Red Storm look to hold spot atop CVAC

Saranac Lake football (Photo — Jen Moore)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake football team doesn’t have a deep roster and has limited experience, but the aim remains the same. The Red Storm want to be in contention for another championship.

As the defending Section VII, Class C champion, Saranac Lake enters the season with a roster of 25 players. The Red Storm will rely on a mix of young newcomers and a handful second-year starters to find success in what looks to be a competitive schedule this fall.

“I think our youth is going to be a factor early in the season, but if we stick with it, hopefully with our work ethic we should be competitive and hopefully in the hunt for a championship,” head coach Eric Bennett said. “We had the best summer participation in all my years of coaching. We’ve had roughly 60 percent of our kids between varsity and JV participating in our summer workouts. That’s incredible.”

Two key players Saranac Lake looks to replace are Joe Viscardo — Section VII’s all-time career leader in receiving yards — and starting quarterback Will Coats. Saranac Lake will see last year’s backup signal caller, DJ Morgan, start at quarterback this fall.

Meanwhile, Bennett said the team is still looking to see who will step into pass-catching roles. The Red Storm were hit with a setback at that position in the preseason after senior Emery Swanson broke his wrist playing lacrosse. Heading into his third varsity season, Swanson will be sidelined early but is expected to return.

So far, Ward Walton, one of five captains, brings the most experience to the roster among Saranac Lake’s group of receivers.

“We have a number of young receivers, but we don’t have any clear-cut kids so we kind of have a big old shootout for receivers and defensive backs right now,” Bennett said. “We’re giving everybody a chance and seeing who percolates to the top.”

Bennett said Morgan, who is also a captain, brings a toughness and running ability at quarterback. He’ll be joined in the backfield by one of the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference’s top runners in senior Jarrett Ashton, who was second-team all-league a season ago. Two newcomers expected to make an impact at running back are Hunter LaHart and Ben Munn, who is a sophomore.

For the first time in years, a freshman is on the roster as Rhett Darrah starts at safety and will also be Saranac Lake’s backup quarterback.

One of Saranac Lake’s strengths, both in terms of size and experience, will be on the line. Among the 10 players listed as linemen on the roster, eight are returning seniors, including captains Thurston Fox and Sean Lincoln.

Bennett said his team will have its hands full this season in an effort to defend its title. He expects Saranac Lake’s two Class C rivals, AuSable Valley and Saranac Central, to provide tough competition.

Although it’s not affecting the Red Storm varsity team this season, participation in the Saranac Lake football program has been opened up to student-athletes from Lake Placid High School. One player from Lake Placid has joined the Red Storm junior varsity squad and another is playing on the modified team.

“Unfortunately we were hoping for a greater participation and maybe we’ll have a better outreach program next year,” Bennett said. “We’re excited with the kids we have and hopefully they’ll bring good news back to their community.

“This is an extremely hard-working, cohesive team,” Bennett continued. “We haven’t seen a lot of individuality. The kids have really bought into the work ethic, they’re doing things the right way and we haven’t had any disciplinary issues. They’re doing everything a good team would do.”