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Bert Smith (23) runs back a punt with Billy Quistorf(1)in tow to block earlier this season. The Screaming Eagles will play in Rochester against the Giants to open the playoffs Saturday.

Screaming Eagles loss tough one to South Metro in regular season finale

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It was fitting to end a roller-coaster season with a topsy-turvy regular season finale for the Lakes Area Screaming Eagles.

Playing for a top two seed to ensure a home game for the upcoming Northern Power Football League playoffs, the Screaming Eagles spotted first-place South Metro 14 points in the first four plays of the game Saturday in Minnetonka.

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But that valley turned into a peak, which was followed by another dip -- which in turn came close to an amazing ending.

In the end, though, the Screaming Eagles (5-3) were left with a No. 3 seed and a 30-28 loss to the top-seeded Dragons (8-0).

A one-point loss to Rochester two weeks ago, combined with Saturday's two-point defeat was disheartening for Lakes Area -- but there is some optimism flowing out of the Screaming Eagles' roost.

The Eagles will travel to Rochester to face the No. 2 Giants, while the Dragons will host No. 4 Northern Wisconsin, with both games Saturday.

"We would have loved to play at home for the playoffs and it's disappointing we are not," said Lakes Area head coach and starting quarterback Jason McCloskey. "But we are hungry now. We know we can play with anyone after losing by one point to Rochester and two to South Metro.

"We felt we have left some plays out there against those two teams."

Two faulty plays to start the game put the Eagles into a 14-0 hole, starting with a 65-yard bomb for a score from quarterback Willie Staple to Ben Hunter on the first play from line of scrimmage.

Two plays later after the ensuing kickoff, Michael Johnson snagged a McCloskey pass on a curl route and went untouched for a 15-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Dragon advantage.

The South Metro defense -- led by head coach and former Minnesota Viking defensive end Willie Howard (who suited up) -- keyed on Lakes Area's potent rushing attack and running back Dave Moll from the get-go.

The Dragons smothered Moll and any semblance of a running game, limiting the back to 16 yards on 11 carries and the Eagles' to a paltry 40 yards for the game.

But by using eight to nine guys in the box, Metro left themselves exposed to the Eagles' passing attack and McCloskey took full advantage of it.

Lakes Area scored the 21 points of the first half -- on touchdown passes from McCloskey to Kyler Wegner (eight yards), James Singer (28) and Bert Smith (30) -- to take a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.

"We tried to keep their defense honest by establishing a running game, but they are good and they keyed on it," McCloskey said. "They had people pressuring me all game long. Our passing game has been effective, it's just a matter of connecting more now."

McCloskey had a low passing completion percentage -- 42.8 -- but had three touchdown passes, along with three interceptions.

There also were seven dropped passes, which hindered the Eagles' offense.

The Dragons marched the field and tied the game on a five-yard Sean Hall dive up the middle, then took a 27-21 halftime edge on their next possession with a Hall nine-yard TD rush.

The scoreboard cooled down with only 10 points scored, all in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Caperoon put the Dragons up by two possessions with a 42-yard field goal for the 30-21 lead, as the Eagles screamed back once more.

A couple of long passed by McCloskey to Jake Lindsey and Singer, was capped by a one-yard bull rush into the Dragon end zone by the Eagles' QB to pull to within 30-28.

The ensuing onside kick by McCloskey was recovered by the Screaming Eagles in Dragon territory, but the next four passes went for not as South Metro preserved the win.

Metro had a balanced attack with 147 rushing yards and 155 through the air. Riza Mahmoud led the way with 92 yards on the ground.

The Eagles were without four of their starting defenders -- including defensive lineman Casey Gibson, who has a tryout for the Detroit Lions later this month.

The two victors from Saturday's games, will play for the NPFL championship Saturday, July 25, at the high seed.

Screaming Eagles

results

Lakes Area at South Metro in Minnetonka, Saturday, July 11.

Dragons 30, Screaming Eagles 28

Lakes Area - 15 6 0 7 -- 28

Metro Dragons - 14 13 0 3 -- 30

Metro - Ben Hunter 65-yard pass from Willie Staple; Ryan Caperoon kick.

Metro - Michael Johnson 15-yard interception return; Caperoon kick.

LA - Kyler Wegner 8-yard pass from Jason McCloskey; McCloskey pass to Bert Smith.

LA - James Singer 28-yard pass from McCloskey; Todd White kick.

LA - Smith 30-yard pass from McCloskey; PAT failed.

Metro - Sean Hall 5-yard run; Caperoon kick.

Metro - Hall 9-yard run; kick failed.

Metro - Caperoon 42-yard field goal.

LA - McCloskey 1-yard run; White kick.

LA Metro

First Downs 13 14

Net Yards Rushing 40 147

No. rushes 22 30

Net Yards Passing 293 155

No. passes 42 23

Completed 18 7

Incomplete 21 12

Had intercepted 3 4

Total Offensive Plays 64 53

TOTAL NET YARDS 333 302

Kickoffs 5 6

Yards 208 361

Ave. kickoff 41.6 60.2

Kickoffs Returned 6 5

Yards 99 62

Ave. return 16.5 12.4

Fumbles 1 2

Fumbles lost 1 1

Penalties 6 10

Yards 81 112

* * *

Individual Rushing

Lakes Area --

Player NR YG Avg TD

Jason McCloskey 7 25 3.6 1

Dave Moll 11 16 1.5 0

Kyler Wegner 4 (-1) (-.3) 0

South Metro -

Riza Mahmoud 15 92 6.1 0

Sean Hall 11 64 5.8 2

Willie Staple 4 (-9) (-2.3) 0

* * *

Individual Passing

Player No Comp Inc Int Yds TD

Lakes Area --

McCloskey 42 18 21 3 293 3

South Metro -

Staple 22 6 12 4 142 1

Joe Stein 1 1 0 0 13 0

* * *

Pass Receiving

Player No. Yds. TD

Lakes Area --

Bert Smith 5 99 1

Terrel Flanigan 4 84 0

James Singer 4 63 1

Jake Lindsey 3 35 0

Wegner 1 8 1

Moll 1 4 0

South Metro -

Ben Hunter 2 74 1

James Hill 2 47 0

Hall 2 18 0

Marcus Foster 1 16 0

* * *

Kickoffs

Player No. Yds. Ave.

Lakes Area --

Todd White 4 195 48.8

McCloskey 1 13 13

South Metro -

Ryan Caperoon 6 361 60.2

* * *

Kickoffs Returned

Player No. Yds. Ave.

Lakes Area --

Stephen Stone 3 63 21

Smith 3 36 12

South Metro -

Hall 3 47 15.7

Riza Mahmoud 1 15 15

Lamone Thomas 1 0 0

* * *

Pass Interceptions

Player No.

Lakes Area -

Billy Quistorf 1

Phil Olson 1

Stone 2

South Metro -

Johnson 1

Mel Gentry 1

Lamanu Sonie 1

* * *

Sacks

Player No. Yds. lost

Lakes Area -

Nick Kiphuth .5 1

Quistorf .5 1

Olson .5 1

Ben Geones . .5 1

South Metro -

NA.

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