MINEVILLE — Cole Gaddor came up empty on his first four passes Friday and had completed just one by halftime. But Moriah got its passing game going in the second half and rallied past Saranac Lake in a Section VII crossover football game at Linney Field.
Gaddor threw for all four of the Vikings’ touchdowns and the defense got a big stop at the end for a 27-24 win.
Moriah will play Ticonderoga in the Section VII Class D title game next week, and Saranac Lake will play for the Class C championship.
The Vikings (4-4) trailed 18-6 after Saranac Lake started the third quarter with a 65-yard scoring drive, but they quickly responded. Gaddor connected with Rainier Garnica on a 21-yard play and then hit Garnica again for a 29-yard touchdown. Moriah took its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter when Gaddor found Petro for an 8-yard score and then Garnica for a 2-point conversion that made it 21-18.
But the lead lasted just 19 seconds.
The Red Storm (4-4) started with the ball on their own 47, and Dylan Gunther took his first handoff of the game 53 yards to the end zone, making it 24-21.
The Vikings faced fourth-and-short from Saranac Lake’s 23 on their next drive. Garnica caught a pass for a first down and kept running for the go-ahead touchdown.
“We were looking to get the first down, but I know if Rainier gets the ball, he can break any tackle. Any arm tackles, he breaks them,” Gaddor said, adding that the safety was playing off of Garnica and they took advantage with little out routes.
The Red Storm began their next drive at their own 35 and immediately got into trouble. Starting quarterback Tristan Fitzgerald had to head to the sideline with an injury, and on fourth-and-11, Trent Fitzgerald’s completion to Gunther came up just short. But a 15-yard penalty against Moriah gave Saranac Lake a new set of downs and a second chance at pulling ahead. Tristan Fitzgerald came back in, but the Vikings still kept the Red Storm from getting another first down.
Moriah held Saranac Lake to 69 rushing yards in the second half.
“They were running the ball in the first half hard right up the middle,” Gaddor said. “First we had to stop that, and then, we have great coverage on the corners, and it was just making sure we played earholes-eye-ball and got rid of that passing game.”
Gaddor finished 9-of-17 for 167 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Garnica totaled three catches for 73 yards, and Petro had three for 29. Troy Welch powered the ground game with 87 yards on 24 carries. He had 58 of those yards in the second half.
Saranac Lake’s Lance Ackerson ran for 90 yards in the first half and scored from the 15 on the game’s opening drive. But he was injured and didn’t play after halftime.
“That was huge,” Saranac Lake coach Eric Bennett said. “He was pounding the ball in the first half; he was getting great yards. And he really shores up the perimeter on our defense.”
The Red Storm were also missing Derek Thurber and Ty Marmion, and Bennett said they’re “iffy” for next week.
Gaddor said Moriah’s passing game just needed some time to warm up. After starting 0-for-4, he found C.J. Raymond for a 23-yard touchdown early in the second quarter that tied the game at 6-6.
Saranac Lake got back in front 44.5 seconds before halftime on a 37-yard touchdown reception by Dan Strack, who had four catches for 70 yards on the night. The Red Storm recovered an onside kick and heaved two balls into the end zone, but they both fell incomplete. Gunther led Saranac Lake with 91 receiving yards on 10 catches to go along with 67 rushing yards. Tristan Fitzgerald completed 14-of-26 passes for 155 yards. He was picked off once. Trent Fitzgerald ran in a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Saranac Lake has lost its last two games, but Bennett said he’s not concerned about going into the playoffs on a losing streak.
*No one ever likes losing, but I was really proud of our kids’ effort (Friday),” Bennett said. “They fought. And I think if they play with that tenacity and energy next week, anything’s possible.
“And we’re just excited about having the opportunity to play for a championship, so that’s what we’re focused on. We’re 0-0 right now.”
Moriah 27, Saranac Lake 24
Saranac Lake 6 6 6 6 — 24
Moriah 0 6 7 14 — 27
SL- Ackerson 15 run (kick missed), 3:10.
Mor- Raymond 23 pass from Gaddor (kick missed), 3:45.
SL- Strack 37 pass from Tri. Fitzgerald (pass failed), 11:15.
SL- Tre. Fitzgerald 1 run (pass failed), 4:27.
Mor- Garnica 29 pass from Gaddor (MacDougal kick), 5:16.
Mor- Petro 8 pass from Gaddor (Garnica pass from Gaddor), 3:29.
SL- Gunther 53 run (kick missed), 3:48.
Mor- Garnica 23 pass from Gaddor (kick missed), 7:30.
SL- Ackerson 19-90, TD; Gunther 5-67, TD; Tri. Fitzgerald 8-40; Tre. Fitzgerald 8-6, TD; Martin 1-(-7). Totals: 41-196, 3 TD.
Mor- Welch 24-87; Raymond 2-15; Graham 2-5; Gaddor 1-4. Totals: 29-111.
SL- Tri. Fitzgerald 14-26-1-155, TD. Tre. Fitzgerald 1-2-0-8. Totals: 15-28-1-163, TD.
Mor- Gaddor 9-17-1-167, 4 TD.
SL- Gunterh 10-91; Strack 4-70, TD; Ackerson 1-2.
Mor- Garnica 3-73, 2 TD; Petro 3-29, TD; Pratt 2-42; Raymond 1-23, TD.
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