The Lyons Township football team earned a measure of revenge while keeping its postseason hopes alive with a 20-7 win over Proviso West on Friday. The Lions’ victory spoiled the Panthers’ Homecoming party while also erasing memories of last year’s 41-14 loss to Proviso West.
“We definitely had that in the back of our minds,” LT quarterback Zach Mahoney said about the 2011 debacle at Bennett Field. “Obviously, it’s nice to come out and get a win [at Proviso West]. They are a good football team so it’s a confidence booster for us.”
The best benefit post-Proviso West is LT (4-4, 3-3 West Suburban Silver) controls its own destiny regarding playoff eligibility. The formula is simple: If the host Lions defeat Leyden on Friday (7:30 p.m.), they’re essentially in the playoffs with five wins, plenty of playoff points and a coveted chance to build on their consecutive quarterfinals appearances.
It won’t be easy though as the Eagles (7-1, 6-0 West Suburban Gold) are enjoying an excellent season, highlighted by their first undisputed conference division title since 1979.
“The key for us is staying healthy,” LT kicker Jake Elliott said. “Leyden is having a good season. If we stay focused and avoid mental mistakes, we should be okay.”
The Lions certainly looked solid in all three phases of the game against Proviso West. Mahoney, in the midst of an outstanding senior season, completed 17-of-27 passes for 235 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Harris right before halftime. The Northwestern-bound Harris, who has battled injuries this season, appears to be rounding into playoff form just in time. He hauled in nine catches for 140-yard yards against Proviso West (5-3, 2-3).
Burgeoning sophomore star Leonard Ross (16 carries, 91 yards) added a 10-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to ice the game. With starting running back Victor Conforti (broken hand) and his steady backup Trevon Woods (strained MCL left knee) sidelined, Ross has filled in admirably.
“Injuries always hurt a team but we have a lot of quality depth,” Mahoney said. “Leonard has been great for us, and I think we have four Division I caliber wide receivers over the next two years [here], especially Jemari Burks.”
Mahoney also cited the Lions’ defensive work as a major factor in the team’s push for the playoffs.
“Our defense stepped it up against Proviso West,” Mahoney said. “They got the ball back for us and gave us plenty of opportunities to score. I think in a lot of our games we have left too many points on the field, but we made enough plays [against Proviso West] to win.”
Defensively, LT gave up over 400 yards of total offense to the explosive Panthers but only yielded a touchdown. Chance Haney (20 carries, 137 yards) and Denzel Tolliver (9 catches, 117 yards) led the Panthers’ offense.
For his part, Elliott nailed field goals of 35 and 40 yards in addition to consistently kicking touchbacks on kickoffs.
“The field goals are always nice,” Elliott said, “but we felt like we had a decided advantage overall on special teams.”