Rochester comes up big late vs. Screaming Eagles
The Lakes Area Screaming Eagles lost their firm grip on a potential No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs due to a narrow 14-13 loss in Rochester Saturday.
The Giants extended their winning streak to three games and now have entered the fray for a top two seed in the Northern Power Football League, as the Screaming Eagles' record drops to 5-2 for a three-way tie for first place.
Lakes Area will play its season finale July 12 in Minnetonka against the other first-place team, South Metro. If the Eagles prevail, they will guarantee a No. 2 seed and will gain the top seed with a Rochester loss.
A loss will ensure Lakes Area a three seed and a road game in the first round of the playoffs.
"We were able to rush the ball for 200-plus yards and throw the ball for 300, but (Rochester's) defense really clamped down on us inside their 35 yard line," said Lakes Area head coach and starting quarterback Jason McCloskey. "That, combined with our past struggles in the red zone, hurt us."
Rochester came up with two big interceptions off of McCloskey in the Giant's end zone, denying the Screaming Eagles of at least 12 points, while producing the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 13-7, Giants' quarterback Nick Ferraro hit Andre Hernandez on a 37-yard end zone strike. The extra-point kick propelled Rochester to a 14-13 lead with just under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Rochester installed their prevent defense and stalled the Screaming Eagles' offense to end the game.
Lakes Area answered a Chad Strike five-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter on an 80-yard pass from McCloskey to wide receiver James Singer, who beat his man-on-man coverage.
"They were run blitzing a lot, so we decided to take the shot downfield and Singer burned his guy deep," McCloskey added.
Lakes Area claimed the lead on McCloskey's second TD pass, this one on a 20-yard reception by wideout Terrel Flanigan.
But the extra point kick was wide left, thus leaving the door cracked open for a Rochester game-wining drive late in the game.
The Rochester defense made the big plays deep in their own territory, picking McCloskey off twice in the end zone and stalling the Eagles' defense another time inside the Giant's 10.
Giant running back Strike rushed the ball for 148 yards on a usual stingy Screaming Eagles' defense, while Ferraro threw for 122 yards by going 12-22.
The tiebreaker for the playoff seeding is the difference between points for and points against.
McCloskey estimated the Eagles will have to win by at least 16 points to claim the top seed -- combined with a Rochester loss to the Northern Wisconsin Thunderhawks July 11.