CVAC recognizes Red Storm players

Saranac Lake senior Jarrett Ashton was named as an all-CVAC first team running back and second-team inside linebacker. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake football team had four seniors honored for their efforts this season by the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference.

Although the Red Storm struggled to an uncharacteristic 2-7 record, they still played competitive football for the most part, and their four all-conference selections were bright spots in what was otherwise a tough campaign. All four were two-way starters in the Red Storm lineup.

Jarrett Ashton and Sean Lincoln led the way as picks in two categories, while DJ Morgan and Emery Swanson were honorable mention selections.

Ashton and Lincoln were first-team offensive choices.

This past season marked the third year in a row that Ashton was a standout for Saranac Lake. He was a first-team CVAC running back and a second-team linebacker. The Red Storm’s offense revolved around Ashton, who despite missing one game with a knee injury, rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He had three games posting 200-plus yards rushing performances.

Saranac Lake senior Sean Lincoln was named as the CVAC’s lineman of the year in addition to making first team as an offensive lineman. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“It was very evident three years ago when Jarrett was running the ball as a sophomore that he was a special player,” Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. “He’s a good player that had a natural way of finding space and making people miss when he was running the ball.”

On the other side of the ball, Ashton was a linebacker who was responsible for calling defensive signals. In addition to playing both offense and defense, Ashton also made an impact on special teams as both a returner and the Red Storm’s place kicker.

“As an athlete, he has so many gifts,” Bennett said. “He could run the ball, kick the ball and throw passes on trick plays. As a defensive leader, he had a solid understanding of what the other team was going to do through watching film and through the work he put in during practice.

“Jarrett rarely left the field, but what was even more rewarding to see than his ability as an athlete, was how he matured and rose into a leadership role. He’s really a special kid all the way around.”

Lincoln had never played the game of football until his junior year when he transferred to Saranac Lake High School, and in two seasons, he evolved into one of the most dominant linemen in the league. In addition to being picked as a first-team offensive lineman at tackle, Lincoln was honored as the CVAC’s lineman of the year.

Saranac Lake senior DJ Morgan was an honorable mention selection to the all-CVAC team. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“There was no question that when Sean was down blocking, the player across from him was in for a long afternoon,” Bennett said. “There’s no question that Sean was above the rest, or right in there with any lineman in the league.”

Bennett said that one of Lincoln’s most significant attributes was his ability to learn the game, and that was evident in the fact that he was brand-new to the sport prior to the 2016 season.

“He came in raw, and basically not knowing anything, he did things exactly the way he was taught by coach (Wade) Montroy,” Bennett said. “You take his ability to play technically sound football and combine that with a 6-5 frame, you knew Sean was going to move some people. He is one player who will be sorely missed.”

A year ago, Morgan was a starting linebacker and backup quarterback for the Red Storm, and this season he moved into the starting role as Saranac Lake’s signal caller. Bennett described Morgan as probably the toughest player on the team.

“DJ is as gritty as they come, and you couldn’t ask for a harder worker,” Bennett said. “When he commits to something, he gives it everything he has. DJ had a lot of skills out on the field and did a nice job recognizing what was happening out there. He threw a very nice ball, and at the end of the day, you knew you could count on him to get those tough yards running the football.”

Saranac Lake senior Emery Swanson was an honorable mention selection to the all-CVAC team. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Swanson, a three-sport athlete, entered his final season under difficult and unlucky circumstances after breaking his left arm during the late summer. Despite the injury, he was able to play all but Saranac Lake’s first game of the season, although most of his time spent on the field was on the defensive side of the ball. Had it not been for the fracture, Swanson also had the potential to be one of the top pass catchers in the CVAC. From his first start through his final game, Swanson competed with a cast on his lower left arm.

“It’s tough to play football with one hand and he did a heck of a job,” Bennett said. “He ran our defensive backfield, and he is and was the type of player who didn’t quit until the whistle. There were countless times this season where Emery made it all the way across the field to make or be in on tackles. He’s a gifted athlete, and you couldn’t ask for a better kid to coach than Emery Swanson.”

In addition to the four individual honors, Saranac Lake’s football team also received the Ray Holmes Sportsmanship Award for the second straight season.

“We went from a 7-3 team a year ago, to a two-win team this year, and we were in a lot of close competitive games that didn’t work out for us,” Bennett said. “Winning this award for the second year in a row says a lot. What that says is when we talk about class and character, our kids just don’t talk about it, they are it. Football is a very physical game played with a lot of emotion. Even when things weren’t going our way, our kids were still able to play in an emotionally charged environment, and they did it with class. It’s an honor that the coaches in the league saw that in our kids.”