Lancers hold off Mount Pleasant in a exciting Big East Conference matchup

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 10:47 PM

So far this season, Deer Lakes has had trouble finishing football games.

The Lancers lost a close one to Springdale in Week Zero, 29-27. Then, in Week 1, they lost to Big East Conference opponent Elizabeth Forward, 15-7. On Friday, with the game on the line and a strong Mount Pleasant team storming back, the Lancers proved they could win a close game.

Their offense drove to Mount Pleasant’s 9-yard line looking to pad a three-point lead. But after consecutive attempts fell short, the Lancers turned over the ball on downs.

After Mt. Pleasant got the ball on its 10-yard line, quarterback Asher O’Connor broke off a 30-yard run. But after that, the Vikings couldn’t muster much. The Lancers forced them into a third-and-3 situation, and Jack Hollibaugh came up with a big stop in the backfield for a 7-yard loss. A play later, Zac Herbinko broke up O’Connor’s last pass attempt to seal the game.

The Lancers pulled off their biggest win of the season, defeating Mount Pleasant, 29-26, in a clash of Big East Conference opponents.

“One thing that our kids have always said is we’ve never been able to win a close game. That’s what this is,” Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk said. “We’re learning how to win. We’re learning how to grow, and we’re figuring it out.”

Just like they have in multiple games this season, the Lancers got off to a hot start.

Their first drive stalled, but the defense gave the ball right back to the offense two plays later and Deer Lakes quarterback Aris Hasley hit Isaiah Yoder with a 5-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead.

On Deer Lakes’ next defensive series, Herbinko picked off O’Connor, and the Lancers were back in business. Seven plays later, Hasley hit Ian Clark with a 4-yard fade route in the back-left corner of the end zone.

“It always feels good to come out, you know what you’ve been practicing all week and it’s working right away,” Hasley said. “It helps you find that groove, but whenever you come out and you’re on fire, you definitely have a good feeling about the game.”

But Mt. Pleasant didn’t go away. The Vikings held the Lancers close throughout the game. Jared Yester picked off a Hasley pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Then, with about 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the half, O’Connor punched in a 1-yard QB sneak.

“We fought the whole way. The effort from our kids was outstanding,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jake Fazekas said.

Hasley responded to Mt. Pleasant’s touchdown by marching his offense down the field and scoring one of his own. He hit Clark with a 6-yard slant pass that gave the Lancers a 22-13 lead heading into halftime.

“That was huge,” Burk said. “One thing I believe is there is never not enough time for us. We can move the ball, and we can do different things. And I knew that was plenty of time for us.”

The second half was more of a defensive and special teams battle. Mt. Pleasant scored on its second drive of the half on with a Pete Billey 2-yard run. But the Lancers answered when Trey Durrah faked a handoff to Herbinko on a kickoff return and took the ball 95-yards to the end zone.

“I’ve been wanting a kickoff return touchdown my whole career,” Durrah said. “I’ve been getting closer, and we ran the handoff the other way earlier so I thought, ‘What if I just kept it?’ And it worked. It felt amazing.”

Mt. Pleasant would respond with a Jacob Johnson touchdown with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Deer Lakes offense was able to eat up the clock enough to allow its defense to make one big final stop.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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