Red Storm fall to Peru

At left, Saranac Lake’s Markus Navarra and Jon Kratts jog off the field after Navarra scored a touchdown during Saturday’s game against Peru. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

SARANAC LAKE — To say it’s been a rough stretch run for the Saranac Lake football team is probably an understatement.

Playing on home turf at Wilson Raymond Field Saturday, the Red Storm was handed their third straight loss to close out the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference regular season, falling 28-21 to Peru.

Due to COVID-19 issues that hit the team less than two weeks ago, Saranac Lake had just played a rescheduled game on Monday in a 27-7 road loss to Plattsburgh. Facing a quick turnaround from that matchup, Saranac Lake didn’t have much time to prepare for Peru, and the Red Storm actually got off to a solid start by taking a 21-14 edge into intermission. The Nighthawks however, had the final say as they outscored Saranac Lake 14-0 during the second half to improve to 5-0 in the CVAC and 5-1 overall.

Trailing by seven points, the Nighthawks tied the game on a touchdown and conversion kick in the closing seconds of the third quarter, and then pulled ahead for good by tacking on the game’s final points on their following possession in fourth period. Peru also came up big on defense, intercepting Saranac Lake quarterback Brady Roberts three times and limiting a normally strong Red Storm ground game to just 80 yards. During the second half, Saranac Lake was only able to muster up 38 yards of offense while ended its CVAC schedule with a 3-4 record.

After battling Plattsburgh with a depleted roster, Saranac Lake coach Eric Bennett said a good chunk of his team wasn’t cleared to play until game day Saturday morning.

Saranac Lake’s Brady Roberts looks to throw with Jon Kratts making a low block. Also pictured is Saranac Lake’s Foster Wood. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

“We were at Plattsburgh Monday night, we couldn’t practice Tuesday, so a lot of our preparation for Peru was by Google meets,” Bennett said. “Saturday was a long day. We got 13 or 14 players back in the morning and did a walk through at 10:30 a.m.

“It really was a good game,” Bennett continued. “I thought our kids played well given the circumstances.”

Peru was fueled by a well-balanced offense led by junior quarterback Zach O’Connell and a host of contributors. O’Connell finished as the game’s leading rusher with 144 yards on 18 attempts, and he completed 18-of-28 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Landen Duprey, Keegan Smith and Riley Hebert each hauled in one scoring strike in the win.

The home fans had a lot to cheer about in the early going. Saranac Lake’s defense forced the Nighthawks to go three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, and starting at its own 25, the Red Storm drove the remaining length of the field in 12 plays. Carter Hewitt capped off the march with a one-yard touchdown plunge and Landon Faubert nailed the conversion kick for a 7-0 Saranac Lake lead.

Peru answered right back. Starting at midfield, the Nighthawks went the distance O’Connell finding Duprey open in the end zone on a three-yard pass to complete a 10-play advance.

Saranac Lake’s Carter Hewitt carries the ball down the field during Saturday’s game against Peru. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

The Nighthawks opening points turned things into a game of trading touchdowns. With the score knotted at 7-7, Saranac Lake took its next possession into the end zone, driving 80 yards in 14 plays to regain the lead. The Red Storm converted two fourth-down and long situations on the march. The first came when Roberts connected with Faubert on a 24-yard completion on a fourth-down-and seven to set up Saranac Lake at Peru’s 42. The second was on a fourth-and-14 play when Roberts completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Markus Navarra.

Peru took advantage of its first interception to tie contest when Smith picked off a pass to set his team up its own 30-yard line. The Nighthawks only took four plays to get the job done, with O’Connell tossing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Smith.

Saranac Lake was able to answer even quicker on the ensuing possession as it took just two plays to claim a 21-14 edge. The Red Storm got the ball at their own 14, and on first down, Roberts connected with Hewitt for a 41-yard gain on a play where 15 more yards were added after a personal foul was called against Peru. On the next play, Raymond Santiago dashed 30 yards for a touchdown, and Faubert added his third successful conversion kick of the afternoon to ultimately send Saranac Lake on top 21-14 heading into halftime.

After going toe-to-toe with their hosts during the first two quarters, the Nighthawks took over in the second half. The teams again traded turnovers in the third quarter before Peru started a possession at Saranac Lake’s 42-yard line. In six plays, the Nighthawks deadlocked the score when O’Connell tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Hebert and then added the conversion kick, making it a 21-21 contest with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

After forcing Saranac Lake’s offense into punting after a three-and-out, Peru went ahead for the first time, and for good when O’Connell sprinted 67 yards into the end zone at 3:46 into the final period.

At left, Peru’s Keagan Welch and Saranac Lake’s Finley Law adjust to make a play during Saturday’s game. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

Saranac Lake had its final opportunity to rally when its offense got the ball at its own 20 with 1:52 remaining in the fourth. But the threat ended when Peru defender Abram Southwell grabbed his team’s third interception of the game to seal the victory.

“We did a great job in the second half,” Peru head coach Ryon O’Connell said. “Saranac Lake played very well early on. Coach Bennett always has those kids ready to go. A balanced offense worked out well for us. Our ability to run and throw the ball has really helped us, and should benefit us down the road.”

Although Hewitt was held to just 24 rushing yards, he did finish as the game’s leading receiver with 114 yards on 17 catches. Faubert grabbed two passes for 54 yards in the loss. Smith led Peru’s receivers with 100 receiving yards on eight catches. Jack Hayes also had a big day for the winners, carrying the ball 17 times for 95 yards.

It looks like both teams are heading for a bye week prior to the Section VII playoffs, which are slated for the first weekend of November at Beekmantown. Saranac Lake definitely has next weekend off as the top seed in Class C. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the Red Storm is slated to play either Beekmantown or Saranac Central in the Class C final starting at 3:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Peru will be facing Plattsburgh on Friday, Nov. 5 in the Class B title tilt. There is an outside chance the Nighthawks could face Moriah this weekend in a regular season contest, and that decision is expected to be made today.

Peru 28, Saranac Lake 21

P 7 7 7 7 – 28

SL 7 14 0 0 – 21


First Quarter

SL – Hewitt 1 run (Faubert kick), 7:13

P – Landen Duprey 3 pass from Zach O’connell (O’connell kick), 10:17

Second Quarter

SL – Navarra 19 pass from Roberts (Faubert kick), 3:49

P – Keegan Smith 45 pass from O’connell (Smith kick), 9:07

SL – Santiago 30 run (Faubert kick), 9:30

Third Quarter

P – Riley Hebert 8 pass from O’connell (O’connell kick), 11:42

Fourth Quarter

P – O’connell 67 run (Smith kick), 3:46

Individual Statistics


P – O’connell 18-144 TD, Hayes 17-95, Engstrom 1-2. Totals: 36-241 TD.

SL – Kratts 2-0, Roberts 14-24, Hewitt 9-26 TD, Santiago 3-28 TD. Totals: 27-79 TD.


P – O’connell 18-28-1-159 3TDs, Smith 1-1-0-3. Totals: 19-19-1-203.

SL – Roberts 10-25-3-187 TD.


P – Smith 8-100 TD, Ri. Hebert 7-47 TD, Duprey 1-3 TD, Engstrom 1-3, Ro. Hebert 1-6, O’connell 1-3.

SL – Hewitt 7-114, Faubert 2-54, Navarra 1-19 TD.


P – Smith, O’connell, Abram Southwell


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