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Spanaway Lake clips Lakes on late Dempsy James' touchdown run

Despite four turnovers Sentinels drive 50 yards for quarterback's game-winning score with 19 seconds to go in 16-15 win Monday over sixth-ranked Lancers

LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Twice delayed due to poor air quality in the South Sound, the completion of the Week 7 high school football schedule on Monday night signaled the start of the real season in the 3A Pierce County League.

Spanaway Lake’s visit to Harry E. Lang Stadium play the sixth-ranked Lakes Lancers was the first of three games that will be played in the next 12 days that will determine what happens at the top of the PCL standings.

The Sentinels got the first leg up with their last-second 16-15 victory Monday.

The postponement to Monday condenses the important final three weeks of the regular season in the PCL, during which the league’s top three teams play each other in a sort of mini-round robin to decide the PCL title and the league’s No. 1 seed to the playoffs.

All three teams entered Week 7 unbeaten in league play. Lincoln and Spanaway Lake emerged unscathed with the Lancers now a game back after the Monday loss to the Sentinels. Lakes visits Lincoln on Saturday afternoon in the second of these big games, while the Abes and Sentinels finish out the regular season against each other.

The Sentinels made the most of a final opportunity on Monday to pull out the victory. Spanaway Lake quarterback Dempsy James covered the final 10 yards, including a 1-yard push into the end zone with 19 seconds remaining in the game to hand Spanaway Lake (6-1 overall, 5-0 PCL) the victory.

"Just get in there, that’s all I thought," James said. "I’ve got to get in there for my team. I had to come back. That’s all I could do."

With time ticking away, James put Spanaway Lake in position on the play just before on his 9-yard run for a first down to stop the clock. The Sentinels were out of timeouts.

It was a moment of redemption for the Spanaway Lake senior and the entire offense, which was in the same position just five minutes prior - at the Lancers' 1 and trailing 15-10.

James couldn't haul in a high snap, and Lakes linebacker Matai Sarte fell on the fumble at the 12-yard line for a turnover with 4:48 to go.

"We have not been good at finishing this year, unfortunately, in the red zone," Spanaway Lake coach Cameron Robak said. "On the 1-yard line, that’s inexcusable not to score there."

It was those types of miscues - four turnovers - that helped the Lancers erased a 10-0 halftime deficit.

Lakes got on the scoreboard after James was called for an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Minutes later, a fumble recovery led to the Lancers first touchdown of the game - Leo Pulalasi’s 23-yard touchdown reception from Legend Galeai on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Lakes took its only lead - 15-10 - on Marte's 31-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery at the 10:09 mark.

"We knew we were going to go through adversity, playing these types of teams," James said. "You’ve gotta just keep playing football."

After the final turnover, the Spanaway Lake defense forced a Lakes punt to set up its game-winning 50-yard scoring drive with 1:35 to go.

"That was the important part of the game," Lakes coach Dave Miller said. "We needed a couple of first downs. When you need that one more, you’ve got to get it done there."

Two plays and a targeting penalty on the Lancers set Spanaway Lake up at the Lakes 12 with 36 seconds to go. Three plays later, James bulled his way into the end zone for the lead.

Galeai did complete a long pass to David Wells on the second-to-last play of the game, which gave kicker Daniel Kalysbekov a chance at a game-winning 51-yard field goal. But his attempt was well short as the clock ran out.