Vikings end a tough season for TL football

Tupper Lake senior Ryeleigh Shore spins toward the sideline after he scooped up a Moriah fumble during Friday’s game in Clintonville. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

CLINTONVILLE — The Tupper Lake football season ended about the same way it began as the Lumberjacks were handed another lopsided loss.

Taking on a stacked Moriah team in the Section X-VII Class C playoff matchup, the Lumberjacks were dealt a 51-6 setback on Friday at AuSable Valley High School. The Vikings took care of business early as they built up a 37-0 lead in the first quarter and then brought in the backup units before the game moved into the second period.

But instead of looking at the scoreboard after the game, Tupper Lake head coach Dennis Klossner looked at his players and told them he was proud they came out for the team and stuck it out during a winless season that also included two weekends when they were unable to compete due because of too few eligible players.

“This was a D matchup, no excuse there, but we play a lot of big schools during the season,” Klossner said. “We’re small, we’re not a big group of kids and to go out there playing against bigger schools, bigger kids day in day out through our Section X schedule, it takes a lot of guts to do that and keep coming back.

“There are always those kids in schools walking the halls saying they should have done this or could have done that,” Klossner continued. “But these kids on the field, they don’t say we could have, we should have. They came out here and they played. Football is a hard physical game, and they gave me the best they had. We have some small kids out there, and they play with a lot of heart and a lot of pride.

Tupper Lake running back Skyler Pickering attempts to recover a fumble he lost during the first half of Friday’s game against Moriah. Pickering later scored the ’Jacks’ only points on a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

The outcome of Friday’s game pretty much appeared to be decided on the first play from scrimmage. Tupper Lake started with the ball at its own 48-yard line. On the Lumberjacks’ first snap, a pass by junior quarterback Noah Cordes was picked off by Moriah’s Jerin Sargent, whose interception set up the Vikings at their own 42. Three plays later, Moriah put the first points on the board with a 30-yard touchdown run by Dewey Snyder.

The matchup deteriorated pretty quickly from there for Tupper Lake as the Vikings scored touchdowns the next five times they touched the ball, including four more trips to the end zone in the first quarter alone.

After giving up the game’s first touchdown, Tupper Lake went three-and-out on its next possession and punted, and Connor Anderson returned the kick 56 yards to the house for Moriah’s second score. Senior Ryan Flack then got in on the action in a big way for the Vikings, scoring on runs of 31 and 45 yards to put Moriah on top 30-0 with four minutes still remaining in the first. Snyder then tacked on a fifth touchdown on a 65-yard sprint to the end zone.

Sam Gangi upped Moriah’s edge to 44-0 on a 7-yard burst on the fourth play of the second period.

The Vikings led 44-0 at intermission and added one more touchdown on a 4-yard run by Gangi midway through the third quarter. Moriah was also perfect on conversions following each of their scores, getting a pair of two-point conversions to start the run and Sargent following up by going a perfect 5-for-5 on point-after kicks.

Determined to get on the board and avert a shutout, Tupper Lake was able to mount an 80-yard march, with running back Skyler Picking capping it off with a 10-yard touchdown run that saw the sophomore spin away from a tackle in the middle of the line and win a sprint to the left corner of the end zone. Key plays on the advance were a 23-yard run by Pickering and a 27-yard burst by junior running back Brennen McComber.

A week ago, the Lumberjacks made their first foray into playing eight-man football, and that may just be the future for the sport at Tupper Lake if participation doesn’t increase.

“Eight man is the best situation for our kids for where we are now,” said Klossner, whose squad fell in 26-20 in overtime a week ago in eight-man against South Lewis of Section III. “We have to get our JV program back and numbers coming out, or playing 11-man is going to be difficult. I understand when kids get discouraged because of the scores. We have to find a way to keep them interested and coming back. After last week, our kids said they are very interested and excited about it (eight-man). We’ll see what happens.”

Moriah entered Friday’s game after knocking off their rival Ticonderoga 28-22 a week ago in the Section VII, Class D championship game also played at AuSable Valley. The Vikings will try to make it three wins in a row in Clintonville when they host the Section II champion next weekend in the state Class D quarterfinal round. Their opponent will be either Cambridge or Greenwich, with those two teams battling it out today in the Section II final.