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Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake to renew football rivalry

Red Storm, Lumberjacks set to battle for Mayor’s Cup on April 23

From the left, Saranac Lake’s Dylan Kilner, Alex Donaldson and Tristin Fitzgerald celebrate with the Mayor’s Cup following their home victory over Tupper Lake on Oct. 25, 2014, which was the last time the two teams clashed on the football field. (Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake football teams are going to add a little more meaning to their very short seasons coming up.

For the first time in seven years, the two teams will battle for the Mayor’s Cup.

The teams will each play two games during their “Fall 2” season, and in one of them, they are scheduled to renew their Mayor’s Cup rivalry on April 23 at Frank Tice Field in Tupper Lake.

After football was canceled last fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, both schools have been allowed to have a short “Fall 2” season this spring, which includes about two weeks of preseason practice followed by games.

The two football programs had been annual rivals in the past dating back decades, but the last time they clashed was in 2014. After that, they went their separate ways. Saranac Lake competed only in Section VII, and Tupper Lake played Section X opponents prior to switching over to eight-man football.

Each year the winner of the game claims the Mayor’s Cup trophy, which currently resides at Saranac Lake after the Red Storm won the last meeting 40-14 on Oct. 25, 2014.

Although the Mayor’s Cup is on the line for the first time in nearly seven years, coaches from both teams say just having a chance to play some football is the big prize this spring.

“First and foremost, we’re just really happy to give our seniors a meaningful experience and thrilled to be sending them off to their next pursuits after their football careers,” Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said. “Really, I think the coaches are more revved up about the Mayor’s Cup than the players are. It’s been seven years since we’ve played each other. The kids on our teams, they were 10 or 11 years old back then. Our mindset is, we don’t want to worry about the pressure of the cup leaving Saranac Lake. Our big focus is on execution and giving our kids a meaningful experience.”

“We’re getting a four-week football program, and I think that’s great,” Lumberjacks head coach Dennis Klossner said. “The biggest thing about this is seeing our seniors get a chance to play a little bit of football. Playing Saranac Lake, that’s just an added bonus.”

The ‘Jacks will be getting a bit of a jump on the Red Storm as they travel to Malone for a game against Franklin Academy tentatively scheduled for Sunday, April 18. Tupper Lake will also scrimmage the Huskies before the official matchup. Saranac Lake opens with Tupper Lake and then plans to play its second game a week after the Mayor’s Cup contest.

Both teams enter the season with a little more than 20 players on their rosters. Saranac Lake has five members from its 2019 Class C championship team returning as seniors, as David Warner, Sam Donaldson, Rhett Darrah, Hunter Lacey and Riley DeAngelis wrap up their high school football careers. Brady Yando and Brice Callaghan are also seniors who are joining the Red Storm varsity team for the first time.

Noah Varden, Brandon Boudreau, Colby Boudreau, Jay Gagnon and Bryce Dattoma are seniors in Tupper Lake’s football lineup.

“We’re going to be lacking in experience, but we do have some good seniors returning,” Klossner said. “We want to be competitive, that’s our biggest thing, and we’re looking at a short time to get ready. We just want to play fundamentally sound, basic football.”

Both teams started practicing in late March. Saranac Lake got in a week’s worth of training before spring break, and Tupper Lake has continued practicing through its spring break. Students from both schools return to class on Monday.

In addition to giving seniors the best sendoff possible, the Lumberjacks and Red Storm are also using the spring “Fall 2” season as a buildup to a hopeful full season in the fall.

“At this point, if we’re lucky enough to get a couple of games in, it will give us a taste of what’s to come,” Klossner said. “Before you know it, we’ll be into our summer speed camp, and then, bam, we’re back into the fall season.”

“It’s spring football to a certain degree, just like college. Some of the new kids we have, this will be a taste of what’s to come,” Bennett added. “This is unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and it’s going to take a lot of work from the kids to get ready. Instead of lamenting what we don’t have, we just have to appreciate what we do have.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we have,” Bennett continued. “In these times, it’s all about living in the moment. The way things have gone, you can’t even count on a game happening. I’ve been stressing to our kids that they have to be smart. We can’t be the reason we lose our season.”

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