MINEVILLE - Saranac Lake head football coach Eric Bennett said his team needed to get its offense going if the Red Storm were going to pick up their first win of the season against a tough Moriah squad on Friday.
Saranac Lake did get that victory, and its offense came in the form of running back Lance Ackerson. The senior scored all three of Saranac Lake's touchdowns to lead the Red Storm to a 20-14 win over the Vikings at Linney Field.
Ackerson hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass on Saranac Lake's first possession of the game to put his team out in front 6-0.
Red Storm senior running back Lance Ackerson carries the ball while Moriah’s Troy Welch closes in on defense during Friday’s game. Ackerson scored three touchdowns to lead Saranac Lake to a 20-14 triumph.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
And after Moriah carried an 8-6 edge into halftime, Ackerson brought his team back from a deficit twice in the second half, scoring on a 68-yard run in the third quarter to put the Red Storm ahead for good in the final period on a 52-yard touchdown run.
With the win, Saranac Lake evened its record to 1-1 after dropping its season-opener to Peru a week ago.
"I tell you what, that win felt better than any win we got last year," said Ackerson, who was also a starter on the Red Storm team that posted a 10- record in 2012. "We had to earn this win. Last year, I got used to running behind great linemen. We have great linemen this year, too, and I was finally able to break off some big runs behind them."
Moriah headed into the game on the heels of an opening-week 39-6 win over Plattsburgh. Saranac Lake's defense knew that running back C.J. Raymond would be the Vikings' workhorse, and he gave the Red Storm about all they could handle. The senior scored both Moriah touchdowns - one on a 34-yard pass reception and another on a 2-yard run - and carried the ball 30 times for 122 yards.
Saranac Lake's defense came up big on the game's opening possession, forcing a Vikings punt that gave the Red Storm the ball at the Moriah 46. Six plays into the drive, Saranac Lake found the end zone when Ackerson snagged a short pass from quarterback Trent Fitzgerald and sprinted past the defense for a 34-yard score. The extra point kick failed, leaving Saranac Lake on top 6-0 with 4:46 gone in the first quarter.
Moriah jumped ahead in the second quarter when Raymond snagged a short pass from Cole Gaddor and broke tackles on his way to a 43-yard touchdown. Gaddor followed with a successful conversion pass to Tyler Pratt to give the Vikings an 8-6 edge 1:49 into the second quarter.
The two teams then traded touchdowns, as well as the lead, in the second half before Saranac Lake sealed the victory with the final points of the game.
Trailing 8-6, the Red Storm took their second lead of the game on Ackerson's 68-yard scoring run late in the third quarter. The conversion pass attempt by Tristin Fitzgerald failed, leaving Saranac Lake on top 12-8.
The Vikings then rallied on their next possession by mounting an 83-yard march. The drive ate up 15 plays, with Gardner capping the march on a 2-yard touchdown run 2:56 into the fourth quarter.
It only took Saranac Lake two offensive plays to answer, after junior Ty Marmion gave the Red Storm great field position by returning the ensuing kickoff to his team's 48-yard line. On first down, Moriah's defense dropped junior running back Jack Martin for no gain, but the Vikings couldn't stop Ackerson on the next play as he rambled through the middle of the line on his 52-yard touchdown run that lifted Saranac Lake to an 18-14 edge. Tristin Fitzgerald then connected with Marmion for the conversion pass for the final points of the game.
"I thought we controlled the tempo, we just didn't make the big stop," Moriah head coach Don Tesar told his team after the game.
"That was a great ball game," Bennett said. "The best thing about this game was that our kids told us what would work. They recognized the situation and we listened to them.
"That's a great team we faced tonight," Bennett added. "Our kids just played as a team tonight. That's what it took. There were no heros out there, just selfless kids. This was a win to remember."
Saranac Lake will be at home for its third game of the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference season when it hosts Ticonderoga on Saturday, Sept. 21 with the opening kickoff slated for 1:30 p.m.
Saranac Lake 20, Moriah 14
SL - Ackerson 34 pass from Tre. Fitzgerald (Kick failed), 7:13
M - Raymond 43 pass from Gaddor (Pratt pass from Gaddor), 1:49
SL - Ackerson 68 run (Run failed), 9:18
M - Raymond 2 run (Pass failed), 2:56
SL - Ackerson 52 run (Marmion pass from Tri. Fitzgerald), 3:43
Saranac Lake - Tre. Fitzgerald 6-21, Ackerson 13-148 2TDs, Gunther 1-1, Tri. Fitzgerald 3-(-7), Marmion 1-9, Martin 4-16. Totals: 28-169 2TDs.
Moriah - Graham 3-8, Raymond 30-122 TD, Gaddor 6-(-5), Nadeau 4-17.
Saranac Lake - Tre. Fitzgerald 2-5-1-29 TD, Tri. Fitzgerald 2-6-0-10.
Moriah - Gaddor - 9-16-1-139 TD.
Saranac Lake - Ackerson 1-34 TD, Bevilacqua 1-5, Smith 2-10.
Moriah - Raymond 5-79 TD, Garnica 1-9, Pratt 3-51.
Saranac Lake - Martin.
Moriah - Pratt.