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Bartlett jumped to a 3-touchdown lead in the first half against Lake Park and its defense stepped up repeatedly to deny the oncoming Lancers in the second half of a 21-13 Upstate Eight Valley victory at Millennium Field Saturday.
Bartlett (4-2, 2-1) bolted to a 21-0 lead via 3 first-half touchdown runs by senior tailback Aaron Everson. He rushed for 251 yards on 36 carries, including a 95-yard burst for the first score of the game, thereby upping his season totals to 1,193 yards and 19 scores.
Lake Park (2-4, 1-2) notched a touchdown 27.8 seconds before halftime on a 24-yard pass from Zack Gehant to Jimmy Strauss and pulled within 8 points on the last play of the third quarter, thanks to Kevin Teglia's 18-yard scoring reception.
The game came down to a goal-line stand after Lake Park linebacker Ronnie Castaldo picked off a Kyle Garcia pass on third-and-long at the Bartlett 27-yard line and returned it to the 6 with 3:44 to play.
An illegal procedure call backed the Lancers up 5 yards. Then a 2-yard Gehant run, an incomplete pass and an 8-yard run by Curtwan Evans set up fourth-and-goal with 2:34 remaining.
Gehant tried to sneak it in for a touchdown that would have brought the Lancers within a 2-point conversion of a tie, but third-year linebacker Kevin Kirchhoff and the Bartlett defensive line gang tackled the Lake Park senior quarterback for no gain.
"The kids stepped up and did a great job," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said of a defense that forced 4 turnovers. "They're gassed, but they did a heck of a job for us, everything from the linebackers to pressure from the line and the defensive backs not letting them get behind them. It was awesome."
Bartlett subsequently sealed the game 3 plays later. On third-and-9 from his own 2-yard line, Kirchhoff rumbled 32 yards for a game-clinching first down with 53 seconds left.
"That was thanks to my offensive line," Kirchhoff said. "They set up that big hole. They were keying Everson, so when I got my chance to run I was like, 'I need to make a play for my teammates.'"
The Lancers had their chances to inflict more damage earlier, but Gehant was intercepted 3 times, all in the second half and all deep in Bartlett territory. Those miscues offset the 3 turnovers the Lake Park defense forced after halftime.
Bartlett senior Mitch Reid intercepted a pass at his own 23, Kirchhoff snared a pick at his own 4-yard line and returned it 28 yards, and senior Nick Andreucetti squashed a fourth-quarter drive with an interception at his own 18-yard line.
"I saw their inside receiver running an inside vertical (pattern)," Kirchhoff said in describing his interception. "I'm taught as a linebacker to stay with that inside vertical. I knew right then because he was open that (Gehant) was going to try to get it there. He lofted it up, and luckily I got there in time to pick it off. Our defense tries to get three (turnovers) a game. Four is good."
Lake Park's 4 turnovers, coupled with a first-quarter fumble on first-and-goal at the Bartlett 3-yard line, made for a frustrating afternoon for the Lancers,
"We had a lot of sloppy plays, turnovers that killed us," Lake Park coach Chris Roll said. "The game started with a 14-point turnaround. If we're up 7-0, it's a whole different game. The play was wide open and our best tailback fumbled the ball for no reason. Zack's had 2 interceptions on the year and 16 touchdowns, and he had 3 interceptions today. Those are things we can't afford against a physical team like Bartlett."
Lake Park must win its remaining games against South Elgin, Neuqua Valley and East Aurora to have a shot at the postseason.
"We've just got to get back to work," said Teglia, who made 2 circuslike catches among his 8 receptions for 98 yards. "We're not out yet. We've got to win out now."