Lyons Township High School senior lineman Aidan Hallett has the most taped feet on almost any football field.
Temporarily sidelined by an injured left ankle the previous game, Hallett received additional wraps for The IHSA Class 8A state quarterfinals at Loyola Academy on Nov. 12. The 6-foot-6 Hallett started at left offensive tackle and in the defensive line rotation.
“This might be the sturdiest ankle of all time. It’s not going anywhere,” Hallett said. “For me, [sitting out] wasn’t really an option. There was no way that I was missing this game.”
Unfortunately for the No. 14-seeded Lions, Hallett was among several two-way standouts who spent too much time on defense. No. 6 Loyola scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and added several clutch conversions en route to a 30-17 victory.
The Lions (9-3), appearing in their first state quarterfinal since 2012, had hoped to become the program’s first state semifinalist.
“[Loyola is] in this game every single year,” said senior captain Graham Smith, who plays tight end and defensive end. “Hopefully now we start a tradition at LT that we’re in this game every single year. We seniors set that bar for the next seniors to accomplish.”
The masters of comebacks all season, the Lions trailed 21-3 at halftime. They scored to begin the second half, but the Ramblers (11-1) responded with a touchdown and field goal on their next two possessions.
“I’m just proud of this senior group and how much they’ve believed and worked together and played for each other,” LTHS coach Jon Beutjer said. “They’re a special group. There’s so many times this year where we came back.”
The Ramblers started the second half with a three-and-out and the Lions got the ball at the 24 after thwarting a fake punt. On fourth-and-7, quarterback Ryan Jackson found a wide-open Noah Pfafflin for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Loyola answered with a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive, converting fourth-and-5 and fourth-and-1 along the way. Smith caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jackson with 3:43 left.
Loyola put the Lions in a 14-0 hole by opening with 50- and 47-yard touchdown drives. Senior David Waight made a 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but the Ramblers then scored on a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2.
The field goal followed Travis Stamm’s difficult catch at the back of the end zone that was ruled out of bounds. Beutjer said his coaches in the press box believed Stamm was in play and secured the ball.
“I felt like if we have a couple of different series, it might have been a different ball game,” Beutjer said. “This is a premiere program, a top-five team in the state, and we came close. We just didn’t execute when we needed to.”
The Lions’ only other losses were to two other Class 8A semifinalists, York and Glenbard West.
“Nobody wants to quit. That’s what I love about this team,” said senior captain Cooper King. “Just refusing to lose, not quitting until that last play. That’s the culture we need to build at LT.”