On paper, the Bucs and the Lancers looked to be evenly matched. Both came into Friday’s game in Roselle with three game winning streaks on the line. Both had explosive offenses. Lake Park quarterback Chris Greene threw for 224 yards. Jason Fiske threw for 123 and ran for 108 more. Bucs Coach Mike Hearn said, “The defense gave up a lot of yards, but they came through when they had to.” Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Lake Park defense was up to the challenge as well. In the end, it came down to the kicking game. Lake Park didn’t try to kick an extra point all night, instead going 2 / 5 for two point conversions. Meanwhile Chris Barta was perfect for the Bucs, going 5 / 5, including the game winner in overtime.
The Lancers moved down the field in their opening drive, getting down to the Belvidere 19 yard line. The Bucs defense stepped up with a key tackle by Anthony Goransen that pushed Lake Park back to the 23. Lancers quarterback Chris Green was unable to connect on three pass attempts under heavy pressure. On fourth and fourteen, the Lancers tried to convert rather than try for a field goal. Greene found receiver Willie Clark, but he was stopped short of a first down and Belvidere took over at their own 15. The Bucs turned on their running game with three good runs from Mitch Hendrickson, Matt Barr and Jason Fiske. On fourth down a three from the Lancers 26 yard line, Fiske found Hendrickson wide open for a touchdown. Chris Barta’s kick was good and the Bucs finished the first quarter with a 7 – 0 lead.
Both defenses stepped up in the second quarter. The Bucs were stopped at the Lancers 16. Lake Park took over on down, but ended up punting it away after gaining only a yard. The Bucs picked it up at the Lancers 38 yard line, their best field position of the night. Fiske saw an opportunity on third down and two and ran thirty yards into the end zone for the Bucs second touchdown.
With time running out, Lake Park raced down the field with a long pass to Bobby Galichio and another to Willie Clark that got them down to the Bucs 22 yard line. Greene connected with John Corley in the end zone, but the touchdown was nullified on a holding call. With less than a minute left in the half, the Lancers pushed it in from the one yard line. They tried a two point conversion instead of kicking an extra point. The pass was incomplete and the score was 14 – 6 at halftime.
The Lancers started the third quarter with a 67 yard drive in for a touchdown. Chris Greene ran it in from the one yard line. Again, they tried a two point conversion. Again, they failed. The Bucs responded with a lightning rush downfield to the Lancers 43 yard line. A penalty put them back on their side of the field, but Jason Fiske connected with Jimmy Billon, 53 yards, for a touchdown. Barta’s kick was good and the Bucs were up 21 – 12.
The Lancers started the fourth quarter with a quick drive of their own from the Belvidere 42. Greene’s first pass to Philip Zerante was good for 20 yards. His second pass to Joe Menotti was good for a touchdown. Greene ended up completing ten passes in a row. The momentum was beginning to shift. Lake Park converted their two point try and suddenly the Lancers were within 1.
Belvidere started on their own 30. Coverage was tight and Fiske held on to the ball and ran for the first down. Under pressure, he found Jimmy Billon for a 16 yard gain. Cliff Paul gained another 14 yards and Matt Barr pushed down to the nine yard line. Barr took a hand off up the middle, six yards and slid into the end zone for a touchdown. Chris Barta’s kick made it 28 – 20 with six and a half minutes left. Lake Park wasn’t finished yet. From the shotgun, Greene found Joe Menotti who ran it down to the Belvidere 23. Menotti got the call again, hopped over a tackle and landed on the one yard line. Greene scored and another two point conversion was good. A pass to Willie Clark tied the game with four minutes to go.
The Bucs took the kick off up to their own 31 yard line. The Lancers defense played tough. Belvidere fumbled on a fourth and one, but the Bucs covered the ball and got the first down. The drive got to the Lancers 23 yard line and stalled. With less than a minute to go, Jason Fiske tried four times to get it into the end zone. The Lancers D led by defensive backs Shawn Craigen and Mario Perez kept them out. Lake Park took over on downs with 12 seconds left. Greene put up a high pass and it was intercepted at the 42 yard line. Fiske had one more shot. With five seconds on the clock, he launched it into the end zone where it was intercepted by Joe Rubin. The game was going into overtime.
In high school games, each team starts at the ten yard line. They have four downs to get it into the end zone. Lake Park won the toss and had the first shot. Philip Zerante ran it in for six points and the Lancers took their first lead in the game. They missed another two point conversion. The score was 34 – 28. Now it was the Bucs’ turn. A handoff to Cliff Paul was stopped well short. A pass to Matt Barr got them down to the six yard line. A second pass attempt was incomplete. On fourth down, their last chance, Jason Fiske connected with Jimmy Billon in the end zone. “We practiced that route all summer,” said Coach Hearn. “That was the one we had the most confidence in.” Chris Barta came in to kick the game winning extra point and the Bucs headed home from Roselle, winning a three hour marathon of a game, 35 – 34.
The team chanted Barta’s name after the game, but Coach Hearn said snapper Nathan Kays got some well deserved praise as well. “We gave him a special award. In those kinds of situations, the snapper is under the most pressure. If he does a good job, it makes everything easy.”
The Bucs finish the first half of the season 4 – 1, good enough for third place, with the highest scoring offense in the NIC-9. Despite their four game winning streak, Coach Hearn said nothing is going to be left to chance against Hononegah. “Lake Park showed us some screen passes that turned into big plays,” he said. “We’re working on some different blitzes to take care of that.” The Indians are 3 – 2 this season, coming off a painful loss last Friday to Guilford. Hononegah fought back from a 21 – 7 deficit at the half, only to come up short in the end. The Indians’ center is 260 pounds; one tackle weighs in at 275, another at 300. “We hope we can use our quickness to overcome their size advantage,” said Coach Hearn. It’s homecoming at Belvidere High School this Friday and that gives the Bucs added incentive. “It’s been a few years since we’ve won a homecoming game,” said the coach. “We’d really like to win one for the whole school.” The Bucs take on the Indians Friday night at Funderburg Stadium.