Nate Lenhart had a combined 205 yards of offense in the Class D regional Championship game against Cambridge Nov. 11.
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 interceptions to lead their team past the second-seeded Tupper Lake Lumberjacks, 28-20.
“I saw the hole open up and the wedge worked and we had good blocking,” Calkins said about his third quarter scamper that gave the Vikings a 21-14 lead. “It’s a new season to when you get to sectionals, and this is a great way to start the season.”
Calkins said that he was able to read the Lumberjack quarterback, Morgan Stevens, on both of his interceptions.
“I was able to read the play and I caught the ball,” he said.
“That’s a pretty good night for just about anyone,” Vikings head coach Don Tesar said after the game. “The first interception was a key play, and the second one was, too. The kickoff was the biggest of the three, because they had just tied the score at 14-14 and it gave us another spark.”
Another spark was the opening return by Ida, who also ran the ball 16 times for 111 yards and a second touchdown.
“I think that this team that we have has to get on the board first for the momentum,” Tesar said.
“When I saw the ball go under Jeff Greenough, I pickled up the ball,” Ida said.
“We are told to go to the middle and when I got their the return team had crashed to the middle, so I took it out to the sideline, beat the man out there and got to the end zone.”
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).
Tesar said that the momentum that led the Vikings to the Section VII/Class D title game came from their other win in 2011 against the AuSable Valley Patriots.
“We played well the whole game,” Tesar said. “Against Saranac, we showed that we could play that smash mouth style that we want to play and that has just carried into sectionals.”
“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 comeback 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 a 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) faced the Sentinels in the Class D finals Friday, while the Lumberjacks finish the season at 6-3.
“We have to stop that running game,” Tesar said about the renewal of the rivalry. “It’s not just a one person attack.”
“We have to come to practice prepared and be mentally tough from the start to the end of the game,” Ida said.
Ticonderoga used its power running game and defense to beat Plattsburgh, 32-0, in a Northern Football Conference crossover game Oct. 27.
The Sentinels ran for 318 yards as they cruised to a 25-0 lead at the half.
On defense Ti held Plattsburgh to 28 yards in total offense.
The win was a tune up for Ticonderoga’s Section VII/X Class D championship game. Ti played Moriah at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, for the title and a berth in the state tournament. Tickets for that game are $5.
Jay Hebert had two rushing touchdowns, Ryan Borho added one and Will Lawrie hauled in a 21-yard scoring pass as the Sentinels built their halftime advantage.
Nate Lenhart completed all three of his pass attempts in the first half for 32 yards, including his touchdown strike to Lawrie.
Tanner Wright led the Sentinels with 74 rushing yards. Lenhart rushed three times for 66 yards.
Troy LaBounty had a big game on the Ticonderoga line. On offense he helped lead the running attack, while on defense he had an interception and recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Ti’s lone second-half score.