In desperate need of a victory, the Lyons Township High School football team put the ball into the hands of its most effective offensive weapon. Junior running back Leonard Ross ran for a school-record 241 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Lions’ 31-14 win over host Leyden in a West Suburban Conference crossover Friday.
With LTHS trailing 7-3 after Leyden quarterback Tom Pajor threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Alex Lemon midway through the second quarter, Ross broke free for a 63-yard scamper into the end zone putting the Lions up 10-7.
The Eagles regained the advantage at 14-10 on Aaron Whigham’s 36-yard touchdown with 2:12 remaining until halftime. The Lions took the lead for good on quarterback Tommy Fiedler’s six-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Matt Mrazek (seven catches, 63 yards).
The Fiedler-to-Mrazek scoring play triggered a run of 21 unanswered points for the Lions.
In the second half, Ross ensured a LTHS victory with a pair of touchdowns on a four-yard run at 9:06 of the third quarter and a five-yard run with 5:17 remaining in the game.
“Leonard is a tremendous running back with great power and speed,” LTHS head coach Kurt Weinberg said about Ross, who already has a scholarship offer from the University of Illinois. “He’s a big part of our offense. I’m happy for him that he broke the school record for [single-game] yards rushing.”
Employing their no-huddle, hurry-up offense, the Lions racked up 382 yards of total offense against Leyden (0-3). Whigham led the Eagles’ offense with 103 yards rushing. The LTHS defense turned in a solid effort, especially after allowing 104 points in its first two games this season. In Week 2 of the season, Willowbrook quarterback Brian Johnson riddled the LTHS secondary to the tune of a state-record 675 yards passing during the Lions’ 62-49 loss to the Warriors.
Despite a sluggish 1-2 start, LTHS enter West Suburban (Silver) Conference play with cause for confidence. After a 2-4 start last season, LTHS reeled off three straight wins to qualify for the Class 8A playoffs. The Lions have appeared in three straight Class 8A quarterfinals, often catching fire late in the season.
LTHS hosts defending Class 7A state champion Glenbard West on Friday at 7:30 p.m. After a surprising loss to Wheaton-Warrenville South in its season opener, the Hilltoppers have predictably rebounded with two solid victories, including a notable 21-0 victory at Downers Grove North.
The Hilltoppers, who went 14-0 en route to their aforementioned state championship in 2012, feature quarterback Drew Vogg, running backs Scott Andrews and Devante Toney coupled with an extremely fast, physical defense.
“Our conference is as good as any in the state and it starts with Glenbard West,” Weinberg said. “They are the [Class 7A] defending state champs and [head coach] Chad Hetlet has done an unbelievable job with that program.”
The Lions will counter with plenty of handoffs to Ross and the passing of Fiedler to favorite targets Mrazek, Marcell Kellum, Sam Shea and Connor Pavletic. The LTHS defense will also need to build off its strong second half showing against Leyden, although Glenbard West represents a major step up in competition.