Saranac slips past Red Storm in OT
PICKETTS CORNERS — Over the past few seasons, football games between Saranac Lake and Saranac Central have been nailbiters that have gone down to the wire.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday when the Class C rivals clashed on the Chiefs’ field, and this time, host Saranac Central came through with a 20-14 victory in overtime.
A year ago, Saranac Lake swept both games against Saranac in contests that were each decided by a single point, including a 36-35 overtime triumph in the Class C championship game. But after losing four straight to the Red Storm, the Chiefs ended the skid when Nate Hamel walked into the end zone on a one-yard run on his team’s first possession in overtime.
The winning points came after a 50-minute delay that occurred when Saranac Central senior defensive back Ryan Devins suffered a serious leg injury when he broke up a possible touchdown pass on a third-down play when Saranac Lake had the ball to start overtime. The Red Storm ended up going scoreless on the possession, and the Chiefs then promptly marched 20 yards into the end zone for the win. Saranac benefitted from an interference penalty to start the drive, and then finished the job from the 10-yard line by handing the ball off on three straight runs to Hamel, who led his team in rushing with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Saranac Central coach Dylan Everleth liked how his team responded to adversity after watching one of their team leaders go down.
“Those Devins boys – they’ve been that edge we’ve needed every game. Both on the offense and defense,” Everleth said. “They’re playmakers and they’re vocal. They hype up the team. They keep us going, and when a guy like him goes down, I’m so proud the team was able to step up and get it done, and do it for him.”
All the points in regulation came in the first half, with each team scoring two touchdowns and following with a pair of extra points.
Saranac Lake got off to a great start, forcing a Chiefs’ punt on the game’s opening possession and then rattling off 65 yards on just two plays to reach the end zone with Red Storm senior running back Carter Hewitt carrying the load. Hewitt rambled for 14 yards on the first play, and he then broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run on the next snap. Landon Faubert connected on the conversion kick to put Saranac Lake up 7-0 with just 2:42 gone in the game.
Hewitt’s touchdown was the first points given up so far by the 3-0 Chiefs, who blanked their first two opponents by 41-0 and 55-0 scores.
Trailing for the first time this season, the Chiefs answered right back, driving 65 yards in seven plays with quarterback Landen Smith capping things off on a six-yard scoring run. Hamel evened the game at 7-7 on his successful point-after kick.
The hosts took advantage of solid field position to jump on top midway through the second quarter. Starting at the Red Storm’s 42, the Chiefs put together a seven-play march that ended with Hamel reaching the end zone on a nine-yard run with 5:44 left in the half. Saranac Lake then tied the contest on a 52-yard march, with Hewitt diving over the goal line from the four on the seventh play of the advance.
After gaining ground looked easy early for Hewitt, the Chiefs put the clamps on Saranac Lake’s top player down the stretch. After halftime, Hewitt was limited to 51 yards on 11 carries, with the bulk coming on two runs of 11 and 29 yards. Hewitt did finish as the top gainer on the day with 142 yards, but at the same time, the rest of the Red Storm offense’s production was limited to a mere 30 yards.
On their five second-half possessions, the Red Storm punted four times and coughed the ball the other when Alex Clancey picked off a pass thrown by Saranac Lake quarterback Brady Roberts.
Meanwhile, on offense, Saranac Central utilized a balanced ground-control attack that piled up 281 rushing yards, with Hamel, Smith, Clancey and Cayden Bouvia all finding room to run. Smith, a senior, was Saranac’s second-top ground gainer with 92 yards on 20 carries, while Clancey and Bouvia combined for 82 yards on 13 runs.
“They shut down our run game. They played some physical football,” Red Storm head coach Eric Bennett said. “I give credit to Saranac and their coaching staff. They came prepared and they made us work for every yard, and we came up short. A well-coached team and they had a great game plan. They were attacking everywhere.”
After winning the overtime coin toss, the Red Storm failed to move the ball an inch, although they did come a sliver away from putting points on the board. Hewitt was stuffed for no gain on the first play, and Roberts then came up empty on two pass attempts. On his second throw, Roberts lofted a pass to a leaping Markus Navarra in the corner of the end zone, but the 6’6″ junior couldn’t hang onto the ball while being defended from behind by Devins. While the two players were dropping to the turf, Devins got tangled up and was badly injured.
After the delay, Saranac Lake faced a fourth-and-10 from the 20-yard line and ended the possession with third-straight incompletion. And after seeing a teammate taken away by the rescue squad, the Chiefs quickly sealed the deal.
“We knew going into this game if we could do what we did against Hewitt – he’s been animal this year, and last year — we just had to limit the big plays and the shots they took down field,” Everleth said. “Some plays went our way, some didn’t, but at the end of the game we got it done.
“We ended last season being one of the most physical teams in the league,” Everleth added. “We had a lot of returners coming back, and that was going to be our culture this year — being physical up front and riding that line, just winning up front and running down the field. We were going to control the pace of the game, control field position and take care of business. They did that today.”
In two games, Hewitt has amassed 405 yards rushing and has scored seven touchdowns.
With the loss, Saranac Lake dropped to 1-1 and will look to rebound when it hosts AuSable Valley Saturday at Wilson-Raymond Field starting at 1:30 p.m. Saranac Central next heads into a showdown between two 3-0 teams when it travels to face Peru Friday with the opening kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.
“We need to block better, we need to make critical completions at the right time and we certainly have to tackle a lot better. We have a lot to work on,” Bennett said. “We’re going to watch a bunch of film, we’re going to correct our mistakes, look at personnel and put our next foot forward. Once we learn from this, we’re going to move on and get a “W” next Saturday.”
Saranac Central 20,
Saranac Lake 14 OT
Red Storm 7 7 0 0 0 — 14
Chiefs 7 7 0 0 6 — 20
SL – Hewitt 51 run (Faubert kick), 3:42
SC – Smith 6 run (Hamel kick), 5:29
SC – Hamel 9 run (Hamel kick), 6:16
SL – Hewitt 4 run (Faubert kick), 10:50
SC – Hamel 1 run
SL – Hewitt 2–142 2TDs, Roberts 5-(-11), Munn 1-(-2), Willett 1-4. Totals: 27-133 2TDs.
SC – Bouvia 6-46, Clancey 7-36, Smith 20-92 TD, Hamel 22-107 2TDs. Totals: 55-281 3TDs.
SL – Roberts 3-9-1-39.
SC – Smith 1-5-0-6.
SL – Willett 1-31, Munn 1-10, Hewitt 1-(-2).
SC – Clancey 1-6.
SC – Clancey.