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Peru takes down Red Storm

Saranac Lake quarterback Rhett Darrah evades an attempted tackle by Peru’s Santo Diaz on his 16-yard touchdown run during the second quarter of Friday’s game in the Apple Bowl as Jeff LaVair (23) looks on. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

PERU — It wasn’t the type of ending to the regular season Saranac Lake’s football team was looking for.

With a chance to earn a first-round bye in the Class C playoffs and have a week off, a battered Red Storm squad lost its final Champlain Valley Athletic Conference game of the season, falling 17-7 at Peru on Friday.

Instead of finishing at 5-2 and clinching the top seed for the postseason, Saranac Lake wrapped up CVAC play with a 4-3 record and will now clash with Saranac Central next Saturday in a semifinal game.

AuSable Valley rolled to a 40-6 victory over Ticonderoga on Friday to claim the top seed and a bye in the three-way battle for the Section VII, Class C championship.

The location and time for the semifinal matchup hadn’t been made official by press time.

Saranac Lake junior running back Sam Donaldson finds a hole through Peru defenders Austin Carpenter (18) and Gavin Padron on a running play in Friday’s game. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

The two freshmen Saranac Lake needed to stop came up big for the Indians, as quarterback Zach O’Connell threw for 151 yards and a touchdown, and running back Jack Hanson churned out 108 yards on the ground on 20 carries and also scored both Peru touchdowns, one on a run and another on a reception. Keegan Smith accounted for Peru’s other five points with his foot, sending to extra-point kicks through the uprights and then drilling a 33-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for the lone score of the second half.

Saranac Lake’s only score came on a 16-yard touchdown run by quarterback Rhett Darrah 3:40 into the second quarter that gave the Red Storm the first lead of the game. Darrah made the conversion kick for a 7-0 edge.

Peru then answered with scores on its next two possessions to take the lead for good.

Trailing by a touchdown and an extra point, it took Peru just two offensive plays to deadlock the contest. Starting at their 30, the Indians picked up 33 yards when Hanson rambled through the Red Storm defense, and on the next play, he grabbed a short out pass from O’Connell and took off for a 49-yard touchdown.

Saranac Lake went three-and-out on its next possession and punted the ball and Peru was back in business at its own 48. The Indians drove the distance in seven plays, with Hanson capping off the march with a five-yard scoring run with 2:42 remaining in the opening half. A second successful conversion kick by Smith sent Peru into intermission on top 14-7.

Neither team reached the end zone in the second half. Peru came close twice, losing a fumble at Saranac Lake’s one-yard line on a third-quarter possession, and advancing to the Red Storm’s three-yard line in the fourth before being pushed back and turning the ball over on downs.

With the game still up for grabs, Peru dealt what proved to be crushing blow when Smith sent a 33-yard field goal through the middle of the posts with 9:19 still remaining in the fourth quarter giving the hosts a 10-point that was too big for Saranac Lake to overcome.

The Red Storm struggled offensively for most of the game and at that point, was unable to mount a comeback.

Darrah carried the ball 18 times to pick up 75 of Saranac Lake’s rushing yards, with the only other gains coming from running back Sam Donaldson, who picked up 44 yards on 13 attempts.

Darrah completed 12-of-24 pass attempts for 100 yards and was intercepted once.

“We are just having trouble running the ball,” Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. “Peru’s back was a strong runner, they had a good scheme and game plan and were able to move the ball early on, and we couldn’t overcome that. We just seem to self destruct at inopportune times.”

The loss was the second straight for Saranac Lake.

Peru improved to 4-3 with the victory and now heads into the Section VII, Class B postseason.