The No. 20 Moriah football team has been labeled the underdog in three of its last four games.
That pattern won’t change when the Vikings (6-4) meet No. 4 Cambridge in the NYSPHSAA Class D quarterfinals at AuSable Valley at 7 p.m. tonight.
“Yeah, that doesn’t bother our players,” Moriah coach Don Tesar said. “They’re pretty comfortable with that role. Every game, we’ve had a lead entering the four quarter with the exception of our loss to Ticonderoga. We could easily have two or three more wins. But the kids have believed in themselves and played hard.”
The Indians (10-0) reached the state quarterfinals with a 36-14 defeat of No. 8 Rensselaer in the Section II Class D Super Bowl.
Doug Luke’s squad has outscored its opponents 426-127, while amassing over 3,400 yards of total offense.
Luke possesses one of the state’s most dynamic 1-2 rushing tandems in juniors Chris Warnke and Caleb Rowland. The two have combined for 2,404 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground.
Warnke, a 6-foot-3-inch 211-pound back, has carried the ball 116 times for 1,206 yards and 16 touchdowns. Rowland, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds, has accumulated 1,198 yards and 21 touchdowns on 165 carries.
The two have each scored 140 points this season.
“The key is to be defensively sound and stick to the fundamentals,” Tesar said. “They pull guards and trap to the inside. Our guys have to know they can’t over penetrate. We’ll have to take on the trap head-on and not get caught too far up field.”
As if two 1,000-yard backs aren’t enough, Cambridge junior quarterback Ethan English has torched Section II opponents through the air with 1,030 yards and 10 touchdowns.
English, also a junior, has completed 57-of-93 pass attempts for a 61.3 completion percentage.
English’s primary target is senior Austin Dean, who has grabbed 19 receptions for 495 yards and six touchdowns. Warnke has added 178 yards on 15 receptions.
“All their pass plays are set up by the run,” Tesar said. “The quarterback fakes the ball really well. Their running backs slip into the flats and are getting wide open. We can’t bite on the run.”
The Vikings advanced to the state’s quarterfinal round with a 29-14 defeat of Section X Tupper Lake in the regional semifinals.
Offensively, Moriah is led by senior signal-caller Cole Gaddor. Gaddor has thrown for 1,404 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games.
Tyler Pratt, who went off for 152 yards and a touchdown a week ago, has recorded 625 yards and five touchdowns on 26 receptions. Tight end Rainier Garnica has 24 catches for 431 yards and eight touchdowns.
“With Cole under center, it makes second- and third-down decisions a little easier,” Tesar said. “If he can complete a pass on second down, it typically allows us a manageable third-down situation. It’s really taken a lot of pressure off the running game.
“Last week, Tupper Lake was caught with 11 guys in the box on a number of occasions, and we took advantage with play action. That led to three touchdowns.”
After emerging into a starting role in Week 5, running back Troy Welch has run for 775 yards during a six-game span. The junior has totaled 882 yards and 10 touchdowns in all.
CJ Raymond has added 575 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Troy’s just a hard runner,” Tesar said. “He’s going to get some tough yardage. CJ injured his knee in Week 4 and is getting closer to 100 percent. They’ll both get their touches. Troy provides power running, while CJ is elusive and shifty.”
The winner of tonight’s game will play either Section I Tuckahoe or Chester of Section IX in the state semifinals at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
The Vikings, who last defeated the Indians 14-6 in 2010, reached the Class D semifinals in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“We have to be able to have ball control,” Tesar said. “Cambridge is able to score at will, so we’d like to keep the ball out of their hands. In 2010, we had a time-of-possession advantage and were able to pick up first downs when we needed to. We have to do that again (tonight).
“We know we’re facing a good team. They’re disciplined, especially on the offensive end. They’re not oversized, but they play well together on defense and shut teams down. We’ve got to be able to keep attacking that defense.”
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Tale of the Tape
Moriah (6-4) Cambridge (10-0)
Cole Gaddor 76-146-1,404-16 Ethan English 57-93-1,030-10
Troy Welch 154-882-10 Chris Warnke 116-1,206-16 CJ Raymond 105-575-9 Caleb Rowland 165-1,198-21
Tyler Pratt 26-625-5 Austin Dean 19-495-6 Rainier Garnica 24-431-8 Chris Warnke 15-178-0