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Bartlett's Kevin Kirchhoff intercepts a pass intended for Lake Park's Brandon Stirmell during the third quarter Saturday at Millennium Field in Streamwood. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Bartlett’s defense found itself in many precarious spots Saturday, but none more so than the situation it faced late in the fourth quarter.
An interception by Lake Park’s Ronnie Castaldo gave the visiting Lancers first and goal from the Hawks 6-yard line and a golden opportunity to rally from an eight-point deficit with less than four minutes to play.
But with the pressure on, Bartlett’s defense delivered just like it had for much of the afternoon by stuffing Lake Park quarterback Zach Gehant on fourth down from the 1-yard line to help preserve a 21-13 Upstate Eight Valley victory at Millennium Field.
“We had confidence,” Bartlett linebacker Kevin Kirchhoff said. “When they were on that fourth and short we knew they were going to run the QB sneak because they did that the whole game. We knew it was coming.”
Kirchhoff had an interception and fumble recovery to lead a Hawks defense that forced four turnovers and held the Lancers to only 46 rushing yards on 31 attempts. Kirchhoff also sealed the win on the possession following the goal-line stand when on third-and-9 from the shadow of his own end zone he rumbled 32-yards for a first down, allowing Bartlett (4-2, 3-1) to take a knee.
Such big gains were hard to come by for the Hawks in the second half as their ground attack was bottled up by Lake Park’s defense. That wasn’t the case in the first half, though, as Bartlett’s Aaron Everson shredded the Lancers on his way to another monster game as he posted 253 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries.
Everson had 186 of those yards and all three touchdowns in the first half to help the Hawks jump out to a 21-0 lead. Included in the fast start was Everson’s 95-yard sprint to the end zone down the left sideline in the first quarter for the game’s first points.
However, there was decidedly less room to run after halftime, and Bartlett didn’t help itself with three turnovers following the break.
“In the second half it seemed like the whole Lake Park defense would stack the box,” Everson said. “The third and fourth quarter it was just a war. There was hard hitting and small yardage every play. It was rough.”
Lake Park (2-4, 1-2) could only cash in on one of the Bartlett turnovers when Gehant hit receiver Kevin Teglia for an 18-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the third quarter to make the score 21-13 after a blocked extra-point attempt.
Gehant completed 18-of-32 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted three times. His top target was Teglia, who caught six passes for 83 yards.
Kirchhoff, Mitch Reid and Nick Andreucetti recorded the interceptions for the Hawks, with all three coming on Bartlett’s half of the field. The Lancers also lost a fumble at Bartlett’s 6-yard line on their first possession of the game.
“We need to start faster,” Teglia said. “I think that hurt us a lot. We’ve been playing from behind all year. If we can put four quarters together I think we can play with anybody.”
BARTLETT 21, LAKE PARK 13