Battle of the Bell: Galindez’s last-minute TD lifts Lake Forest by Milford 21-20

Lake Forest’s Damian Galindez runs the ball toward the sideline. Special to the Delaware State News/Jason Minto

MILFORD — Damian Galindez sprinted over to Freddie Johnson and told his head coach his idea.

Johnson immediately shut him down.

But with Lake Forest High’s playoff hopes on the line, Galindez was determined to convince Johnson. Johnson considered how his junior quarterback had played so far on this drive and relented.

Galindez’s plan?

Line everyone up on the left side of the field. Then he would take the snap and sprint to the right side.

It worked out like Galindez had envisioned and the Spartans will play another week.

Galindez’s six-yard keeper with 19 seconds left followed by an extra point from Kade Collins sealed a 21-20 victory over host Milford High Friday night. It was a must-win game for the Spartans to make the Division II tournament and allowed Lake Forest to keep the Battle of the Bell trophy for the second straight year.

“I told him line everybody up on the left and I’ll go to the right,” Galindez said. “Those were my exact words. He was like, ‘No, no.’ And I just ran away. This is the biggest game I’ve ever played in my life. Scoring that touchdown, looking over at everyone cheering for me, it felt great.”

Milford’s Marquis Gillis runs the ball towards the end zone.

Perhaps most bizarre was how Galindez’s touchdown was set up.

Known for its run-heavy attack out of the triple-option offense, Lake Forest abandoned all of that on the final drive. The Spartans ran every play out of a shotgun formation and passed on 13-straight plays before Galindez’s touchdown run.

The formation is known as Lake Forest’s “Air Force” package and was just installed over the summer. The Spartans left it unused until Friday night.

Johnson had a feeling the Spartans might need to go to it at some point this week.

“Just in case we needed it so we started off each practice this week running a few plays of it,” Johnson said. “Maybe like three plays each day. So we said, ‘OK, let’s use it.’ What a game. Why wouldn’t kids want to play football? This is the greatest sport in the world.”

Lake Forest forced a turnover on downs with 3:21 remaining in the game. It allowed the Spartans to take over at their own 23-yard line trailing 20-14 with no timeouts left.

The longest play of the drive came on third-and-10 at Lake Forest’s own 46-yard line.

Galindez picked out junior tight end Justin Furber across the middle. Furber, only in the game because of an injury, caught the pass in stride before he raced 29 yards down to the Milford 25.

“It’s amazing,” Furber said. “It’s unreal. I finally got a chance to make a play and I made the play. We came together as a team, down the whole game but we fought hard and came up on top.”

The Spartans found themselves again facing a third-and-10 two plays later.

Lake Forest’s Malachi Moore looks for a opening to run through.

This time, Galindez fired a pass to his left where sophomore wide receiver Jalen Morris was open. Morris took the pass right in the chest before he calmly stepped out of bounds to stop the clock after a 14-yard gain.

After a pass interference call, the Spartans had the ball first-and-goal at the six. That’s when Galindez demanded the ball.

“He kept saying, ‘Coach, I got you. I got you,’” Johnson said. “And he’s on the field, so I trust him. He told me they were all going to go one way and he was going to go the other way and score. He was right.”

Lake Forest did not score in the contest until Isaiah Johnson pushed in a seven-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. That cut Milford’s lead to 14-7.

But the Buccaneers responded when Jabraih Luke broke free for a 46-yard score with 9:45 left for a 20-7 advantage after a missed extra point.

Junior Nakiem Scott immediately brought Lake Forest back into things with an 82-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. Scott scooped up the ball, went through a small hole while working his way to the left sideline where he found some space and was able to get up to full speed to out-run any would-be-tacklers.

“They didn’t want their season to end tonight,” Johnson said. “Nakiem got that touchdown, I saw all this energy go through us. Our kids kept saying they were going to score.”

Milford had one chance to take the lead back when the Buccaneers brought the final kickoff to their own 40 with 15 seconds left. But after a short pass play Lake Forest brought the Buccaneers down in bounds and Milford was out of timeouts, leaving the final seconds to run off the clock and the Lake Forest sideline to celebrate a playoff berth.

“This is the best team I’ve ever played with,” Galindez said. “We’ve never given up in a game before. That showed on this field tonight.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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