Rochester has giant second half to end Eagles' season
The Lakes Area Screaming Eagles were on cruise control in the first half of their opening playoff game against the Rochester Giants, scoring 27 points and racking up near 300 yards of passing.
But the Eagles' cruising came to screeching halt in the second half, where Rochester was able to pull away the momentum, scoring 24 unanswered points for a 41-27 win in the Northern Power Football League playoffs.
"We were able to move the ball at will in the first half, but we had some mistakes which hurt us," said Screaming Eagles head coach and starting quarterback Jason McCloskey.
The Screaming Eagles piled up 424 total yards, the majority coming in the first half, while the Giants' 385 total yards came mostly in the second.
Fatigue due to a shorthanded team also played a factor in the second half collapse, as Lakes Area had only two of their normal five starting offensive linemen available.
"They were able to start getting more pressure on me in the second half because we were fatigued," McCloskey said.
Miscues such as a crucial snap over McCloskey's head in the early going of the third quarter, which led to Rochester defensive end Dexter General scooping it up for a 40-yard defensive touchdown, turned all momentum to the Giants for the second half.
"That play really changed things around," McCloskey said of General's defensive touchdown.
A safety on McCloskey in the fourth quarter, came after heavy pressure on the Eagles' QB. He attempted to toss the ball away, but was instead illegally caught by an offensive lineman, cutting Lakes Area's lead to 27-26.
Rochester then gave the Screaming Eagles a healthy dose of running back Chad Strike, who rushed for two touchdowns and 100 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
Strike finished the game rushing for 165 yards on 19 carries, including the go-ahead and insurance touchdowns.
McCloskey and his receivers were in tune in the first half, as the Eagles' quarterback threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns -- including scoring strikes of 33 yards to James Singer, 75 to Jake Lindsey and a last-second 54-yard TD pass to Singer with six seconds left before halftime.
"It was like no one was out there defending us," McCloskey said of the first half explosion.
Lakes Area was able to spread out the Giants' defense, then start rushing the ball, with Dave Moll finding big holes through the line. He finished with 61 yards on 11 carries.
But with the 24-0 second half by the Giants, the Eagles' mistakes couldn't be overshadowed.
"We just had too many miscues," McCloskey said. "It didn't help we were missing eight starters, too."
Lakes Area finished the season with a 5-4 record.
Northern Power Football League playoffs: (3) Lakes Area at (2) Rochester, Saturday, July 18.
GIANTS 41, Screaming Eagles 27
Lakes Area 7 20 0 0 - 27
Rochester 3 14 7 17 -- 41
RG -- John Ostertag 27 field goal, first quarter, 9:06.
LA -- James Singer 33 pass from Jason McCloskey (Todd White kick), first, 5:47.
RG -- Andre Hernandez 20 pass from Nick Ferraro (Ostertag kick), second, 10:23.
LA -- Singer 7 pass from McCloskey (kick blocked), second, 6:45.
RG -- Doug Crawley 70 kickoff return (Ostertag kick), second, 6:29.
LA -- Billy Quistorf 75 pass from McCloskey (kick failed), second, 5:58.
LA -- Singer 54 pass from McCloskey (Dave Moll to Bert Smith), second, :06.
RG -- Dexter General 40 fumble recovery return (Ostertag kick), third, 11:11.
RG -- Safety, McCloskey intentional grounding in end zone, fourth, 13:04.
RG -- Chad Strike 47 run (Ferraro to Matt Fick), fourth, 12:47.
RG -- Strike 4 run (Ostertag kick), fourth, 2:31.
Lakes Area -- Dave Moll 11-61, Billy Quistorf 5-1, James Olson 1-(-4), Bert Smith 1-3, Jason McCloskey 4-22. Rochester -- Chad Strike 19-165, Jimmy Barker 7-55, Nick Ferraro 2-(-5), Zack Chike 1-(-1), Joe Rivard 2-1, Andre Davis 3-5.
Lakes Area -- Jason McCloskey 18 completions, 36 passes, 2 interceptions, 4 touchdowns for 341 yards; James Singer 0-1-1-0-0. Rochester -- Nick Ferraro 16-28-3-1-165.
Lakes Area -- James Singer 10-198, Bert Smith 4-32, Tarrel Flanigan 2-25, Quistorf 2-86. Rochester -- Andre Hernandez 6-68, Zack Chike 2-14, Strike 3-34, Jake Scharpen 1-10, C.J. Woods 3-34, Matt Fick 1-7.