North Tahoe wins thriller football game over Incline High in Tahoe City [VIDEO] | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe wins thriller football game over Incline High in Tahoe City [VIDEO]

North Tahoe football made a return to Class 2A on Saturday, Aug. 26, for the season opener, and didn't disappoint in a thrilling home win against Incline High.

The rival schools would battle to a 10-10 tie at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime where junior Dalton Lamberth came down with a catch in the end zone off a Thomas Mercogliano pass for the game-winning score and 16-13 victory.

"Our coach on the sideline said, "If we run a sweep with our quarterback, I want you running a … deep out pattern, and you jump up and catch that ball.' Man, it feels good to do that," said Lamberth on hauling in the game winner.

Mercogliano had been limited in his passing during the game, but when he rolled out to the right on a quarterback boot, he spotted the 6-foot, 1-inch Lamberth with a smaller defender on his back and let the ball fly.

"I didn't even throw a good ball," Mercogliano said. "I didn't know where it was going … Dalton came down with it — super great catch."

The Lakers offense would struggle for the majority of the first three quarters, committing several unforced errors, which allowed Incline's defense to disrupt plays in the backfield.

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Defensively, North Tahoe had a strong first half, forcing several quick ends to drives, and limiting Incline to a 38-yard field goal attempt that freshman Marco Barraza blasted through the uprights to give the Highlanders a 3-0 lead going into halftime.

The Highlanders would go on to put together their finest drive of the game in the third quarter, with freshman quarterback Dylan Cleary finding receivers downfield to set up a short touchdown run off the left side by junior Eleazar Santiago. The following extra point made the game 10-0.

"We set it up through the pass," Incline Head Coach Michael Sacci said. "We didn't pass much at all in the first half, and we got a few passes that were completed, then we just started softening up the box. We had a beautiful drive. It was the best drive of the day."

North Tahoe's chances seemed to only diminish from there with Mercogliano going down with an injury. The three-year starting junior quarterback would miss a series, but returned to the field late in the third quarter.

Still, the Lakers continued to struggle on offense, facing a third-and-18 from their own 32-yard line on the team's following possession. On the play, Mercogliano would drop back, and then take off on a 68-yard touchdown scamper, making several defenders miss along the way. Sophomore Guthrie Goss knocked in the extra point to make it 10-7.

Goss would later cap another Lakers drive with a 22-yard field goal to knot the game at 10.

"The thought of not losing really propelled me and the entire team to keep driving," Mercogliano said. "We were down 10-0, I honestly didn't know what we were going to do, but our team pulled through."

From there, Incline drove downfield and had a chance to retake the lead on a field goal attempt, but the Lakers got penetration and blocked the kick.

With the final minutes ticking down in the fourth quarter, North Tahoe drove the length of the field, benefitting from a trio of 15-yard penalties to set up a field goal attempt, but Goss' kick would go wide of the uprights, pushing the game into overtime.

Incline got the first possession in overtime, taking over on the Lakers 10-yard line. But the North Tahoe defense held stiff, forcing a short field goal by Barraza after three plays to give Incline a 13-10 advantage.

North Tahoe would then elect to go to the air as Mercogliano put up his sixth pass attempt of the game, finding Lamberth for the score.

Mercogliano led all players with 248 yards rushing, according to stats from MaxPreps.com

With the win, North Tahoe avenges their 6-0 loss to Incline during last year's season opener between the two teams. The Lakers will next face Coral Academy of Science at home on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 1 p.m. Coral Academy dropped their first game 49-8 to Silver Stage.

"This is our rival. We lost 6-0 to them last year," Lamberth said. "This is big for us. This means a lot."

The young Incline lineup had several bright spots during the game, specifically the play of the defense and that of the team's freshman quarterback, who completed 7 of 13 passes for 79 yards.

"They did way better than I ever expected," Sacci said. "We talk about a perfect effort every single play, and they gave that to us today. For a bunch of freshmen and sophomores and lower classmen out there, it's just amazing how they performed today."

Incline will look to get into the win column when the team plays host to Silver Stage on Friday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.