RICKY ST. CLAIR
MORIAH — For Don Tesar and Moriah, playing football during the second weekend of November is anything but foreign.
The Vikings (5-5) travel to Schuylerville High School for a 1 p.m. contest against Section II champion Rensselaer for their fourth NYSPHSAA quarterfinal trip in five years.
Today’s matchup will be the seventh all-time meeting between the two teams. Moriah defeated the Rams (9-1) in 1991 and 1992, but Rensselaer was victorious in 1994 and 1995. Moriah won in 2008 and 2009 en route to appearances in the state championship.
“There’s certainly no intimidation because of our familiarity with their program,” Tesar said. “Joel Preston’s father was the coach there before he took over. Things are not too different.”
Tesar’s squad is coming off consecutive victories over Ticonderoga in the Section VII championship and a narrow 12-7 defeat of Tupper Lake last Nov. 2 in the regional semifinals.
The Vikings are led by running back Cameron Wright. The junior bruiser has carried a majority of the workload, rushing for 1,312 yards and 12 touchdowns on 312 carries, good for 78 percent of the total offensive output.
Despite a run-oriented offense, quarterback Cole Gaddor can throw the ball on third-and-short situations or out of the shotgun formation. The senior has accumulated 368 yards and five touchdowns on the year.
The Rams were ranked No. 5 in the latest NYSSWA poll. The perennial Section II power have a balanced attack.
Seth Butler, a physical 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound presence in the backfield has run for nearly 900 yards on the season to go along with 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Steven Harwood has thrown for 958 yards and 16 touchdowns, while primary target Tyler Oliver recorded 462 of those yards and five scores.
“They can spread it out and run it right at you at the same time,” Tesar said. “(Rensselaer) runs a Saranac Lake-type offense. They’re able to throw short, quick passes.”
In the first 23:45 of last week’s Section II championship game, the Rams managed to score just one touchdown, but broke loose for five touchdowns in the next 20 minutes to post a 42-22 victory over Salem — their ninth sectional championship.
Tesar understands how opportunistic Rensselaer can be. The Rams blocked a punt, good for a touchdown one week ago.
“It’s very important to get off to a good start,” Tesar said. “We like to control the control the tempo on the ground. If we can play keep away and get good stops on defense, we’ll be OK.”
Wright has carried the ball 75 times in the last two games, helping Moriah to an advantage in possession time.
“We’ll try to pound the ball on the ground and throw if we have to,” Tesar said. “If we can manage to get four to five yards a clip, we’ll control the ball and get more snaps.
“These are two evenly matched teams. They have the advantage in passing and it’s expected to be a good game.”
Points 345 (34.5)
Points Allowed (G) 147 (14.7)
Rushing Yards (G) 2,139 (213.9)
Passing Yards (G) 1,353 (135.3)
Rushing Leader Seth Butler 114-884-14TD
Passing Leader Steven Harwood 46-94-3-958-16TD
Receiving Leader Tyler Oliver 21-462-5TD