The No. 5 Moriah football team prides itself on being physical.
It will have to be just that when it faces No. 3 Chester of Section IX in the NYSPHSAA Class D semifinals at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 4 p.m. today.
The Hambletonians (9-1) have three running backs who have combined for 2,389 yards and 41 touchdowns, and the average offensive lineman weighs 246 pounds.
The team’s left guard, Daniel Wittekind, is 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds.
“Being aggressive at the point of attack is going to be a big key for our offensive and defensive line,” Vikings coach Don Tesar said. “We have to be able to penetrate their offensive line. But we’ve seen those big guys before against Beekmantown and Peru. In fact, we’ve seen some bigger kids. We just have to execute and be able to take charge. They’re a power running team like us.”
Chester reached the state semifinals with a 26-21 defeat of Tuckahoe at Mahopac High School on Saturday. The Hambletonians had previously been 0-6 versus the Tigers in state play.
Chester is currently riding a nine-game winning streak. It lost its first game of the season 33-28 to James I. O’Neil, the 2011 and 2012 Section IX Class C champions.
The Hambletonians have a balanced running attack, operating out of multiple double-tight-end sets.
Senior Lawrence Young leads the way. Young has totaled 1,105 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Fellow senior Matt Perry has 753 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Mike Volkmer, who presents an element of power running, adds 531 yards and 11 touchdowns. Volkmer racked up 145 yards and two touchdowns in the five-point win over Tuckahoe. Young caught a touchdown pass and rushed for another.
“With Cambridge last week, it was a little different because they had each of their 1,000-yard rushers back there at the same time,” Tesar said. “With Chester, (Young) is often times a threat in wide-spread sets. If there are multiple tight ends, they look to (Volkmer) to pound it. They have a big line that comes right at you. They have the size advantage.”
Moriah sent shockwaves across the state when it knocked off previously undefeated Cambridge of Section II 34-32 at AuSable Valley one week ago.
The Vikings (7-4) surrendered 461 yards of offense, but the Indians converted on just 2-of-5 red-zone opportunities and had four two-point conversions fail.
Moriah is 5-1 in its last six games; the lone setback was to Class B Peru in a 49-42 shootout loss at the Apple Bowl.
“We didn’t have people in all the right spots to open the season,” Tesar said. “It took some time for our players to jell. We could easily be 10-1 ourselves. In every game but one, we’ve had a lead entering the fourth quarter.”
The Vikings are led on offense by senior signal-caller Cole Gaddor. Earlier this fall, Gaddor became the fourth quarterback in program history to amass the 1,000-yard mark in a single-season.
Gaddor is 81-for-159 with 1,516 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Gaddor’s primary targets are Tyler Pratt (29-665-5 TD), Rainier Garnica (25-451-8 TD) and Billy Petro (17-206-1 TD).
Troy Welch, a junior who emerged in the backfield in Week 5, leads the ground game with 945 yards and 11 touchdowns. Welch, however, sustained an injury in the second quarter of last week’s game.
Senior C.J. Raymond picked up the slack, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
“Troy hasn’t practiced all week,” Tesar said. “We kept him out, and he’s kind of day-to-day. It’s a shoulder injury. He could probably get in there for a play or two but won’t get the pounding he’s been getting. It’s up to Troy and will be a game-time decision.”
In a sense, Dietz Stadium and the city of Kingston has been a home away from home for Moriah. Today will mark the fifth time the Vikings have made a voyage to Dietz Stadium.
The program is 3-1 at Dietz, including a 1992 defeat of Delaware Valley before the state expanded its tournament. Moriah also reached the state semifinals in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“The younger kids have seen some of those teams get (to Kingston) since 2008 and that’s a goal for them to get there,” Tesar said. “It’s not an easy task. Once you leave the section, it’s quality football at the end of the year. It’s one game and done.
“We just know we’ve put together a good game plan. Now we have to execute. It’s going to be a smashmouth game. The team that blocks and tackles well will win.”
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