Tupper Lake defenders Clay Howard and Mitch Keniston gang up for a tackle on Moriah’s Trevor Cheney.
The Moriah Vikings are the three-time defending Section VII/Class D champions, and on Oct. 28, they proved that the only way to be the champ is to beat them.
The Vikings set up another finals clash with rival Ticonderoga as Tom Ida opened the game with an 81-yard kickoff return and Jessup Calkins had a 67-yard kickoff return and a pair of touchdowns to lead their team past the second-seeded Tupper Lake Lumberjacks, 28-20.
Special teams were key in the game, as the Ida kick return and a 50-yard punt return that deflected off a Moriah player and into the hands of Lumberjack Garrett Planty were the only scores of the first half.
The Lumberjacks also missed on two of three two-point conversion attempts, including on following a 30-yard score by Tim Ropas (12 carries, 81 yards) late in the fourth quarter. Ropas got the ball on the conversion attempt but was stopped short of the goal line, leaving the score at 21-20 in favor of the Vikings.
The Lumberjacks then attempted an onside kick, which deflected off a Tupper Lake player before going 10 yards, giving the ball to Moriah. Ida then scored on a 33-yard run to give the Vikings a 28-20 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Vikings capped the game with a sack and forced fumble by Justin Cutting (who also recovered a fumble as the halftime horn sounded), and tackles for losses on pass plays by Trevor Cheney (14-yard loss) and Skyler Graham (two-yard loss).
“I wasn’t surprised how physical they were tonight — I was probably more surprised the first time we played the, with some of the things that we were able to do then,” Lumberjacks head coach Dennis Klossner said. “I felt that we got everything that we could out of our kids tonight. It’s tough to come back like they had to every time, especially after you give up a kickoff return. They kept their heads up and kept playing.”
For the Vikings, Landon Cross, who returned to the quarterback position to replace an injured Cole Gaddor, ran for 48 yards and one touchdown while completing one of two passes for 23 yards to Travis Nephew. Taylor Whalen added 29 yards, and Cheney added 22 yards as well as 1.5 tackles for loss and half of a sack.
Carlo Calabrese had 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, as the Vikings caused the Lumberjacks to run 20 plays that resulted in no gain or negative yardage, while the Vikings only had four.
Jordan Garrow finished with 90 yards on 17 carries, while Stone Keniston added 29 yards. Mitch Keniston had 46 yards receiving on four catches.
The Vikings (2-7) will face the Sentinels in the Class D finals next Friday, while the Lumberjacks finish the season at 6-3.
Also in sectional football play, the AuSable Valley Patriots will return to the Section VII/Class C finals as they scored a 17-14 win over Ogdensburg in the semifinal round in Clintonville Oct. 28.
Trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Patriots (3-6) scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter against Ogdensburg as Austin House ran for a five-yard score and then connected with Kyle Prinsen on an 18-yard score.
After Ogdensburg tied the game in the fourth, Connor Manning connected on a 20-yard field goal with 3:52 remaining and the Patriots were able to stop Ogdensburg on a late fourth-and-one play to secure the win.
House finished with 62 yards rushing and 63 yards on 5-of-12 passing, while Kodie Simpson completed his lone pass for 69 yards. Prinsen had 103 yards receiving on three catches, while Manning had 32 receiving yards and the game-winning kick and an interception on Defense. Simpson (interception) and Evan Cobb (fumble recovery) also forced turnovers.
In the other semifinal in Class C, the Saranac Lake Red Storm punched their ticket to the sectional finals against the AuSable Valley Patriots with a 49-22 victory over Canton.
Matt Phelan finished 9-of-14 passing for 144 yards and three touchdowns, while the team had a balanced rushing and receiving attack to gain the victory.
The Class B football semifinal round gave a workout to scoreboards, with 93 points scored in the two games.
However, there was only seven points scored by the two teams that saw their seasons end Oct. 29.
The top-seeded Peru Indians scored a 52-7 victory over Gouverneur, while the second-seeded Eagles posted a 34-0 shutout victory against the Saranac Chiefs.
The Indians scored 45 points in the first half, with Shawn Hendrix scoring three times on the ground and rushing for 138 yards. Alex Cederstrom added two scores and 48 yards rushing, while Taylor Rock was 69 passing yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike to Zane Bazzano.
The Eagles, meanwhile, made a defensive statement in their game against the Chiefs, holding quarterback Ben Weightman to 16 yards rushing and 73 passing yards on 6-fo-15 passing, along with four interceptions.
“We played great defensively,” Eagles head coach Jamie Lozier said. “We needed to be consistent on defense and exploit what was there for us offensively.”
Eagles quarter- and cornerback Carter Frechette embodied both of those goals, as he finished with 170 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-18 passing, ran for 44 yards and another score while recovering a fumble and getting one of the four interceptions.
“The defense was flying around to the ball,” Frechette said.
Frechette connected on all three touchdown passes with Luke Weaver, who finished with 62 receiving yards.
“He is an unbelievable quarterback,” Weaver said about Frechette. “He puts the ball where it needs to be every time.”
“Our passing game is number one when you have Carter, Luke and Devon (Backes, who caught a 60-yard pass to set up the Eagles opening score) rolling,” Lozier said.