RICKY ST. CLAIR
CLINTONVILLE — The No. 20 Moriah football team faced frigid temperatures in its NYSPHSAA Class D regional semifinal against Tupper Lake Friday.
But its quarterback, Cole Gaddor, was just heating up.
The senior signal-caller threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings (6-4) advanced in state play with a 29-14 win.
Tyler Pratt finished with six catches for 152 yards and an end zone appearance, while fellow senior Rainier Garnica added two receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
“It just starts with the offensive line,” Gaddor said. “We’ve got great blocking up front. If you give us four seconds, these wide receivers get open. All I have to do is hit them.”
After three first-half touchdowns and a field goal, the Vikings’ defense stood tall, surrendering just one score and 96 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes.
The Lumberjacks (4-6) were also forced to punt the ball on six occasions.
“You know, defense is something we’ve been struggling with all season long until these past two games,” Pratt said. “We really stepped up in practice, and we really stepped it up on the field when we needed to.”
In the third stanza, Garnica hauled in the second of his two touchdown catches on a 51-yard strike with 5:20 showing on the scoreboard at AuSable Valley.
Maintaining a 29-6 lead, Moriah owned time of possession by feeding the ball to nine different players on the ground.
The Vikings took eight minutes and 52 seconds off the clock on 16 plays in the fourth quarter alone.
Moriah coach Don Tesar said ball control was a point of emphasis during the week of practice.
“They had a nice drive where they used up a lot of clock at the end of the third quarter,” Tesar said. “Then, when they gave it up on downs, we were able to move it out all on the ground, which ate up a lot of clock. That’s a big thing when you’ve got the lead.”
Troy Welch, a junior, paced the Vikings with 85 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Tupper Lake quarterback Morgan Stevens, who amassed the 1,000-yard mark in Section X, completed 12-of-24 pass attempts for 115 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Teammate Mitch Keniston carried the ball 15 times for 103 yards and one score. Keniston, a senior, finished with 137 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
With the win, Moriah advances to the NYSPHSAA Class D regional finals where it will face either No. 5 Cambridge or No. 6 Rensselaer at AuSable Valley.
The two foes will meet in the Section II Class D Super Bowl at Schuylerville High School for 1 p.m. today.
Cambridge defeated Rensselaer on the road in Week 6, 46-27.
“They’re probably two evenly-matched teams,” Tesar said. “That’s going to be a good battle. We’ll have to take whichever one comes out.
“(This) was a goal where the kids wanted to be. They just succeeded at it. Now, they just want to move on.”
Moriah 29, Tupper Lake 14
Tupper Lake 0 6 0 8 — 14
Moriah 7 15 7 0 — 29
M- Garnica 29 pass from Gaddor (MacDougal kick), 5:05.
TL- Keniston 1 run (run failed), 4:47.
M- Pratt 53 pass from Gaddor (kick failed), 5:13.
M- Stockwell 22 interception return (pass failed), 9:11.
M- MacDougal 26 field goal, 11:27.
M- Garnica 51 pass from Gaddor (MacDougal kick), 6:40.
TL- Keniston 3 pass from Stevens (LaPierre from Stevens), 9:59.
TL- Keniston 15-103, TD; Roussel 11-31; LaVassaur 4-21; Stevens 3-(-18). Totals: 33-137, TD.
M- Welch 18-85; Raymond 4-22; Allen 3-13; Nadeau 4-11; Harris 2-3; Stockwell 2-3; Graham 1-0; Gaddor 3-(-5); VanBuren 1-(-5). Totals: 38-127.
TL- Stevens 12-24-1-115, TD.
M- Gaddor 8-18-1-232, 3TD.
TL- Larson 6-47; Keniston 3-32, TD; Delair 1-28; LaVassaur 1-13; LaPierre 1-(-5).
M- Pratt 6-152, TD; Garnica 2-80, 2TD.