LAKE GEORGE - The Warriors football team fought hard on both sides of the ball Friday night to tally a high-scoring shutout over the aggressive Saratoga Catholic squad.
The Warriors' 32-0 victory put the Warriors into contention with Rensselaer for the Adirondack League Championship, which will be determined when the two teams meet up Friday evening on the Rams' home field. Both teams are 5-1 overall, and 5-0 in the league.
The Saints partially contained the explosive running of Caleb Meroski, limiting him to a mere 155 yards for 23 carries. As of this week, Meroski has racked up 1,203 yards, the third highest tally in the entire Capital Region.
But regardless of the low yardage Friday for the Warrior standout, Meroski's legs served him well during a pivotal play in the remaining seconds of the first half. This was when quarterback Willy Blunt threw Meroski a pass and he charged down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown that established a wide 20-0 gap in the score from which the Saints could never recover.
It was the Warriors' gritty defense that provided the opportunity for this play. They had sacked the Saints' quarterback on a fourth-and-15 from the Warrior 25.
Despite the Warrior's offensive show which included two Blunt running touchdowns, a key aspect of the game was the team's ruthless defense.
The Warrior defensive line contained the Saints, despite their backfield talent, to a running game of 32 yards with zero net yards gained overall.
This improbably statistic was due in part to the Warrior line's eight sacks, coach Jeff Bennett said.
"Our front five came in hard - they worked hard all game long," he said. "Saratoga just couldn't handle all of them charging at same time."
Lake George enjoyed a solid start, with a 12-play, 64-yard drive with Blunt running the ball into the end zone on a fourth-and-nine gamble from the Saints' 13 yard line.
Several plays later, the Warriors recovered a Saints fumble at their 25 yard line, and the Warriors scored four plays afterwards when Alex Liucci ran for as 13-yard touchdown. Add to that Liucci's interception and a fumble recovery, and he showed he was a force to contend with both on offense and defense.
The Warrior defense was also responsible for wrapping up the game with conviction, when Matt McGowan picked off a Saints' pass at the Warrior five-yard-line and ran it back 95 yards along the sideline, behind some efficient blocking by his teammates, for a concluding touchdown.
Lake George overpowers Bishop Gibbons
A week earlier, the Warriors proved how tough they were when they defeated Bishop Gibbons 26-6 on a muddy field.
Again, it was both their offense and defense - working in tandem with unstoppable power - providing the win.
In this rainy Oct. 2 game, Meroski racked up 243 yards and three touchdowns.
But the Warrior defense also worked hard, containing opposing standout runningback Derrick Pitts to 112 yards and one touchdown.
The Warrior offensive campaign jumped to an early start with a big counterplay that gained 85 yards, behind key blocks by Kyle Bachem and Jack Clark. In that gain, Meroski broke a tackle or two in the rumble.
Several plays later, Robert Adsit read the opponent's play and yelled out to his teammates, and Hunter Hamilton then snagged an interception. The Warriors took it into the end zone two plays later.
Bennett said his players executed their game plans "perfectly," containing Bishop Gibbons to 22 yards of offense in the second half.
"Jack Clark was a madman on defense - they could not block him - and Robert Adsit also dominated."
Bennett said his players enjoyed careening around in the mud during the convincing victory.
"It was muddy and sloppy - and a fun exciting game," he said, noting that the players were covered with mud, and struggled to keep their face masks cleared of dirt. "The kids felt great because they knew it was a good team they'd beaten."
Looking toward the Rensselaer showdown
Monday, Bennett said his players were looking forward to their showdown with Rensselaer, and that the Rams were tough opponents.
"They're big, they're strong, and they're fast," he said, noting that a win would likely give them a No. 1 seed in the upcoming Section II playoffs. A loss would place them at No. 2 or No. 3.
With one regular-season game left in 2009, Bennett said he was pleased with his team's performance this year, particularly the players stepping up and filling vital roles due to injuries or other issues.
"Every time we lose someone, a player steps in does a fantastic job," he said. "We're playing really well as a team."