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AuSable Valley shuts down the Red Storm

Saranac Lake’s Scottie Nicholas attempts to leap over AuSable Valley’s Konnor Facteau while picking up yardage on a pass reception in Friday’s game. Also pictured for Saranac Lake is Owen Muncil. (Provided photo — Lou Reuter)

CLINTONVILLE — If you want to have an opportunity to win a football game, maintaining possession and moving the chains is usually a key to victory.

In Friday’s road game under the lights against AuSable Valley, Saranac Lake struggled in both of those aspects on the way to suffering a 20-0 shutout loss to the Patriots.

AuSable Valley turned in a dominating performance on both sides of the line, claiming its first win of the season while improving to 1-2 overall. On offense, a host of Patriots running backs churned out 321 yards and scored three touchdowns, and on the other side of the ball, their defense limited Saranac Lake to just 10 net yards rushing and 51 total yards of offense.

Dylan Bombard led the way, scoring all three Patriots touchdowns while piling up 76 yards on 11 carries. Shawn Holzer also had a strong performance in the win, finishing as the game’s top rusher with 86 yards on 10 attempts. In his first varsity appearance, Avonte Yeates ran the ball 16 times for 63 yards and Hayden Bombard chipped in 68 yards on nine carries.

The performance left AuSable Valley head coach Kyle Nolan with a big smile during a post-game interview.

Red Storm quarterback Evan Willett runs through a crowd of players for a short gain during Saranac Lake’s matchup Friday in Clintonville. (Provided photo — Lou Reuter)

“I’m really happy,” Nolan said. “Every week, we’re getting better and better. Today, our line made all the difference. They were opening up holes, they were pressuring Saranac Lake’s offense. It was a really nice multi-back effort.”

Saranac Lake was definitely shorthanded entering the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference matchup, with 6-7 senior receiver Markus Navarra no longer on the team after recently leaving the district to pursue basketball while studying online. A handful of injuries also had the Red Storm heading into the game low on numbers.

Despite the loss, Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett was again impressed with the fight he witnessed from his players.

“People can make up all the excuses you want — we’re not big, we don’t have a lot of players — but you know what, our kids bring it all the time,” Bennett said. “They’re showing up hungry and they don’t quit. We just have to find a way to get it done with the guys we have. We have to learn from this and grow from this.”

After a scoreless opening quarter, the Patriots grabbed a 6-0 edge on a 10-yard touchdown run by Bombard 3:37 into the second period. AuSable Valley took advantage of great field position on the march after getting the ball at the Red Storm’s 37-yard line following a short punt.

Zack Goetz carries the football for Saranac Lake during Friday’s game at AuSable Valley. Also pictured for the Red Storm is Jonah Ducatt (66). (Provided photo — Lou Reuter)

Facing a 6-0 deficit, Saranac Lake’s offense finally picked up its lone first down of the opening half on its next possession on a 14-yard pass completion from quarterback Evan Willett to Connor Coventry. The possession, however, stalled at the midfield stripe, and after the Red Storm’s third punt of the game, the Patriots’ offense was back in business at its own 28-yard line. Ten rushing plays later and with three seconds left in the first half, AuSable Valley reached the end zone for a second time on Bombard’s 1-yard touchdown plunge, leaving the hosts with a 12-0 lead heading into halftime in their homecoming game.

The going remained tough for Saranac Lake after intermission, although the score stayed close until early in the fourth quarter when the Patriots iced the victory on Bombard’s third touchdown run of the night — a 14-yard carry 1:55 into the period that capped off another short march that stated from the Saranac Lake 38. After having their first two point-after kicks blocked, the Patriots were successful on a conversion pass from quarterback Porter Goodman to Shawn Holzer that made the score a 20-0 final.

With the game out of reach, the Red Storm did have a chance to avoid a shutout when Willett recovered a fumbled punt to set up Saranac Lake’s offense at the Patriots’ 44 with just over three minutes remaining. With the clock winding down, Saranac Lake worked its way down to the AuSable Valley 10-yard line but the threat sputtered with less than a minute remaining in the game when the drive stalled on fourth down 9 yards away from the goal line.

“On offense, we did not move the ball very well, and that leaves your defense on the field for way too long,” Bennett said. “We’re just going to have to come up with more quick-hitting stuff where we don’t have to sustain the blocks as long. AuSable played physical football. They did a great job running the football.”

Bennett also noted that penalties didn’t help the Red Storm’s cause.

“We were a very undisciplined team. That’s something that will certainly be addressed,” he said.

With the win, AuSable Valley improved to 1-3 and now heads into a tough stretch on the schedule with matchups against Peru, Beekmantown and unbeaten Saranac Central coming up during the next three weeks.

“I really think a game like this can give our guys confidence,” Nolan said. “We’ll need it. We’re heading into a gauntlet.”

Saranac Lake dropped to 1-3 with the loss and will next host Franklin Academy on Saturday in a non-league game at Wilson-Raymond Field on the school’s Hall of Fame Day.

The opening kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.

AuSable Valley 20, Saranac Lake 0

Red Storm 0 0 0 0 — 0

Patriots 0 12 0 8 — 20

Scoring

Second Quarter

AV — D. Bombard 10 run (Kick blocked), 3:37

AV — D. Bombard 1 run (Kicked missed), 11:57

Fourth Quarter

AV — D. Bombard 14 run (S. Holzer pass from Goodman), 1:55

Individual Statistics

RUSHING

SL — Willett 7-21, Goetz 5-(-10), Moffatt 1-(-1). Totals: 13-10.

AV — Fletcher 5-29; D. Bombard 11-76, 3TD; S. Holzer 10-86; H. Bombard 9-68; Yeates 16-63; Team 1-(-1). Totals: 52-321, 3TD.

PASSING

SL — Willett 10-16-0-41, Goetz 0-2-1-0. Totals: 10-18-1-41.

AV — Goodman 0-2-0-0.

RECEIVING

SL — Coventry 4-4, Rivers 1-12, Muncil 2-14, Nicholas 3-11.

INTERCEPTIONS

AV — Facteau

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