Tupper drops season-opener
TUPPER LAKE — The Tupper Lake football team opened its season at home Friday night, and despite a loss, the young team is already looking to improve.
Hosting Morrisville-Eaton in 8-man football, the Lumberjacks opened strong, holding the visitors to a short drive as Tupper Lake’s Kodee Hill played solid defense and interrupted a couple of passes to keep the Warriors’ off the scoreboard.
Taking over, the Lumberjacks began a slow march that led to a fourth-and-inches. Going for it, Skyler Pickering picked up the first down, but a series of self-imposed penalties plus a fumble and recovery left the ‘Jacks at 2nd and 26 and Tupper ended the drive by punting.
The first quarter ended scoreless, but Morrisville-Eaton began a run that would put the game out of the home team’s reach. With 2:10 left in the second quarter, the Warriors got into the end zone and scored on the two-point attempt to go up 8-0.
Tupper Lake tried to even it up before the half, but even with Hill pulling in a one-handed catch along the sideline for a big gain with 33 seconds left, the visitors went into the intermission ahead by eight.
Morrisville-Eaton’s Jordan Burke made it into the end zone midway through the third quarter, but that was called back on a penalty. The Warriors found the end zone again a minute later, and with the two-point conversion took a 16-0 lead with 3:20 left.
Morrisville-Eaton recovered its own onside kick at the Tupper Lake 40 and put it away with their third touchdown of the evening with 1:43 left in the third. But the Lumberjacks successfully defended the two-point conversion, and the visitors held a 22-0 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
The Warriors kept the home team well away from the end zone, but there were some bright spots, such as when Tupper Lake’s Noah Varden forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Beckett Savage at the Warriors’ 30. Morrisville-Eaton salvaged the turnover by intercepting the ball on their own 9 before winding down the clock and taking a knee with 28 seconds left to wrap up the win.
Warriors coach Don Johnson was thrilled with his team’s performance, saying some fill-ins played beyond expectations.
“Our young kids picked it up,” Johnson said. “We had five starters go down this week with slight injuries and we didn’t want to play them. The second team guys stepped up and played awesome. All around, the whole field. They played the whole field well.
“We’re on the map, we’re not the whipping boy anymore. We’re a contender.”
Tupper Lake’s Grant Godin said after the loss that his team has room to improve, and they’ll start at practice on Monday.
“We definitely could have been better, but that’s what practice is for and we’ll get better next week,” the sophomore said. “We definitely had opportunities to get down the field and score, but we didn’t do that tonight. We need to get better with our gaps, get blocking and hopefully we can score a couple touchdowns and win a game.”
Tupper Lake coach Dennis Klossner said his young team — which has two freshmen and nine sophomores — can grow after facing an opponent they knew would be tough.
“We didn’t play up to par; we’re a better club than that, but we’re young,” he said. “We had two freshmen out there, and it was quick for them but they still did a good job. We played them (the Warriors) last year, but they only lost one kid and we knew they’d be good, but we made too many mistakes. And we didn’t capitalize on any of theirs.
“We were moving the ball on the first three plays; we knew what to expect from their defense. We thought it would be easy to push out, but their linebackers, they were good. They were quick and they filled the hole and we couldn’t get to them.
“But we’ll keep working. There were some bright spots out there. Noah (Varden) ran the ball well, Beckett Savage moved the ball well,” Klossner continued. “But we’ll regroup on Monday and take care of business.”
Tupper Lake is now 0-1 on the season, and travels next Saturday to West Canada Valley, north of Utica, for a 1:30 p.m. game.