Spartans roll through Red Storm
SARANAC LAKE — After recording its first win of the season one week ago, the Saranac Lake football team knew it would have its hands full facing its lone Section VII, Class C foe — the Saranac Central Spartans — on their home field Saturday.
After a few quarters, the Red Storm were able to find out how good their opponent was. The Spartans rolled to a 42-14 victory at Wilson Raymond Field to remain undefeated this season, while Saranac Lake drops to 1-2 overall.
The two squads will face off again during the Sectional Championship contest at the end of the season. They are the lone two football teams in Section VII’s Class C.
“I learned that we’ve got a lot of work to do between here and there,” Red Storm head coach Eric Bennett said. “Hopefully, we just get better each day, each week. A lot of things can happen in a season and hopefully we can find a way.”
Despite coming up short, Bennett was proud of the fact that his team didn’t quit. After giving up a 42-0 lead, the Red Storm were able to tack on two scores late on a 12-yard pass from Evan Willett to Markus Navarra and a 9-yard run from Willett.
“They played with a lot of heart,” he said. “We had a rash of injuries early — on a small roster — put us behind. I’m not sure if that would have made a difference but give a lot of credit to Saranac. That’s an excellent ball club, they’re very physical. I know they’ve returned a lot from last year. Hats off to them. They’re a tough team.”
Defensively, Saranac Lake struggled to slow down the Spartans’ rushing attack that recorded 405 yards and four touchdowns scored by two different backs. Senior Nathan Hamel ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns while fellow senior Cayden Bouvia had 91 yards rushing and two scores. Senior Alex Clancy recorded 72 yards on four attempts.
Saranac Central head coach Dylan Everleth credited his team’s offensive line for its solid run game.
“We’re lucky enough to have great skill positions, but it’s even better when we can do it behind a skilled senior line that really has locked in and got together as a group,” he said. “There are roots on both sides of the ball and when they can get us going, and they start to run downhill it’s nice to get behind them and fall.”
The Spartans dominated on the defensive side of the ball as well, limiting the Red Storm to just 154 yards of offense and coming up with a pair of interceptions from Clancy. It took Saranac Lake until the third quarter to record its first first down of the game.
“We had the pressure upfront that we wanted,” Everleth said. “They have some skill guys and Navarra is a great athlete, he’s a big guy. He’s always a mismatch no matter where he is on the field. I thought we did a great job today of taking him out of plays and putting their quarterback in a tough spot. That starts with shutting down the run and having good pressure and coverage.”
On the game’s opening drive, Saranac Central ran the ball on nine of its 11 plays. But on the 11th play of the drive, junior quarterback Zack Lucia threw a short pass to Clancy, who slipped through the Red Storm defense for an 18-yard touchdown. Hamel connected on the kick to give his team a 7-0 lead.
Following Clancy’s first interception of the game, the Spartans drove 51 yards on 10 plays with Bouvia scoring from four yards out in the second quarter.
Hamel then led the Spartans to touchdowns on consecutive drives to go up 35-0 at halftime. Hamel scored on runs from 7 and 3 yards, respectively.
The senior back tallied 198 rushing yards in the first half on 22 carries. Hamel also converted on all four of his extra-point kicks, before suffering an injury in the third quarter taking him out of the ball game.
Leading 35-0 after intermission, the Spartans recorded a touchdown in each of the final two quarters on the way to their third straight over Saranac Lake. Saranac Central scored on their first drive of the third quarter with Lucia finding Bryce DeAngelo from 13 yards out. Bouvia scored his second touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard run. Jason Garrand converted on both of the extra-point kicks and extended the lead to 42-0.
“I thought today was just a really good team win,” Everleth said. “I thought we did a great job handling up front. Our senior guys on the line did a good job just getting us a good push to start on both sides of the ball. Then we just let our playmakers do their job. Hamel ran the ball well, Bouvia ran the ball well, Clancy ran the ball well. When we can get those things going and get the ball into different guys’ hands, run behind that stud of a line that we’ve got it’s a good day for us. Defensively and offensively. I thought we did a hell of a job on special teams as well.”
Trailing big in the fourth quarter, the Red Storm drove 77 yards on five plays, before Willet found Navarra on a short screen pass for the 12-yard touchdown to make the score 42-6. The touchdown marked Navarra’s fourth of the season after recording three in last week’s contest against Plattsburgh, matching his season total from last year.
After failing the two-point conversion, the Red Storm attempted an onside kick. On the kickoff, the ball deflected off a Spartans player before bouncing in front of junior lineman Andrew Gay, who dove and recovered the loose football.
“We preached to be who you are in the best and the worst of times and our kids are coming through with that,” Bennett said. “There are no moral victories, but on the plus side I’m glad that our kids didn’t implode and they kept battling. That’s what you can ask. That’s what we’re happy to have.”
With little time remaining, Saranac Lake took advantage of the solid field position, driving 38 yards in five plays with Willett scoring from 9 yards out. The senior quarterback then followed the score with a successful conversion pass to Navarra.
Willett completed seven of 17 passing attempts for 73 yards, he also led the team with 33 rushing yards. Navarra finished with 52 yards receiving on four catches. Senior running back Owen Muncil gave some life to Red Storm during the late stages, mustering up runs of 18 and 14 yards on both scoring drives.
Following Saturday’s contest, Saranac Lake will take on the AuSable Valley Patriots on their home turf Friday night with the opening kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.
Saranac Central 42, Saranac Lake 14
Spartans — 7 21 7 7 — 42
Red Storm — 0 0 0 7 — 14
SC — Clancy 18 pass from Lucia (Hamel kick), 6:24
SC — Bouvia 4 run (Hamel kick), 4:27
SC — Hamel 7 run (Hamel kick), 7:24
SC — Hamel 3 run (Hamel kick), 11:05
SC — DeAngelo 13 pass from Lucia (Garrand kick), 6:18
SC — Bouvia 13 run (Garrand kick), 2:47
SL — Navarra 12 pass from Willett (Run failed), 7:15
SL — Willett 9 run (Navarra pass from Willett), 11:20
SC — Hamel 24-208 2TDs, Bouvia 14-91 2TDs, Clancy 4-72, Daniels 1-34. Totals: 43-405 4TDs.
SL — Willett 6-33 TD, Goetz 5-9, Muncil 2-32, Coventry 2-10, Moffat 1-2, Navarra 1-1. Totals: 17-87 TD.
SC — Lucia 3-7-0-50 2TDs
SL — Willett 7-17-2-73 TD, Goetz 1-1-0-(-6). Totals: 8-18-2-67 TD.
SC — DeAngelo 2-32 TD, Clancy 1-18 TD. Totals: 3-50 2TDs.
SL — Navarra 4-52 TD, Nicholas 2-18, Muncil 1-3, Willett 1-(-6). Totals: 8-67 TD.
SC — Clancy 2.