Lyons Township High School senior Ian Gamino spent his 2022 varsity football season as the backup to graduated linebacker and co-captain Cooper King and playing on kickoff and special teams.
“I learned a lot,” Gamino said. “I was like a sponge, soaking up everything. This year, grinding in the offseason. I did track to prepare. I’ve worked hard to get to this point.”
Gamino took advantage of his opportunity Friday to help the Lions continue a 2022
tradition, stepping up in the Class 8A state playoffs.
The Lions (7-3) had an impressive opener, winning 31-6 at Stevenson. LTHS now will play host to rival York (9-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Western Springs with hopes of avenging their 24-14 homecoming loss on Oct. 14.
The LTHS defense limited the Patriots (7-3) to 137 total yards and a second-quarter touchdown. Stevenson, which scored at least 24 points in six victories, didn’t cross midfield in the second half until LT led 28-6.
“I feel like in the second half we really shut down their power run. We adjusted really well,” Gamino said.
The offense opened with an 80-yard touchdown drive and answered Stevenson’s score with another touchdown for a 14-6 halftime lead.
On special teams, senior Jack Cheney blocked a punt that senior Noah Pfafflin recovered in the end zone.
“The kids are coming to practice with the right mindset and the message has been let’s put a whole game together, offense, defense and special teams, because that’s what we’re capable of,” LTHS coach Jon Beutjer said.
Jackson was 13 for 19 passing for 173 yards. On the opening drive, senior Jack McQueeney scored on a 3-yard run after Jackson’s fourth-and-1 completion to junior Tucker King to the 31. King, Cooper’s younger brother, has played tight end since Pfafflin broke his left wrist two days before the York game.
“That was huge. The ball was a little high and [King] made a huge catch,” Jackson said.
Stevenson scored on a 25-yard TD pass 3:12 before halftime but senior Kellen Knop blocked the extra point. After a 30-yard kickoff return by senior Danny Montesano, the Lions went 58 yards to score 40.4 seconds before halftime on Jackson’s 1-yard TD run.
A former running back, Cheney has been injured the last two varsity seasons for playoffs. Following his blocked punt, the free safety had an interception at the LT 48.
“I’ve been out there all year. It’s been a fun year,” Cheney said. “[The block] was a pretty awesome play. I’ve had a couple of interceptions, but that was probably the most fun, blocking that punt.”
After Jackson converted third-and-20 and fourth-and-1 with 19 and 5-yard runs, he found junior Travis Stamm in stride for a 33-yard TD pass with 5:15 left in the third quarter. Senior Tommy Newcomb added a 30-yard field goal with 5:16 left.
Last year, the Lions reached the 8A quarterfinals. In his third year as a playoff starter, Jackson said the team’s approach hasn’t changed.
“It’s 1-0 every week and peak at the right time, peak at playoffs,” Jackson said. “That’s how we were last year and I feel like we’re going to stay like that the rest of the playoffs.”