Trailing 14-0 until the fourth quarter, the Lake George Warriors proved their gritty determination in a stunning overtime football victory Saturday Sept. 23 against Salem.
On the shoulders of the Warriors’ steely defense, the savvy of the special teams and the running attack of Marty Zivica, the Warriors clawed back from a deficit in a game played in the rain.
The tide turned for Lake George at the end of the third quarter when Tyler Brown took a Salem punt and returned it all the way to Salem’s 10 yard line. Three plays later in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Marty Zivica faced a fourth down-and-five situation and ran five and a half yards to set up his own touchdown.
“That was huge — If he hadn’t have made that first down, we wouldn’t have won,” Warrior Coach Jeff Bennett said, adding praise for Brown’s punt return.
The play following the touchdown was also critical.
Quarterback Alex Labruzzo launched a pass to receiver Robbie Ford who had defenders swarming all over him. But Labruzzo’s bullet was low and away to Ford’s right, just out of reach of the Salem players. Ford dropped to his hip and caught it for two critical extra points.
The rain made the game play tough for both teams as they experienced 12 fumbles combined.
One of these fumbles, committed by Salem with three and a half minutes to go, set up the Lake George drive that evened up the score.
Warrior Robbie Ford scooped up the loose ball on his team’s 35 yard line. With 90 seconds left in regular play, Zivica scored a touchdown with a sweep to the sidelines. The Warriors then attempted a repeat conversion pass to Ford, but Salem successfully defended.
The Warriors then halted Salem’s ensuing drive, and the game went into overtime.
Salem took the toss, and chose to initially defend. The determined Warrior offense scored — Zivica ran for a touchdown from a yard or two inside the 10. The Warriors missed a two-point conversion try, and Salem got the ball on their 20 yard line. Three plays later, the Salem quarterback, facing a fourth and 10 on their own 20-yard line, threw a long pass downfield to the Warrior 3-yard line, where John Stranahan held onto the slippery ball for an interception that sealed the victory for the Warriors.
Students, including the infamous “Blue Zoo” cheering section, swarmed the field and celebrated with the soaked, tired but elated players.
Bennett said this game was a well-earned victory, noting that his team’s defense was tough, shutting down Salem’s offense at critical times, particularly when they were within 20 yards of scoring.
“Despite the rain and fumbles, our kids never quit,” he said. “This is one they’ll never forget.”
Salem put up a good fight, as reflected in their tally of gaining 224 yards in 56 runs, versus 94 yards for the Warriors in 36 runs.
Salem also had the edge in first downs, with 11 to the Warriors’ 6.
Lake George, however completed four passes for 35 yards, to 24 yards for Salem in two completions. Turnovers, however hurt Salem as they lost two of their six fumbles, while the Warriors recovered all six of theirs. Salem was also burdened with four penalties for 35 yards, while the Warriors had none.
The game came down to the resolve of the Warriors’ players, Bennett said.
“We played tough defense all night, and our special teams were awesome, he said, noting that Alex Labruzzo punted well, and Floyd Bombard had two sacks, pressured the backfield often and racked up some important tackles.
“This it was a great one for us,” Bennett said.