Lyons Township High School senior James Georgelos caught the swing pass from junior quarterback Ryan Jackson at the 8-yard line at Plainfield North on Nov. 4 determined to score.
Not only was this the second round of the IHSA Class 8A state football playoffs, those last, difficult yards were along the LTHS sideline whose observers included older brother Anthony and freshman brother Tommy.
“If I didn’t reach the end zone there, I’d hear about it for the rest of my life,” Georgelos said. “[Anthony], he’d be talking the entire time ‘How did you get stopped on the 1-yard line?’ I just dove for the front pylon and that’s that. I turned around and saw him. I won’t forget that for the rest of my life.”
Georgelos’ first varsity touchdown on the final play of the third quarter completed the incredible reversal of fortune in the Lions’ 24-13 victory after trailing 13-3 at halftime.
No. 14-seed LTHS (9-2) advances to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2012 at 1 p.m. on Nov. 12 at No. 6 Loyola Academy (10-1), a 2021 state semifinalist which has scored 42 and 49 points in its playoff victories.
The Lions never have gotten past the state quarterfinals in five previous trips. Their first in 1978 included Georgelos’ father Andrew.
“We’re looking to make history,” Georgelos said. “We’ve come back from adversity. We were comfortable with being down because we know the best is yet to come.”
No. 3 Plainfield North (10-1) was riding its first undefeated season, but with a biting wind at their back, the Lions scored first on David Waight’s 22-yard field goal after Caleb Greer’s interception and 27-yard return to the 7.
By halftime, however, LTHS had just 65 offensive yards.
“I told the guys [at halftime] we’ve been down before. This is no different. Just go out there, believe and play football. They did that,” LTHS coach Jon Beutjer said. “It was a great victory. I’m proud of our seniors and our coaching staff.”
The Lions opened the second half with a 54-yard touchdown drive completed by a 17-yard pass to sophomore Travis Stamm, followed by 33- and 29-yard touchdown drives with the go-ahead score an 8-yard pass to senior Graham Smith.
A standout defensive effort allowed Plainfield North just 50 second-half yards, 28 until the Tigers’ final possession.
“I think we’re just peaking at the right time. Next week will be even better,” LTHS senior linebacker Cooper King said. “We don’t want to be done. I feel like every single person came out here in the second half and gave it their all.”
Smith and seniors Jack Falls and Danny Pasko shared two sacks. King, Smith, Pasko and Falls combined for three more tackles for loss.
Noah Pfafflin added a leaping one-arm interception, King blocked two passes and Pasko and Jack McQueeney broke up or deflected passes.
Danny Montesano began the second half with a 25-yard kickoff return to the Lions’ 46. Two plays after a 27-yard pass to McQueeney, Jackson found an open Stamm in the corner of the end zone.
”Honestly, that was a game-changer for us. After that, all of the momentum was in our back pocket,” Stamm said.
After Plainfield North’s wind-affected punt. Smith scored on the far-right side of the end zone with a third-down pass he bobbled then secured while remaining inbounds.
“I don’t know how I caught it either,” Smith said.
Plainfield North went for it on fourth-and-6 at its 41, but Smith’s 12-yard sack again gave the Lions great field position.
“That’s probably the best half of football I’ve played all season,” Smith said. “It was awesome, even more fun when you win.”