PORT HENRY — Can they do it?
Time will tell.
The Moriah football team is headed to Syracuse to settle some unfinished business.
In a rematch of last season’s NYSPHSAA Class D championship, the Vikings (8-3) will have a chance for redemption when they play Section VI’s Clymer/Sherman/Panama (10-1) at noon today at the Carrier Dome.
The Wolfpack topped Moriah, 26-6, in last year’s state championship.
The Vikings trailed by just seven points in the fourth quarter in that game before Clymer/Sherman/Panama broke it open.
“The experience of last year is only going to help us this year,” Moriah coach Don Tesar said. “The fact that it’s the same opponent helps as well.
“A lot of the kids know what to expect and know what we have to do when we get out there. You just hope your seniors that have been there and the other kids that have been there lead the way in everything we do leading up to the game and when we play the game.”
The Wolfpack reached today’s title game thanks to a 28-27 win against Section IV’s Tioga in the semifinal round, while the Vikings poured it on against Section I’s Tuckahoe and picked up a 46-12 victory.
Clymer/Sherman/Panama has a couple of familiar names back, and senior quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale leads the Wolfpack’s returning group.
Hinsdale completed 14 of 26 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s championship.
“Their quarterback pretty much won the game for them last year against us,” Tesar said. “He is very good. We did not get pressure to him and let him sit back there. He threw some great passes.”
Clymer/Sherman/Panama registered 35 rushing attempts for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Moriah a season ago, but Zavon Overton, who had two rushes for five yards in the game, is the only returner who was a part of last year’s Wolfpack rushing attack.
However, Overton did catch six passes for 100 yards, while Cameron Barmore, who is also back for Clymer/Sherman/Panama, piled up 58 receiving yards and a touchdown on two snags.
“(Overton) and (Barmore) had plenty of big catches against us last year,” Tesar said. “(Overton) is a big receiver and a big target. (Barmore) is very athletic. He is a short, quick kid and is a tough matchup for us because of his speed.”
Hinsdale averages 17.1 yards per pass and has completed 103 of 197 passes for 1,764 yards and 26 touchdowns this season.
The Wolfpack’s Connor Cooper has a team-high 745 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Barmore (787, 12 TD) and Overton (386, 5 TD) have combined for 1,173 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches.
“They have a lot of weapons on offense,” Tesar said. “Defensively, they had a very good defensive line and some linebackers who graduated. They lost some big parts to that defensive side.
“Their running game and passing attack is legit. They can definitely move the ball. Our best thing to do is do what we did against Tuckahoe. We have to put drives together and make sure to score and capitalize on our drives.
“To be successful, we have to run the ball well against them, and it seems teams have been able to do that a bit better against them this year than in past years.”
The Vikings had plenty of success on the ground last weekend against the Tigers.
Moriah rushed for 413 yards as a team, propelled by Maddox Blaise’s 305 yards and five touchdowns.
Blaise broke the Section VII single season rushing record in the game, surpassing Beekmantown’s Justin Steven’s 2014 record of 1,963.
Blaise sits at 2,125 rushing yards and leads a Vikings’ offense that has been clicking on all cylinders.
Moriah’s defense has also excelled lately.
Since a Week 5 loss to Saranac Lake, the Vikings have outscored their opponents, 202-75.
Braden Swan is now up to 500 rushing yards and 447 receiving yards and leads Moriah in total points scored with 146.
Swan is a weapon in the passing and running attack, and he has also scored 16 times on two-point conversion attempts, which could prove to be important against Clymer/Sherman/Panama.
Quarterback Mason Spring anchors the Vikings’ passing game, which has been very quiet of late due to Moriah being able to run at will against opponents.
The Vikings have passed the ball just 13 times in their past three games.
Regardless of what Moriah looks to do on offense or defense, one thing is certain.
The Vikings are confident and ready for another shot at their first football championship in program history.
“We knew it right from the start that we had a shot to get back here,” Tesar said. “My big question mark was how effectively we could move the ball. When I saw how we could move the ball on the ground, I thought we could contend.
“When we were 2-3, these kids still came in and worked hard. This has been the goal of the kids all year.
“They wanted to get another chance at what they could not accomplish last year.”
Email Joey LaFranca: