I-L/MA senior Brandon Krueger makes a tackle on Nate Wright of Stevens during the Lakers’ 14-13 loss during Homecoming on Sept. 29. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 01, 2012MEREDITH – After back-to-back frustrating weeks on the road, the Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough football team found itself right in the thick of things down the stretch on Sept. 29.
But after scoring a touchdown with just 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lakers missed the potential game-winning two-point conversion in a 14-13 loss to undefeated Stevens in Division V action on Homecoming at Burrows Memorial Field.
"This is what we've been waiting for," said I-L/MA head coach Jon Francis. "Obviously we've been working to win some games but if we come out and play like we did today, we're definitely going to win some games down the road."
Trailing 14-7, I-L/MA (0-4) took advantage of a David Donovan interception with 3:18 left in the fourth quarter to get one final crack at the end zone. Starting on their own 15 yard line, the Lakers engineered an outstanding drive in crunch time behind quarterback Mitch Jurius. The senior QB completed passes to Andrew Torressen, John Fownes, Brandon Krueger and Willie True on the 12-play march down the field, converting a pair of third downs and a fourth down along the way.
True's seven-yard reception to the Stevens 35 yard line also had a 15-yard facemask penalty tacked on, setting up a first and 10 from the 20 with just 28 seconds left. Jurius made one of his best throws of the day on the next play, as he rolled right and found Krueger for a 20-yard TD toss to cut the deficit to 14-13 with 16 seconds remaining.
"Football all comes down to one call sometimes," Francis said. "We're 0-3 trying to make something happen. At that point, I just felt it was time to go for two and see if we could get it. If you get it, you're the hero. If you don't get it, everyone wonders why you didn't kick (the extra point)."
After calling a timeout to set up a play, the Lakers went for what likely would've been the game-winning conversion. Jurius rolled right on a QB waggle, but his short toss intended for Krueger was batted down by Stevens' Logan Batchelder. The Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside kick to secure the victory.
"We knew we were having a tough time running on them so if we were going to get anywhere with (the conversion), we'd have to give Mitch the option of running it himself," explained Francis. "It just didn't go our way."
Stevens coach Paul Silva wasn't surprised the Lakers tried to pull off the victory in that situation.
"I would've done it. You've got nothing to lose," Silva said. "We had some pressure from the backside but I didn't think we were going to get there in time. Logan made a heck of a play to knock that down."
The Cardinals (4-0) got the scoring started in the first quarter, as the visitors shook off the loss of top skill position player Billy Brooks, who injured his shoulder on the opening kickoff and didn't return. Nate Wright scored for Stevens on a three-yard TD run with 3:10 left to put his team up 7-0.
"We lost Billy for the opening kickoff and there goes our game plan," Silva said. "Everything we'd been doing was based on either going to him or off the coverage that would be rolled to his side."
It would stay a 7-0 game until the third quarter, as a 19-yard touchdown pass from Batchelder to Austin Tenney doubled the advantage to 14-0 with 4:48 remaining.
But the Lakers didn't go away, and they finally got on the board with 9:01 to play in the fourth quarter. Jurius connected with Torressen for a 52-yard touchdown pass, and Krueger's extra point made it 14-7.
The rest of the fourth quarter saw neither team able to take control. I-L/MA's Cody Lee recovered a Stevens fumble with 7:13 left but the Lakers went three and out, forcing a punt. The Lakers forced a punt on the Cardinals' possession, but a fumbled return on the punt handed the ball right back. Donovan's INT was the turnover that finally stuck, allowing the last minute drive that resulted in the TD.
"I'm really proud of the boys today," said Francis. "They showed a different side today than they've been showing the last couple of weeks. Division V is a tough adjustment for us but once we find our groove, good things are going to happen. I think today we found our groove and the score reflects that."
Silva was impressed with what he saw from the Lakers. While the Cardinals stand alone atop D-V as the lone undefeated squad remaining, Silva knew it wasn't going to be an easy trip to Meredith.
"You can't look at a record on a piece of paper and make an assumption that you're better than that team because they're 0-3," the Steven coach said. "I've seen them on tape, seen them in person. They're big and physical and they have nothing to lose. They're going to come right at you. They played the way I expected them to play. I know they're better than that record.
"Give them credit because that's a good looking football team," he continued. "They're going to win some games before the season is over. It's a big jump when you go up divisions. But they did a great job, they never quit today and that's how you start building a program back up."
The Lakers stay in Meredith this Saturday, as they host Sanborn Regional (2-3) on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. (NOTE: This game time was originally 12 p.m., but was changed to 3 p.m.)