SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
It wasn’t a rainy night that dampered Lakeside’s homecoming game.
For coach Ryan David’s young Dragons, it was a host of missed opportunities.
The result was a 16-8 loss to previously winless North in a Premier Athletic Conference game in front of a sparse crowd at Lakeside Stadium.
- The Dragons moved the ball inside the red zone four times and could only score once.
- Two of those four times, Lakeside had the ball inside the 5, but each drive stalled.
- The Lakeside defense forced five turnovers (4 fumbles and 1 interception).
- The Dragons were aided by 15 North penalties for 157 yards.
- Lakeside had what would have been the go-ahead touchdown, a 25-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Loftus to Chase Knight, that was called back due to a holding penalty.
For David and his squad, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“The most heart-wrenching thing is that a lot of our younger kids just played their hearts out,” he said.
North led, 7-0, at the half when junior quarterback Anton Vrebac (233 yards passing and 68 yards rushing) found senior Ben Joslpovic (9 catches for 146 yards) for an 11-yard score early in the second quarter.
Then, the Rangers opened the second half by scoring in just three plays. Vrebac found senior Kyle Denihan for 33-yards on the first play. Then Vrebac, two plays later, scrambled for a 36-yard score. While the extra point failed, the visitors lead 13-0.
Lakeside would follow with a 13-play drive of its own, but the drive stalled inside the 5-yard line.
But, after safety Shawn Gilbert intercepted a pass, the Dragons were able to find paydirt when Loftus found Knight on a 14-yard pass play. Loftus then found tight end Nick Meola for the 2-point conversion, cutting the North lead to 13-8.
The Dragons really had a chance to take control of the game when they recovered the ensuing kick, but a crucial penalty halted the drive. Then when Gilbert recorered a fumble on North’s next drive at the end of the third quarter, it gave the Dragons the ball at the North 25-yard line.
The next play was when Loftus found Knight for the apparent go-ahead touchdown, but it was nullified with a holding penalty.
“We were in the red zone 3 times, David lamented afterward. “We called the same plays that got us down there. Our guys seemed to execute during the drive, but didn’t execute when they got down on the goal line.”
Vrebac, who averaged over 42 yards a punt, kicked a 23-yard field goal with 9:28 remaining to end the scoring.
Despite the frustration, David had many things postiive to take away from the game.
His team ran 85 total plays from scrimmage to 63 for North. The Dragons accumulated 20 first downs in the game. And, junior tailback Manny Harris, in just his second game of the season, impressed. Harris led all rushers with 191 yards on 38 carries.
“Manny came to our team late,” David explained. “He had some off-the-field issues. He is a kid who has taken his off-the-field issues and taken this opportunity and turned it into a positive. I couldn’t ask for a better effort out of a kid and really a kid who has just turned his life around. Anyone who watches Lakeside should root for him. He is a positive influence on our team. I just love him so much.”
For North coach George Burich, it was good for his team to finally get into the win column.
“Any win is an important win,” he said. “We had to get over that hump. We did some things well tonight and the defense stepped up and had a great game. We forced a lot of turnovers. I felt happy about that.”
Negin is a freelance writer from Madison.