant Strack (72) and TJ Monroe apply pressure while Ogdensburg quarterback Nate Angel unloads a pass during Saturday’s game at AuSable Valley High School in Clintonville.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
A host of Saranac Lake backup defenders, including Kilian Ryan (54), Carl Bevilacqua (80) and Myckael Colon (23) swarm down on an Ogdensburg running back during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game in Clintonville.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
"It's exciting. I love it," said senior receiver Kevin Morgan, who caught two touchdown passes against the Blue Devils. "We played Hoosick Falls last year and really got destroyed, and we want a little revenge. We've been dreaming about it all season. Getting another shot at them, this is what it's all about."
Saranac Lake and Ogdensburg both reached the end zone on their first possession of the game Saturday, but the Red Storm scored the next five touchdowns to pull away and improve to 10-0. Saranac Lake led 21-6 at the end of the opening quarter and tacked on two more touchdowns in the second period for a comfortable 35-6 edge at halftime.
Senior quarterback Matt Phelan threw three scoring passes and ran for another, while Lance Ackerson rushed for two touchdowns to pace the Red Storm offense. Seth Pickreign also had a big day for the Red Storm, leading the team in rushing with 78 yards on 10 carries and adding a 34-yard touchdown reception.
It took the Red Storm just five offensive plays to put points on the board after starting with the ball at their own 35. On first down, Phelan connected with Craig Leahy for a 58-yard gain on a pass-and-run play that put the ball on Ogdensburg's 12. After the Blue Devils defense held Saranac Lake to just two yards on three straight runs, Phelan connected with Morgan on a 10-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-eight play. Pickreign added the conversion kick for a 7-0 Red Storm lead 1:43 into the game.
The Blue Devils answered the score on their first possession, which started with great field position when Konnor Murdock returned the kickoff 30 yards to the the Red Storm's 48. Keeping on the ground, Ogdensburg drove the distance in eight plays, with senior quarterback Nate Angel scoring on an 8-yard run. Saranac Lake however, stopped the Blue Devils on the two-point conversion to preserve a 7-6 lead.
The Red Storm kept up the fast start with two more touchdowns in the first quarter. Two plays into their second possession, Phelan and Morgan hooked up on a 66-yard scoring pass. Phelan followed with a 40-yard touchdown dash and added two more points on a conversion run for a 21-6 lead with a minute left in the period.
Ackerson, a junior fullback, capped off two more Saranac Lake drives in the second quarter, scoring on touchdown runs of 15 and two yards to put the Red Storm on top 35-7.
Pickreign scored Saranac Lake's final touchdown, taking a Phelan pass 34 yards into the end zone with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter. Grant Strack tacked on another point on the conversion kick to push the Red Storm advantage to 42-6.
Zach Sharpe, Ogdensburg's starting fullback who only played late in the fourth quarter Saturday due to an injury, scored the game's final points on a 3-yard run with 5:39 remaining.
After clinching the Section X, Class C title during the regular season, the Blue Devils ended their campaign with three losses in a row and a 4-6 record. But Ogdensburg head coach Matt Tessmer said he was pleased with his team's effort against the explosive Red Storm.
"Going into the game, we wanted to put some drives together, eat up the clock and keep the ball away from Saranac Lake," Tessmer said. "They can score so quickly, and you don't want to give them that chance. We moved on them early. We were just off on some plays by a little bit, and we missed some tackles. I'm proud of our kids. We played a very good Saranac Lake team."
After throwing six touchdowns while completing 10 of 12 pass attempts in Saranac Lake's Section VII championship win over AuSable Valley, Phelan had another solid outing against the Blue Devils, connecting on 12 of 15 throws for 253 yards.
Morgan led the Red Storm receivers with three catches good for 90 yards. Leahy finished with two catches for 71, Pickreign also had two receptions for 49 yards, and Mike Burpoe grabbed three Phelan passes for 31 yards.
Playing in his final high school football game, Angel completed half of his 16 pass attempts for 50 yards, and rushed 15 times for 52 yards to lead the Blue Devils.
"I like how Matty (Phelan) and Kevin (Morgan) got us off to a fast start on offense, and after giving some ground early, our defense settled in," Bennett said. "Playing team defense, that's what it's all about for us.
"The way our team has been able to execute on offense and defense is a credit to some of the hardest working kids in the North Country," Bennett added. "We got what we wanted, a date with a high-powered football team in the state quarterfinals. We're not going to stop Hoosick Falls, we just have to slow them down. Any time you get to play a program like they have, it makes you a better team."
"We've been waiting to get back at those guys for a long time," Burpoe said. "It's going to be something special."
Saranac Lake 42, Ogdensburg 12
SL - Kevin Morgan 10 pass from Matt Phelan (Seth Pickreign kick), 1:43
O - Angel 8 run (Run failed), 5:46
SL - Kevin Morgan 65 pass from Phelan (Kick failed), 6:18
SL - Phelan 40 run (Phelan run), 11:00
SL - Lance Ackerson 15 run (Pass failed), 6:12
SL - Ackerson 2 run (Ackerson run), 9:14
SL - Pickreign 34 pass from Phelan (Strack kick), 10:10
O - Sharpe 3 run (Run failed), 6:21
Ogdensburg - Farrell 15-43, Angel 15-52 TD, Sharpe 7-49 TD, Planty 1-(-4). Totals: 38-140 2TDs.
Saranac Lake - Pickreign 10-78, Ackerson 5-29 2TDs, Phelan 4-28 TD, Kilner 2-2, Fitzgerald 2-10. Totals: 23-147 3TDs.
Ogdensburg - Angel 8-16-1-50.
Saranac Lake - Phelan 12-15-1-253 3TDs, Fitzgerald 3-4-0-17. Totals: 15-19-1-268.
Ogdensburg - Farrell 2-2, Liebstein 2-15, Bouchard 2-19, Planty 2-14.
Saranac Lake - Leahy 2-71, Morgan 3-90 2TDs, McCabe 1-(-1), Ackerson 1-13, Burpoe 3-31, Pickreign 2-49, Murnane 1-(-5), Bevilacqua 2-22.
Ogdensburg - Layng
Saranac Lake - Morgan
Saranac Lake - Dakota Monette