SARANAC — The Moriah Vikings were not to be denied.
In one of the most exciting Champlain Valley Athletic Conference football games of the season, the Vikings rallied from behind and pulled out a 28-22 victory over the Saranac Chiefs Saturday afternoon.
Moriah spoiled the Chiefs’ homecoming festivities when senior signal caller Cole Gaddor hit wideout Rainier Garnica on a 47-yard scoring strike with just 50 seconds remaining as the game appeared to be heading toward overtime.
“Both teams played a hard-fought game,” Moriah coach Don Tesar said. “Saranac played a great game defensively.”
Tesar singled out defenders Paul Herrera, Zachary Daniels and Michael Charland in his praise of the Chiefs’ defense.
Both teams started tentatively by trading possessions early in the first quarter with running backs C.J Raymond of Moriah and John Maye of Saranac handling most of the early load.
Maye was a key contributor in the Chiefs’ first score, but the senior running back used his arm rather than his legs when he threw a 37-yard strike to Lance Hackett after receiving a lateral from quarterback Ethan Goslin.
Goslin dented the goal line on a 1-yard plunge three plays later, and Maye tacked on the two-point conversion.
“John’s a big kid,” Saranac coach Mark Burrell said of Maye’s 220-yard rushing effort on the day. “We put a lot of weight on his shoulder. He played an extremely tough game.”
The Chiefs upped their lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter when Goslin hit Tanner Rascoe on a 28-yard scoring strike. Goslin fielded a poor snap from center, scrambled in the backfield and hit a wide-open Rascoe in the end zone.
“We had to make some quick adjustments in the second quarter,” Tesar said. “Their line was doing a good job opening holes, and we had to find a way to take away their running gaps.”
Tesar plugged an extra lineman on Moriah’s defense and also made a few personnel adjustments to quicken the defensive perimeter.
The Vikings used a balanced attack to score their first touchdown two minutes after Saranac had taken the two-touchdown lead, capping a 67-yard drive with 38-yard strike from Gaddor to Tyler Pratt and a two-point strike from Gaddor to Garnica.
Saranac regained its two-touchdown edge in less than two minutes when Maye scampered 39 yards for the score, but the Vikings struck back on a 1-yard plunge by Raymond in another under-two-minute drive.
Moriah held possession throughout most of the second half and tied the game near the end of the third quarter when Raymond scored on a 5-yard run.
Battling cramps throughout the second half, Raymond would leave the game following the score. He tried to return during the Vikings’ next possession but could not continue.
The heat and hard-hitting contest also limited Maye’s actions in the final minutes as both teams appeared visibly exhausted.
“The heat took a toll on us,” Tesar said. “But I told the boys we had to suck it up; (the Chiefs) were playing in the same heat.”
The Vikings’ defense forced three turnovers in the final half to control much of the play. The offense pushed deep into Saranac territory twice in the fourth quarter but was foiled each time by penalties, setting up Garnica’s winning score at the 11:50 mark.
“It’s a tough loss,” Burrell said. “Our kids played hard; both teams played hard.”
Burrell said he was pleased with his team’s effort and took the blame for what he called bad play-calling at the end of the first half and in the second half.
“You can take positives from any game,” he said. “We’ll look at the game tapes and make the adjustments we need.”
Moriah visits archrival Ticonderoga next week, while Saranac heads to Plattsburgh for a tilt against the Hornets.
Moriah 28, Saranac 22
Moriah 0 14 8 6 — 28
Saranac 8 14 0 0 — 22
Sar- Goslin 1 run (Maye run), 9:10.
Sar- Rascoe 28 pass from Goslin (run failed), 1:24.
Mor- Pratt 38 pass from Gaddor (Garnica pass from Gaddor), 3:04.
Sar- Maye 39 run (Christopherson pass from Goslin), 4:50.
Mor- Raymond 1 run (pass failed), 6:15.
Mor- Raymond 5 run (Garnica pass from Gaddor), 8:54.
Mor- Garnica 47 pass from Gaddor (pass failed), 11:10.
Mor- Raymond 23-88, 2 TD; Pratt 2-11; Graham 1-14; Gaddor 3-18; Welch 7-37; Stockwell 5-19. Totals 41-187, 2 TD.
Sar- Maye 29-220, TD; Goslin 4-19, TD; Church 2-2; Rascoe, 2 (-2). Totals: 26-239, 2 TD.
Mor- Gaddor, 9-20-0-179, 2 TD.
Sar- Goslin, 1-9-2-28, 1 TD. Raymond 1-1-0-37. Totals: 2-10-2-65.
Mor- Pratt 3-65, TD; Garnica 5-104, TD; Petro 1-10.
Sar- Hackett 1-37; Rascoe 1-28, TD.
Mor- Kneussle, Durgan.