With rain pouring down that would seem to favor Glenbard North's power-running attack over Lake Park's more balanced football offense, the Lancers made a statement on Friday night, reclaiming the Stratford Cup with a 28-7 victory.
Glenbard North actually looked strong in the early going, forcing a three-and-out, taking over in Lake Park territory and proceeding to methodically march down the field.
The Panthers ate 7:49 of game clock on a 14-play drive that spanned 45 yards. However, when Lake Park (4-3, 4-2) made a goal-line stand, a missed field goal meant it came up empty-handed.
"It has happened too much this year, period," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We've got to finish drives with points and way too many times we've gotten down into the red zone this year and come away with nothing."
Over the course of the next 9:07, the rain seemed to render both offenses immobile. But halfway through the second quarter Lake Park took over pinned in its own territory, and things proceeded to heat up from there.
Lake Park running back David Kirkpatrick-Hardwick barely reeled in a handoff on a draw up the middle, but when he did secure the football he found a ton of running room. He sprinted 75 yards and looked like he'd waltz into the end zone when a change of direction and a possible Glenbard North hand forced a fumble.
However, as the ball scooted into the end zone, Lake Park wide receiver Diamante Smith dove on it for a Lancers touchdown and what would be credited as an 86-yard touchdown run for Kirkpatrick-Hardwick.
"We were building this whole week to find a way to execute our plays and go through adversity. We went through rain and hard practices," said Kirkpatrick-Hardwick, who ran for 256 yards and three scores on the night. "I'm very thankful (Smith) was there. The ball felt soaked to me, but my teammates backed me up and we're a family."
After the two sides traded a turnover on downs and then an errant snap for a turnover, a Glenbard North shot down the field resulted in an interception and a 64-yard return by Rashad Khwaja down to the Panthers 6-yard line. Two plays later, Lake Park quarterback Jackson Behles ran a 3-yard plunge for touchdown.
Khwaja contributed 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery as the Lancers forced 4 turnovers total.
After the half the turnover struggles continued for both sides, but eventually there was a break in the rain and Glenbard North (3-4, 2-4) narrowed the Lake Park lead to 7 with a 30-yard touchdown run by Jayleen Fitzpatrick with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Kirkpatrick-Hardwick busted an 82-yarder for a touchdown on the next possession and then helped salt the game away with a 36-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. From there Lake Park's defense continued its stellar performance and rode out the clock.
"When we met as a team after (the win), all that's on my mind was in the first quarter what our defense did," Lake Park coach Chris Roll said. "Glenbard North exerted their will early. They took us off the field and they drove it down and if they would have gotten in -- I'll be honest with you -- they would have felt like world-beaters.
"I really do think that our defense set the tone at the beginning of the game that it was going to be a war and the offense finally rose up and I'm proud of them because they finally decided it was time to start hitting on both sides."