With both teams scrapping for a playoff spot, Friday nights Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division clash between Lake Park and Neuqua Valley looked a little like a boxing match. Each team took turns giving and receiving blows in a penalty-marred game, but in the end Lake Park pulled out a 33-30 double-overtime victory Friday night in Roselle.
Lake Park (5-4, 3-3) had its back against the wall as they not only needed a win, but also some help to try to reach the playoffs. Everything looked great as the Lancers held a 27-13 lead with only five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Then things got very interesting.
An 11-yard touchdown pass from Nick Boudreau to Shane Langton put Neuqua Valley (5-4, 3-3) behind by seven with 3:01 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats defense then held, and blocked the ensuing Lake Park punt, setting the stage for some last minute heroics.
Boudreau scrambled and once again found Langton for a 30-yard touchdown strike with a mere 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter, which tied the game at 27-27 after the extra point.
The wind appeared to be let out of the Lake Park sails when it lost a two-touchdown lead in a must-win game.
However, after a Neuqua Valley field goal, Lake Park again bent without breaking, putting up a field goal of its own to force a second overtime.
Lake Park then converted on another field goal in the second overtime, and James Sowa sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone to give the Lancers a topsy-turvy victory.
"We were a little rough early in the season, but we've come together the last four weeks and played hard and worked together," Sowa said. Sowa also had an 87-yard field-goal block for a touchdown to go with his game-ending interception.
"I knew our receivers would be a challenge for their cornerbacks, but our word of the week was belief and even after that last touchdown, I could tell they still believed," Lake Park coach Chris Roll said. "All the seniors could do was roll off four straight wins to end the season and even if we don't make the playoffs, they go out as winners."
Both teams will have to wait and see what happens Saturday when playoff seedings are announced. Lake Park still has a slim chance to squeeze in after ending the season on a four-game winning streak. For Neuqua Valley, they still appear to be in good shape to make the playoffs, but the loss could severely hurt their seeding, if not completely keep them out of the playoffs.
"Penalties killed us, we had momentum at times, but penalties came back to bite us," Neuqua Valley receiver Jeff Evak said. "We started to pick things up, but it was too late. We established the running game early, but we needed to get the passing game going a lot earlier. We expected to win this game and make the playoffs, but it was a rude awakening and now we just have to hope for the best."