Lake Park celebrates triumph over St. Charles East
Moments after the final ticks ran off the clock of Lake Park's intense 21-14 victory over St. Charles East on Friday, a sea of students stormed the field to celebrate the football program's first victory of the season.
Dozens were dressed in patriotic colors to show respect for those who lost their lives 20 years ago in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The scene is one that should remain etched in everyone's minds for quite some time.
"I just see a massive swarm of people and they're all wearing red, white and blue to honor those people who died on 9/11," said junior Tyler Michelini. "I've never been more happy in my life. It was great to see all those beautiful colors rushing out onto our field."
Just as beautiful for Lancers (1-2, 1-0) fans was the sight of Zach Simich snaring an interception at the 12-yard line and racing 88 yards the other way for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:19 remaining. He followed a wave of blockers and crossed the goal line just as he was being tackled.
"All my adrenaline was rushing and I was saying, 'I'm ready to score. I've got my teammates blocking down there for me,'" Simich said. "It feels amazing."
St. Charles East (1-2, 0-1 DuKane Conference) wasn't done, however, as running back A.J. Gaca took a lateral from quarterback Nathan Hayes and launched a perfect strike to Mason Tousignant (5 catches, 168 yards). The play, which appeared set to go for a touchdown, covered 48 yards.
That set St. Charles East up at the Lake Park 17-yard line, but the Saints never got the equalizer because Mikey Mangialardi picked off a pass at the goal line on fourth down to basically seal the victory.
"That all starts with the defensive line," said Mangialardi, who had 2 picks. "They flushed him out of the pocket, forced a bad throw and I was there to make the play."
St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar ended up jotting down 21 errors on his Mental Errors card, a total he's never reached in seven years with the program.
"We put the ball on the ground, we dropped the ball three or four times and just didn't come through," he said. "We can't have two personal fouls in third-down situations and be successful. That's on me as a coach to make our kids receive the message on personal fouls and mental errors."
The game got off to an electrifying start when Lake Park's Desmond Horton returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. The senior wide receiver burst through a hole down the left sideline and raced untouched into the end zone.
"I was really hyped coming onto the field," Horton said. "When the ball first got kicked off I was really excited to get going. One of my friends, Greg Curry, he had an amazing block -- amazing block -- for me to cut back in and just get going."
After getting the ball back, Lake Park took a 14-0 lead on a 13-yard TD pass from Frank Moorman to Gabe Christopher. It completed an 8-play, 78-yard drive that included a 33-yard run by Moorman on fourth-and-1 from his own 31-yard line.
"When you're 0-2 and playing a proud program like St. Charles East, I'm not scared to lose. I'm trying to win," said Lancers coach Jason Kradman. "We definitely took some chances. The only way you right the ship is to try to win the game -- not play to not lose the game."
Said Horton: "It feels amazing to win. We've been working all summer, going to Carroll University where (Kradman) was working our (butts) off. To get this first 'W' feels pretty amazing."