By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — CLINTONVILLE — The AuSable Valley Patriots put up three touchdowns against Moriah in Friday’s first half and took a lead into halftime for the first time this season.
In the second half, the Vikings held AuSable Valley off the scoreboard and turned a couple of its drives into points for themselves.
The Moriah defense came up with two safeties and a fumble recovery after halftime to help secure a 32-21 win in Champlain Valley Athletic Conference football.
“We didn’t make adjustments; we just told them, ‘You have to step up defensively,’” Moriah coach Don Tesar said. “We put our same personnel out there in the same spots, and this time they reacted to it and played much better. They attacked more than what they did in the first half.
“(The Patriots) were able to run plays off, they got us reeling (in the firs half). They played an exceptional first half against us.”
The Vikings (3-3) cut their deficit to 21-18 just over two minutes into the third quarter, when a snap sailed over AuSable Valley quarterback Kodie Simpson’s head and he was tackled in his own end zone after recovering it.
Moriah then put together a 65-yard drive that ended with Cameron Wright running the ball in from 8 yards out to put his team ahead, 24-21.
Late in the third, Simpson had to chase down another wayward snap, and the Vikings caught him in the end zone again. Tesar said after scouting AuSable Valley last week, he told his defense to be aware of erratic snaps when the Patriots were in the shotgun.
AuSable Valley coach Heith Ford attributed the misfires to a wrist injury that his center is playing through.
After Moriah’s Richie Stockwell recovered a fumble in the fourth, Wright put the game away with a 3-yard score — his third touchdown of the night.
The junior tailback leads the conference in rushing, and he boosted his stats Friday with 244 yards on 32 carries.
“He gets a lot of yards after contact,” Tesar said. “It may look like he’s getting stopped in the backfield for nothing, and he’s fighting and next thing you know he’s got eight yards for you. So he’s been tough like that all year.”
AuSable Valley (0-6) took it 95 yards on 11 plays to score the first touchdown of a back-and-forth first half. Dillon Savage ran it in from the 41-yard line with 1:44 left in the first quarter.
Moriah pulled ahead early on the second when Cole Gaddor heaved a 22-yard pass to Jessup Calkins in the corner of the end zone. Rainier Garnica caught the conversion pass to make it 8-7.
Just 1:17 later, Savage rushed 29 yards for his second score of the game, putting the Patriots back in front.
Wright answered with a 44-yard scoring run in the middle of the quarter, and the Vikings took a 16-13 lead.
The Patriots had fourth down on the Vikings’ 22 when Simpson appeared to get caught by a pack of tacklers. But Simpson escaped trouble and ran around the outside for a score with 2:14 left. AuSable Valley took a 21-16 advantage into halftime.
Savage finished with 155 yards on 17 attempts, while Simpson completed 5-of-11 passes for 75 yards.
“That was the closest thing to a win that a loss can be,” Ford said. “I mean, the boys played their hearts out right to the end. And it’s nice to see the progression.
“It would be great if they had the wins that went along with the progression, but we’ve definitely seen an improvement in every single game. And this by far is the best game this team has played as a group.”
Moriah 32, AuSable Valley 21
Moriah 0 16 10 6 — 32
AuSable Valley 7 14 0 0 — 21
AV- Savage 41 run (Owen kick), 10:16.
Mor- Calkins 22 pass from Gaddor (Garnica pass from Gaddor), 0:07.
AV- Savage 29 run (kick missed), 1:24.
Mor- Wright 44 run (Calkins pass from Gaddor), 5:09.
AV- Simpson 22 run (Simpson run), 9:46.
Mor- Safety, 2:04.
Mor- Wright 8 run (run failed), 6:36.
Mor- Safety, 11:06.
Mor- Wright 3 run (pass failed), 9:59.
Mor-Wright 32-244, 3 TD; Whalen 1-1; Nadeau 3-0; Gaddor 5-(-4). Totals: 40-341, 3 TD
AV- Savage 17-155, 2 TD; Owen 4-16; Thompson 1-(-6); Simpson 10-(-17), TD. Totals: 32-148, 3 TD.
Mor- Gaddor 3-5-0-39, TD.
AV- Simpson 5-11-0-75.
Mor- Whalen 3-17; Calkins 1-22, TD.
AV- Cobb 2-14; Perkett 1-36; Sikandar 1-18; Friedrich 1-7.
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