With its offense plagued by turnovers and costly penalties in a tight second-half battle, Lakes' defense rose to the occasion when it mattered most.
Two fourth-quarter, fourth-down stops proved to the be the difference as the Eagles opened their season with a 14-8 nonconference road win over Deerfield at Adams Field.
"I feel like we spent the whole game in the red zone, but we couldn't punch it in," said Lakes coach Jordan Eder. "We had penalties and turnovers but we kept battling and our defense -- it doesn't get any better than that."
The visitors took advantage of their defensive mayhem in the opening half with a pair of scores, but were unable to connect down the stretch with two red-zone interceptions giving the host Warriors hope.
Struggling offensively in their own right, Deerfield (0-1, 0-0) made a quarterback change on its final offensive drive and it nearly proved costly for Lakes (1-0, 0-0).
Sophomore Ryan Nagelbach connected on a big 36-yard completion and senior tailback Kenny Kerstein pushed the ball to the 10. A failed third-down attempt at the corner of the end-zone set up a pivotal fourth-and-two where Kerstein was met by a host of Eagles.
"To hold them on a fourth-and-1 inside the 10 was a phenomenal job," said Eder. "It won us the game."
Lakes grabbed the momentum early after forcing a botched punt on Deerfield's opening possession.
An interference penalty and 11-yard gain from tailback Ethan Greenfield set up the senior with a 1-yard score for the game's first points.
The Eagles defense, led by senior Ryan Selig and a stout line, forced three punts to open play. The third set the visitors up at the 46 where they embarked on a nine-play drive into the red zone.
Things went awry, however, when a dropped behind-the-line lateral pass fell into the hands of Deerfield early into the second quarter.
Deerfield starting quarterback Jonah Silverglade then engineered a drive into Eagles territory for the first time on the night, escaping a Selig sack attempt 10 yards deep in the backfield to find Kerstein for a 35-yard march to paydirt.
An offsides penalty on the point-after attempt led to a Kerstein conversion run to give the Warriors an 8-7 edge.
The home team didn't let up, holding onto the momentum with an onside kick on the following kickoff to gain possession at the Eagle 37.
Lakes had seen enough, however.
Ethan Schmidt dropped Silverglade 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then the Western Michigan commit Selig followed with a monster sack to turn the tide.
"It comes down to who's the most competitive and we're a bunch of competitors," said Selig, who totaled and assisted on a combined 16 stops on the night.
The Eagle offense quickly went back to work with a 21-yard strike from Jake Johnson to DeAngelo Hardy.
Johnson moved the chains on the ground with a short run before finding Selig and Parker Canning with completions of 9 and 15, respectively, to place the football at the one.
On a called run the signal-caller dropped the football shy of the line, but regained possession and leapt behind his blockers to regain the lead for Lakes with 9.7 seconds left in the half.
A lead -- thanks to the Eagles' defense -- that wouldn't be relinquished. All-in-all Lakes held Deerfield to 128 yards of total offense with 7 first downs, including 23 yards on the ground.
"We were one missed tackle away from a potential shutout," said Eder. "The defense did a great job the whole night.
"We've got to clean things up. The penalties were huge and we left two or three scores on the board. When you get deeper in the year and do those things, it loses you games. Most importantly, we got the win. We'll learn from it and move on."
Offensively, Johnson tallied a 7-of-17 game through the air for 100 yards and two picks, with 15 yards on 10 carries and a score on the ground to lead the Eagles. Greenfield added 85 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Lakes opens its home schedule Friday against Highland Park.