Lyons Township High School senior James Georgelos is handling significantly more responsibility this football season.
The returning starter is a team captain with seniors Danny Pasko, Graham Smith and Griffin King and the only player with varsity experience in the defensive secondary.
He’s now also seeing time at wide receiver, a position he played on the lower levels as a sophomore and freshman.
“I’m really excited to play receiver this year and make an impact on the offensive side,” Georgelos said.
Getting the most out of their talent is a theme for the Lions after a great finish to their 2021 season, which culminated with their first playoff berth since 2017 in Jon Beutjer’s first nine-game season as head coach.
LTHS (5-5, 3-3 in West Suburban Conference Silver) won three of its last four regular-season games to make the playoffs at 5-4. The Lions lost their IHSA Class 8A playoff opener 35-10 at Lockport, the eventual state champion.
Pasko, an All-WSC Silver linebacker, leads the large pack of returning starters. This season starts Aug. 26 at Buffalo Grove, which last season went 9-2 and only lost twice to Prospect, a Class 7A state semifinalist.
“We want to peak at the right time, peak at the end of the year. We challenged them at the end of last season and got the wins when we needed to,” Beutjer said.
Many of those Lions will be seeing more playing time. This offseason, several standouts began practicing positions on the other side of the ball.
The 6-2, 207-pound Pasko may help at running back after solely being among the defensive leaders in 2021 with 48 tackles.
Junior lineman Eddie Tuerk (6-5, 255) is an NCAA Division I prospect who may help the offense after starting on the defensive line as a sophomore. There’s also Smith (6-5, 210), the Yale commit who played tight end in 2021 (8 catches, 141 yards, TD) after being a quarterback on the lower levels.
“It’s built some more depth and it’s actually helped our guys learn more about football,” Beutjer said. “They’re playing offensive line, defensive line, safety, corner and then receiver. They’re getting used to how we attack coverages, a different perspective.”
Junior quarterback Ryan Jackson (382 passing yards, 8 TDs) played that position down the stretch last year after All-WSC Silver standout Joey Antonietti was moved to play receiver and running back.
Junior Noah Pfafflin (247 yards, TD), sophomore Travis Stamm and Georgelos will be among this season’s receiving targets. Junior Jack Cheney will contribute at running back.
Seniors Aidan Hallett (6-5, 270) and Kevin Cruz (6-0, 245) are key linemen who can contribute both ways.
Other defensive standouts include linebacker King and senior linebacker/tight end Jack Falls.
“We have a lot of weapons offensively,” Beutjer said. “We have a strong offensive line that’s physical. I think our defense is doing a good job of flying to the ball and tackling.”
The Lions’ first goal is to win their first WSC Silver title since 2010. Besides returning to the state playoffs, Beutjer feels this team is capable of making a run.
“Making the playoffs and those big wins when it mattered most kind of built the confidence in us and showed with all of the hard work and chipping away, it pays off in the end,” Georgelos said.