TROY — Its toughness has defined Stillwater football throughout its 2019 season.
So it was fitting on the night that saw the gritty Warriors claim the biggest win in their program’s history that senior Luc Lescault started the scoring with a short touchdown rush, a powerful burst that took into the end zone a player competing despite a right knee that needs surgery once Stillwater’s dream season finally concludes.
“He’s not 100%,” Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey said, “but he’s the gutsiest kid on this team.”
Lescault’s score came early in the second quarter of Friday’s Section II Class C Super Bowl, which saw Stillwater capture its first sectional championship with a 21-0 win against Cambridge/Salem at Lansingburgh High School. Senior Mason Seymour scored Stillwater’s final two touchdowns, and the Warriors’ defense made one big play after another in a shutout win against a program that had won area championships in each of the last three seasons.
“We knew it was going to be cold, and we knew [Cambridge/Salem was] going to be a fantastic team,” said Stillwater senior quarterback James Galarneau, who rushed for 113 yards on 21 attempts. “So we knew we had to come and play.”
It wasn’t that long ago that undefeated Stillwater didn’t know if Lescault would be able to make it back into its lineup. The 5-foot-6, 170-pound running back/linebacker suffered his injury in Week 3 when a rushing attempt for him ended with his right knee’s MCL and meniscus both torn.
For good measure, he dislocated his kneecap, too.
Weeks of physical therapy followed, as he delayed surgery so he could try to get back on the field with his teammates.
“I’m OK. I’ll deal with that later,” Lescault said of his damaged knee. “It’s my senior year, and I’m playing with all my best friends. I just tried to get back as fast as I could.”
Lescault made it back for Week 7. He started out only playing defense, but worked his way back to playing both sides of the ball. In Stillwater’s first-ever Super Bowl win, he turned four carries into 47 yards and a touchdown, plus made several tackles in the Cambridge/Salem backfield.
“He’s the most underrated player in this whole entire section,” said Seymour, who rushed for 150 yards on 19 carries. “I think he is a phenomenal ball player. He has been since we were 8 years old. The kid is quiet and he’s the most humble kid I’ve ever met, but he’s my best friend and we would not be the team we are without him. . . . He changes the whole entire dynamic offensively, [and] defensively he is all over the place. He’s, hands down, one of the best players on our team — and this is not possible without him.”
Stillwater (No. 1, 10-0) and Cambridge/Salem (No. 2, 8-2) played a scoreless first quarter before Lescault’s 3-yard touchdown run.
“Just had to try to fight to get in there with my O-line,” Lescault said. “It’s the best O-line in the state.”
After that score, Cambridge/Salem appeared ready to tie it up, but senior Kaedin Ogilvie fumbled as he neared the end zone, and Stillwater junior Hayden Brown and sophomore Caleb Dyer combined to send the ball out of the end zone for a touchback that gave possession to the Warriors.
On the ensuing possession, Seymour went 69 yards for a touchdown and Stillwater was on its way to its championship. On five separate possessions in Friday’s game, Cambridge/Salem made it into the red zone, but each time Stillwater found a way to keep the 0 on the scoreboard.
“I’m not going to lie, we just — we’ve got grit. We’re resilient,” Seymour said. “We have been all season, and it just showed when they got in the red zone.”
“Our kids,” Godfrey said, “they just absolutely answered the bell.”
Following a scoreless third quarter, Seymour scored on a 9-yard run early in the fourth. He added an interception later, too, as the Warriors won their championship on the same field they lost the 2017 title game to Holy Trinity.
Stillwater senior Brian McNeil — a star two-way player who plays left tackle and middle linebacker — said memories of that 2017 game made their way into his head as the final seconds ticked away Friday night with the Stillwater fan section cheering.
“I just remembered being here and watching Holy Trinity run across the field, pumping their crowd up, and just feeling that disappointment on our sideline and with our fans,” McNeil said. “To come out on top this time, it’s the greatest feeling in the world to be able to look over at our fan section jumping up and down.”
“There’s nothing better than getting this one for the community,” Galarneau said.
With the victory, Stillwater advanced into the state tournament. It will play a quarterfinal in Week 11 at Schuylerville against Section VII’s Saranac Lake or Section X’s Gouverneur, but a date and time for that game has not yet been determined.
Ogilvie led Cambridge/Salem with 136 rushing yards on 17 attempts, as Cambridge/Salem outgained Stillwater 385-339 in total offensive yards. Stillwater, though, received timely big plays from defenders such as Lescault, senior Justyn Kovalsky and junior Rhett Mercier.
“For our kids to buckle down and get the stops they needed, it speaks volumes to the kids they are,” said Godfrey, Stillwater’s fourth-year head coach. “They wanted it so much and they were willing to roll with the punches.”
Lescault said the Warriors will be ready to get back to work next week. There’s a state championship to pursue, and Lescault — moving with a slight limp after Friday’s game, his right knee wrapped in ice — said the Warriors aren’t satisfied with what they’ve accomplished.
“This is obviously really big for us,” Lescault said, “but, come Monday, we’ve got to get back on the field.”
Cambridge 0 0 0 0 — 0
Stillwater 0 14 0 7 — 21
S — Lescault 3 run (Cutler kick)
S — Seymour 69 run (Cutler kick)
S — Seymour 9 run (Cutler kick)