Unlike last season, the heroic comeback went against Lake Park as DeKalb pulled out a 20-17 victory in a meeting of early unbeatens.
Regaining possession with 38.2 seconds, DeKalb quarterback Noah Valin was only 4-of-14 passing before completing three consecutive. A 13-yarder to Matt Montavon, a 20-yarder to Brianjay Ross, and with 12 seconds remaining, a 33-yard Hail Mary to the end zone on which Jaylen Hobson battled a pair of Lancers on a jump ball that got tipped to Ross.
Hobson's 2-point conversion run completed the final eight points enabling DeKalb to improve to 3-0 and preventing Lake Park from a 3-0 start that would have exceeded last season's win total. Last year, the Barbs were up 21-0 before the Lancers put together a 26-point second half for a rally that had no encore.
"Losing on a late play like that does kind of hurt more, but we just made far too many mistakes," Lancers quarterback Jackson Behles said. "Give them credit, they kept fighting while we took ourselves out of a victory."
What looked like a gutsy gamble on fourth-and-7 became a 27-yard touchdown connection from Behles to Johnny Pacione for a 7-0 lead. Zach Dearorffs' kick was the topper to a 10-play, 65-yard drive.
DeKalb used Connor Tierney field goals of 22 and 26 to account for a 7-6 halftime tally.
Rashad Khwaja broke out of a pack and raced up the visitor's sideline for a 96-yard kickoff return to start the second half and put the Lancers ahead 14-6.
"The middle was clogged so I busted out to the sideline. The whole time I knew someone was chasing me, so I just kept sprinting for the end zone," Khwaja said. "We should've put them away, but we made mistakes, so it feels 100 percent like we gave it away."
DeKalb scored with 8:25 left in the third quarter on Devin Williams' 15-yard scamper, but a conversion rush failed, keeping Lake Park on top 14-12.
A 26-yard field goal from Deardorff, his third of the season, widened the gap to 17-12 with 10 minutes to play.
The Lancers were trying to both drain the clock and seal a victory driving from their own 32 to the DeKalb 1-yard line for a first-and-goal. But the Barbs got consecutive tackles for loss, a dropped end zone pass, and a block on a 23-yard field goal that could've put Lake Park ahead 20-12 with 4:32 remaining.
Although Isaac Moore made a huge tackle prior to DeKalb failing to convert on fourth-and-5, the Lancers gave the Barbs one last possession.
"Whether it's considered a combination of heart and luck, you don't let them get off the mat," Lancers coach Chris Roll said. "They're a semifinal team that has dominated their conference. Us not converting at the goal line, then the blocked field goal, invigorated them."