Red Storm defense stops Hornets

Saranac Lake receiver Brayden Ryan leaps and comes down with the ball between Plattsburgh defenders Ian DeTulleo (2) and Dylan Garrant for a 30-yard gain during the second quarter of Saturday’s game. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake reached the end zone on its first two possessions of the game, and its defense dominated from start to finish in a 12-0 shutout victory over Plattsburgh on Saturday at Wilson Raymond Field.

It was the first game of the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference football season for both teams.

The Red Storm got all their points on Logan Brown’s two short touchdown runs in the first quarter. On the other side of the ball, Saranac Lake’s defense allowed just 65 total yards — 41 on the ground and just 24 through the air — while keeping the Hornets off the board

The majority of Saranac Lake’s players on the field Saturday were juniors on the Red Storm team that opened last season on the other side of the scoreboard, falling 32-0 to the Hornets on the road.

This time around, Saranac Lake mustered up enough big plays on offense to move the chains and control the ball, and didn’t give up a single big gain defensively. The Hornets offense only picked up 10 or more yards on four plays, with the longest gain a 16-yard pass completion with less than a minute left in the game.

Senior running back Logan Brown takes a handoff from quarterback Rhett Darrah on a 1-yard touchdown play on Saranac Lake's first possession of Saturday’s game against Plattsburgh. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“It’s nice to see our defense in Saranac Lake pitch a shutout. It’s been a long time,” Red Storm head coach Eric Bennett said. “Defense was awesome. They are gap sound, they played with intensity, they were physical, they played within our scheme. They have evolved from a me, to a we atmosphere, and it showed today.”

Saranac Lake’s defense set the tone right off the bat, forcing a punt after the Hornets went three-and-out on the game’s first possession. Starting at their 46, the Red Storm marched 54 yards in 10 plays. Brown capped off the drive on a 1-yard touchdown run. The senior then missed the conversion kick, drilling the ball off the right goalpost.

Trailing 6-0, the Hornets were pushed back on their next possession — another three-and-out — and that set up Saranac Lake’s offense at its own 45 for its second series. The Red Storm put together an eight-play scoring march to go up 12-0, with Brown barreling into the end zone on a 2-yard run on the final play of the opening quarter. The big play in the advance was a 40-yard pass from quarterback Rhett Darrah to David Warner for a first-and-goal at Plattsburgh’s 5-yard line.

After scoring twice, Saranac Lake continued adding to its number of offensive plays, but mistakes, including a handful of penalties, hampered its chances to increase the lead. The third time they had the ball, the Red Storm drove from their own 18 to the Hornets’ 18, but the advance fizzled, due in part to three penalties.

The Red Storm offense finished with 10 plays that went for 10 or more yards. Warner’s 40-yard catch was Saranac Lake’s biggest gain of the day. The junior finished with two receptions for 60 yards. Senior receiver Brayden Ryan also hauled in a pair of Darrah passes for 47 yards, and Jeff Lavair caught one ball for 12 yards.

“They made the plays in the crucial situations,” Hornets head coach Mike Bordeau said. “We wanted to get them into third-and-long situations, and their guys on the outside made some great catches. Their quarterback put the ball in the right spot and they made the plays.”

Saranac Lake finished with 249 yards of offense. Seven Red Storm backs combined for 130 rushing yards on 39 carries. Ben Munn led the way with 40 yards on nine runs and Brown added 34 yards, also on nine carries. Darrah, a junior, completed 5-of-14 pass attempts for 119 yards.

The Red Storm did not turn the ball over. Plattsburgh coughed it up once when Warner intercepted a pass by junior quarterback Liam Perkins at Saranac Lake’s 1-yard line in the closing seconds of the game to preserve the shutout.

“We came in focused. We were ready to go, and we did it as a team,” said Warner, who was on the Red Storm junior varsity squad last season. “Our line was blocking great. On defense, our D backs had great coverage. They didn’t get one pass by us. The run game, our linebackers filled the gaps and stuffed it. It’s great coming up to varsity and starting off with a win.”

Corbyn Burch led Plattsburgh with 23 yards on three carries, and Jayvon Carpenter added 21 yards on seven runs. Eight of the Hornets’ 25 running plays resulted in negative yardage.

“We have to take care of the line of scrimmage and we’ve got to move the chains,” Bordeau said. “I feel like they really dominated the time of possession; they probably ran twice as many plays as us. We didn’t get the offense moving and we’re going to need to do that.”

With Saturday’s triumph, Saranac Lake has already equaled its season win total from a year ago. The Red Storm will be back at home again for its next game, a matchup with defending Class C champion Saranac Central on Saturday, Sept. 14. The Chiefs were also victorious to kick off the season Saturday, knocking off Moriah 20-12. That win may have come as a surprise after Saranac saw many of its most dynamic players from last season graduate.

“I felt that our kids controlled the game. They did in all three phases,” Bennett said. “We’ll take the win. We’re excited to be 1-and-0 and it looks like we have a formidable opponent in Saranac coming up.”

After winning their season-opener, the Red Storm will look to continue bringing the heat on defense, and look to improve into a more opportunistic offense.

“We left some points out there,” Bennett said. “A few penalties, procedure stuff, got us behind the chains and we’re not built for that. So we just have to make sure we make fewer and fewer mistakes to put ourselves in the best position to finish games. We need to do a better job of finishing, and that will be our job this week as coaches.”

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