SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake football teams are both on the road Saturday to play their seventh games of the season.
At least on the scoreboard, the Red Storm have yet to be tested in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference as they put their unbeaten record on the line against the Saranac Chiefs in a matchup that starts at 1:30 p.m.
And at the same time, the Lumberjacks will square off against St. Lawrence in a matchup between two teams looking for their second victory.
Saranac Lake senior Jon McCabe, right, caught one touchdown pass and returned an interception 80 yards for another score during last week’s 40-6 win over visiting Beekmantown.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Tupper Lake senior Brock Tarbox, right, wins a battle for the ball with an Ogdensburg defender on a 26-yard touchdown catch during last week’s game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake has outscored its opponents by a combined 244-51 on the way to chalking up six straight wins. A week ago, the Red Storm clinched the CVAC regular-season championship with a 40-6 win at home over Beekmantown, and have an opportunity to finish at 7-0 by beating the Chiefs, who have a 2-4 record.
For head coach Eric Bennett and his squad, Saturday's game offers another once-a-week opportunity to enjoy playing the game of football.
"We are excited to have a chance to finish up the the CVAC season at 7-0," Bennett said. "For us, each game is part of the process. You take it one week at a time, work hard, have fun and grow as a team. We've been able to do that, and that's what makes coaching football fun. So far, we've had a lot of fun."
Bennett said that Saranac Central has seen a promising season become a struggle due to injuries, and expects the Chiefs to be ready to play regardless of who's in their lineup.
"Saranac has been a victim of unfortunate injures, and in small school football, that can really put some hurt on a high school program," Bennett said. "Saranac likes to do a lot of downhill running, but we've also seen some five-wide formations too. They will be prepared for this game."
Injuries have also plagued Saranac Lake, which lost two more players a week ago who will be out of the lineup at least for Saturday's game. Senior Seth Pickreign, a key two-way starter and the Red Storm's place kicker, will not play due to a neck injury suffered when he was dragged to the ground by his facemask returning the second-half kickoff against the Eagles.
Backup quarterback and special teams player Trent Fitzgerald is also out with a concussion. Starting center Hajro Cecunjanin will also be out for the second straight week with a shoulder injury.
Tupper Lake and St. Lawrence have a bit more on the line in addition to having an opportunity to claim a second victory of the season. The two teams will battle again in another week in a Section X crossover game, with Saturday's winner earning homefield for that matchup.
The only win for both teams came at the expense of the struggling Canton Bears. The Lumberjacks defeated Canton 41-14 three weeks ago, but have since given up 88 points in a pair of losses to Malone and Ogdensburg. The Larries are coming off a 44-0 victory over Canton a week ago.
Injuries have been the biggest problem hampering the Lumberjacks, who will have junior running back Jeremy Roussel back in the lineup for Saturday's game. Starting lineman Zach Boushie, however, has an injured back and will not play.
Tupper Lake coach Dennis Klossner said his team will face one of the most successful offenses the Larries have put on the field in years.
"Believe it or not, St. Lawrence has a pretty explosive offense, and they have some big boys up front. We're relying on strong play from Marcus Richer and Elliot Kerst to stop those guys. Elliot has been a key for us inside and Marcus is a force on the outside and as a pass rusher. They have become our defensive leaders this season, and they've both done a great job."
Tupper Lake's offense has been guided by junior backup quarterback Mitch Keniston, who has impressed Klossner since he replaced starter Morgan Stevens in the second game of the season.
A week ago, Keniston completed eight passes for 109 yards, with two of those receptions going for touchdowns to Cody LaPierre and Brock Tarbox. Klossner said the Lumberjacks will look to get their running game on track with Roussel back in the lineup, but they will also be attempting to step up the air assault against the Larries defense.
"We want to put the ball up in the air and keep Cody and Brock involved," Klossner said. "They've done a nice job for us so far, and Mitch has been pretty successful. He was 8-for-25 last week, but for the most part, he's putting the ball in the right places. If our guys can't make the catch, Mitch isn't putting the ball where it will be intercepted."
The Larries are led on offense by lefty quarterback Devon Euto, who accounted for 213 all-purpose yards in last week's win, and running back Jesse Greer, who rushed for 126 yards on 18 carries against Canton.