In high school football, Division I college quarterbacks do not grow on trees. While finding one may be difficult, replacing one is an even steeper challenge. This is the scenario Lyons Township head coach Kurt Weinberg will deal with this season.
Ben Bryant achieved many accolades during his time at LTHS, which included setting passing records in every category and winning the West Suburban Conference Silver Division Offensive MVP twice. In 2017, he threw for 1,685 yards with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. As a three-year varsity starter, he passed for over 5,000 yards and accounted for 59 touchdowns.
After his stellar preps career, Bryant accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Cincinnati. He also considered Georgia, Wisconsin, Indiana, West Virginia and Ole Miss.
JJ Dutton is Bryant’s predecessor. Weinberg believes Dutton’s hard work and progress over the summer have prepared him well for the season.
“We knew it was going to be JJ Dutton going in,” Weinberg said. “Replacing an excellent player like Ben Bryant is a really hard thing to do, but JJ has come along really nicely. Ben led our offense and our team. He was very smart and understood how defenses were trying to attack him. That that learning curve is going to be a steep one for JJ.”
Dutton, who spent time at defensive back last season, can use his athleticism and mobility to help his transition under center.
Additionally, Weinberg cited a quartet of seniors as key contributors this season. They are running back Tyrone Smith, middle linebacker Sean Rickman, lineman Emmet Cushing and defensive back Hareson Willis.
Smith in particular, was successful last season and will be called upon for more production this fall.
“Tyrone needs to do what he did last year, which is run the ball hard and fast,” Weinberg said. “He had a great summer so he just has to go out there and be himself.”
The offensive line, which lost nearly graduated all its starters from last season, is promising but untested. Like Dutton, the Lions’ front five should develop with game experience at the varsity level.
Anthony DeMarco, Aidan Kelly and Tay Dextra have performed over the summer.
Per usual, the West Suburban Conference Silver Division is stacked with good teams, particularly at the top of the standings. Glenbard West is the preseason favorite, followed closely by Hinsdale Central. Oak Park and River Forest and LTHS could contend for the title as well. Downers Grove North and York have new coaches and plenty of potential.
“Unlike some other conferences around, there are no easy games in our conference” Weinberg said. “The West Suburban Conference is one of the best conferences in the state.”
The Lions’ schedule will be challenging. LTHS visits Glenbard West on Sept. 29 and closes out the season with four straight games against conference title contenders. A home game against Hinsdale Central (Oct. 12) and road game against OPRF (Oct. 19) will be stiff tests.