SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Before taking the field Friday night, Lakeside coach Buzz Edwards challenged his team about the need to make plays when they counted the most.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, Harvey quarterback Jaden Debevic made the biggest play of the night.
Up 26-20 and facing fourth and 17 from the Lakeside 28, Debevic eluded two would-be Dragons tacklers in the backfield before shuffling to his right and firing a strike to Willie Grimes for 24 yards and a Red Raider first down.
One play later, Debevic connected with Rick Coleman Jr. for the touchdown to seal Harvey’s 34-20 win at Lakeside Stadium.
“That kid made plays,” Edwards said of Debevic. “I told our kids before the game and after the game, ‘We’re backed up in the corner and there’s a difference between wanting to and having to. The guy that wants it more, those are the guys that make plays and Harvey just made more plays than we did.’”
The loss negated a historic night for running back J’Shon Sanders, who went for 275 on 32 carries. AJ Raffa was also effective running the ball in the first half, going for 80 yards on 10 carries.
After a 51-yard carry by Sanders early in the second half, the Red Raiders limited to him just 37 yards on his final 10 attempts and Lakeside was not able to find much offensive firepower elsewhere.
Quarterback Garrett Siberneck completed 5 of 16 passes for 97 yards, but most of that did not come until the game’s final drive.
“There’s only one running back you can give the ball to on each play,” Edwards said. “We have to be able to get the ball out in space to our guys, with them playing cover zero and pinning their ears back and coming at us. The last three games, defenses are daring us to throw it and we’re not very good at it right now.”
Harvey went on top 6-0 on a 60-yard interception return by Katory Shaw.
The Dragons (0-3) answered immediately, going 69 yards on seven plays capped by Raffa’s 1-yard scoring run. The Red Raiders answered back on a 6-yard run by Coleman Jr. to take a 12-7 advantage.
A fumble recovery by Chris Steele set the Dragons up first and goal at the 7. Sanders scored to put the Dragons back up 14-12.
Harvey, though, answered.
Debevic found Coleman for a 21-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point conversion made it 20-12 in favor of Harvey at the half.
The Red Raiders went to work early in the second half.
Roderick Coffee returned the opening kickoff to the Dragons 18, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run by Debevic to give Harvey a 26-12 advantage.
Sanders ripped off 51 yards on Lakeside’s next play from scrimmage, then scored four plays later.
But it was be the final time the Dragons got in the end zone.
With two chances to mount a go-ahead drive, Lakeside’s offense had back-to-back three and outs, allowing Harvey the chance to post the win.
The loss was the second of the season when a few plays could have meant a different verdict.
Edwards said it’s something the program simply has to work through.
“Part of the process of building a program is teaching your guys how to win,” he said. “When you’re not used to winning for a long time, it seems bad things happen to you. We’re on our guys every day about winning, but we’re just not there yet, we make critical errors at critical times.
“There’s a good football team out there, I believe that in my heart. We’ve looked really good at times, but part of the process is trying to figure out how to win games and we’re not there yet.”