Lyons Township’s Jackson Turner (13) goes up for a header during the Lions’ 2-1 victory over OPRF on April 15 in Oak Park, capping a successful 11-1 season. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

On April 15, the Lyons Township High School boys soccer team clinched the West Suburban Silver conference championship with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Oak Park and River Forest, capping another successful campaign for the Lions.

“We always play one-goal games and it always comes down to the end,” said LTHS coach Paul Labbato of the intense rivalry with the Huskies. “It’s always crazy like this. I can’t think of another series where the last few games have displayed this type of intensity.”

In the first half, LTHS (11-1) spent the majority of time in OPRF’S end of the field, and the constant pressure finally paid off as senior forward Max Behm scored with 11:30 left to put the Lions ahead 1-0.

The opening minutes of the second half saw a role reversal as the Huskies laid siege to the LTHS net. Senior goalkeeper Johnathan Laczynski stood tall, but was eventually beaten by OPRF’s Paul Garcia with 31:16 remaining. 

The Huskies (5-5-1) continued to apply pressure in an effort to get the go-ahead goal but were unable to finish plays. Then with 24:18 left, LT senior defender Jackson Turner felt he had scored off a rebound, but the officials ruled the Lions to be offside, and the contest remained deadlocked.

However, LTHS gradually increased its pressure, and with 6:23 remaining, sophomore forward Brian Salvino put the Lions ahead to stay with a header set up by a great free kick by Behm.

“I ran around the corner and hit the ball off the left hand of the defender,” said Salvino. “It was a great cross by [Behm] and I was able to get my head on it. It’s great to go out with a win, and I did it all for the seniors.”

“We tried to put some pressure on them at the end after they got that fantastic goal by [Garcia],” Labbato said of the Lions’ strategy late. “We felt we could switch some momentum and try for the goal.”

The victory sealed LTHS’ sixth consecutive conference championship, and despite the circumstances caused by the pandemic, Labbato said the Lions’ hard work paid off.

“They were committed to bettering themselves over the past year, and our positive mindset and chemistry really put this season in a great direction,” Labbato said.

Labbato credited the seniors for leading the way.

“Having been very close to this group of seniors, I was so excited and relieved that these boys who have worked so hard the past few years were able to compete this spring,” said Labbato. “They did it all, and I appreciate the hard work they put in.”