SARANAC — Saranac is looking to fill some legendary cleats after graduating 11 players from its sectional championship team that won a school-record seven games.
The Chiefs lost some major contributors, including conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year Luke Maye and Jacob Nolan, who set Section VII records in single season and career receiving.
“Luke was huge for us last year, especially in the quarterback spot,” Saranac coach Dylan Everleth said. “He was kind of running the show on offense, and it was nice to have a three-year varsity veteran to be doing that.”
Maye finished with team-highs in both rushing (364) and passing (1,779), and he threw for 20 touchdowns.
Nolan hauled in 57 passes for 1,057 yards and 11 scores.
“Jacob Nolan as well,” Everleth said. “He was our leading receiver on offense as well as our leading tackler on defense, and anytime you lose a kid like that, it’s hard to find someone to fill in both sides of the ball.”
All 13 of the Chiefs’ juniors from last year have returned for their senior seasons.
Saranac is also welcoming six juniors and two sophomores to its veteran group.
One who shows promise is junior Conner Burns, who will take on the role of quarterback.
“Right now, Conner Burns has been our quarterback, and he’s doing a great job stepping in as a junior and being a leader,” Everleth said. “He’s starting to step into that role pretty well.”
Two returners who could serve as impact players are Connor Recore and Bryce Smith.
Recore and Smith finished third and fourth in team receiving, respectively.
“Connor has been huge for us,” Everleth said. “He did a great job at the tight end spot last year, and he’s definitely going to have to take over more of those targets that Jake got last year. It’s going to be Connor’s opportunity to step up and be able to take some of the spotlight on offense.
“(Smith) was a little bit in the shadows last year offensively and was huge for us on defense. He’s kinda stepped into that two-way role as well.”
The Chiefs’ offensive line will be returning Colin LaMora, a junior who was promoted from JV midway through the 2018 season, and Connor Kiroy and Casey Breyette, two seniors who have taken on leadership positions.
“I think our offense has done pretty well this year in the preseason and in our scrimmage, and we’ve been able to show that we can put some points on the board.” Everleth said. “A lot of the underclassmen have really been stepping up on the line and fighting for different spots and are doing a great job trying to pick up a different type of offense.”
Saranac’s defense has holes to fill with the loss of Nick and Andy LeBeau, but the team’s performance in preseason has impressed its coach.
“They’re well conditioned, and I think they’re just going to be that same force of nature that they were last year that did a great job at stopping the run and really sparking us on defense,” Everleth said. “I think our biggest strength this year is our defense, so I think we’re gonna be pretty well balanced on both sides.”
The Chiefs’ practices have focused on what can be done to be successful rather than what has been done.
Everleth mentioned that while it’s nice to look at previous accomplishments, Saranac is focused on its next goal — bringing home another sectional title.
“One thing I’ll give credit to is we don’t talk about last year,” Everleth said. “It’s a new season, a whole new group of kids, and they’re working really hard. This is the year that’s important for us, and we just wanna look toward the future.”
Everleth’s top concern, however, is the Chiefs’ consistency.
“Consistency has got to be the most important thing with any football team. Just being able to play a full game, limit our mistakes and gradually get better throughout the whole season,” Everleth said. “We want to peak at the end of the year.”
Saranac starts its season at home game against Class D state runner-up Moriah at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I think we have a talented league, and I think we have a very competitive league,” Everleth said. “We’re just going to focus on each team each week, and hopefully, we can show up and play and be successful this year.”
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