Lake Park beats Wheaton North in OT
One way or the other, this was going to be emotional for Lake Park's football team.
Exuberance ruled the moment for the Lancers after Friday's 22-21 overtime victory at Wheaton North, but their thoughts were with a teammate at a nearby hospital.
Trailing 21-14 after Brayton Maske's 6-yard touchdown run for Wheaton North on the first possession of overtime, Lancers quarterback Nathanael Merchant and the offense faced a fourth and goal at the 9 with the game on the line.
Merchant found Jackson Kent to pull Lake Park (2-2, 1-1 DuKane Conference) within 21-20, then the Lancers decided to go for 2 points and the win. Merchant lofted a quick pass to Bryce Koch in the middle of the end zone to lift the Lancers to their first victory over Wheaton North since 1997.
"I think a couple of guys were nervous, for sure, but our coaches were saying we just need to play our game," said Merchant, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. "We just had to keep our heads in the game. That's something we talk about at practice. When we get down, we have to stay up."
It's Lake Park's first win over the Falcons (2-2, 0-2) in DuPage Valley and DuKane Conference play. Wheaton North has lost two straight games by a combined total of 4 points.
"This will test their resolve a little bit," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "Last week hurt and this one hurts even more. We'll see what we're made of and see if we can put a good week of practice together and play a better football game against Glenbard North."
Lake Park took a 14-7 lead with 6:42 left in regulation but it came at a cost. Running back Jordan Colon, who had 13 carries for 88 yards, helped march the Lancers down the field, but he went down with a leg injury and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.
After the delay Merchant burst in from 6 yards out. Both teams held on three-and-outs before Wheaton North went 60 yards in 6 plays capped by a 5-yard run by Maske, who had 23 carries for 89 yards.
Lake Park's Nick Fiore tried a 50-yard field goal on the last play of the fourth quarter but it came up just short.
"It's all for (Colon)," said Lancers linebacker Anthony Beacom. "We just had the emotion. When we scored the touchdown we knew we wanted to go for 2 and it worked."
Falcons quarterback Mark Forcucci, who threw for 172 yards, started the scoring with a 55-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to Troy Hegranes. Merchant answered in the second quarter with a 53-yard scoring pass to Alex Fitzpatrick.
"The kids worked their tails off," said Lancers coach Chris Roll. "Those kids love Jordan and they were going to do everything they could to win that game."