Tupper’s 8-man era begins

SARANAC LAKE — After enduring two shutout losses, Saranac Lake’s football team will look to put a solid performance together when it plays for the first time at home and its third game of the season on Saturday at home against AuSable Valley.

And after a lengthy preseason, Tupper Lake will finally give its home fans their first taste of 8-man football when the Lumberjacks take the field tonight to kick off their schedule against opponents from Section III.

The Red Storm will host AuSable Valley on their newly renamed Wilson-Raymond Field in Saturday’s showdown between two 0-2 teams. Tupper Lake kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. at Frank Tice Field against Altmar-Parish-Williamstown.

As a solution to declining participation in the sport and in order to keep the game alive at Tupper Lake, the ‘Jacks have joined a growing group of more than 20 high school teams from four sections across New York that are now playing 8-man football. The Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Rebels are also beginning their first season competing at the 8-man level.

Tupper Lake head coach Dennis Klossner said his Lumberjacks are excited to finally be playing football again, especially after a rocky year last fall when they struggled to compete and actually had to forfeit a game while playing 11-man football in Section X.

The ‘Jacks enter tonight’s matchup with a roster of 20, including a slew of veterans.

“It’s been a long wait and we’re excited to play,” Klossner said. “Teams around here are already into their third week. We’ve had our preseason, we’ve had a scrimmage, and now we’re finally getting out and playing a game.

“We saw our opponent while we were scrimmaging. We watched them on tape, and they are a good squad,” Klossner continued. “They are a senior-oriented team but we also have a lot of veterans. I think it should be a good game.”

Senior Noah Cordes starts at quarterback for Tupper Lake and will be joined in the backfield by junior Skyler Pickering, who has played varsity football with the Lumberjacks since his freshman season. Brad McClear and Cody Hill will line up at receiver, and Jayden LaValley and Chris Gilman will lead Tupper Lake’s line into battle.

Klossner said home fans should see more of a wide-open game, as opposed to 11-man football where a lot of play takes place on the interior.

“It looks like Altmar likes to throw the football,” Klossner said. “It’s all about getting an outside edge, and defensively, our job will be to contain that edge.

“I’m confident our fans should be seeing some exciting football,” Klossner added. “Everything is the same with just three less players. You still want to control the clock, move the chains.”


AuSable Valley at Saranac Lake, 1:30 p.m.

Saranac Lake’s young football team is desperate to get something going after being outscored 76-0 in its first two starts. A week ago, the Red Storm fell 44-0 to Saranac, one of the best teams in the league, and Saturday’s matchup should provide the team with its best shot for success to date.

Unfortunately, Saranac Lake will be without a pair of two-way starting seniors after Austen Reyell and Ryan Meyer were injured a week ago. The team is also without senior lineman Robert Stephenson, who has been dealing with a persistent injury, which leaves just three seniors dressed for the game.

“We’re starting 10 juniors on offense and eight juniors on defense,” Red Storm head coach Eric Bennett said. “Having such a young team is something we’ve never experienced before. For us, it’s about character, not quitting and getting better. If the kids can do that every day of their lives, you can’t ask for more.”

The Red Storm will be facing an Ed McCallister coached Patriots squad coming off a 14-8 loss to Plattsburgh team that blanked Saranac Lake 32-0 on the opening night of the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference season.

“AuSable has a tough defensive front, and they like mixing to run and the pass,” Bennett said. “Coach McCalister always has his kids ready to play.”

Bennett said executing, playing disciplined football and limiting turnovers will be a key for the Red Storm. Two turnovers a week ago were costly for Saranac Lake against a loaded Chiefs squad.

“Early on we had a big mistake on special teams,” Bennett said. “We had two big mistakes that proved costly, and you can’t give a great team a short field. On Saturday, we have to find a way to move the ball and score some points.”