Senior four-year varsity player Eddie Tuerk and his Lyons Township football teammates reflected on numerous key moments after the 17-14 home loss to York in the Class 8A state playoffs Saturday.
They included the defense’s apparent fourth-quarter fumble recovery, tough ball spots, one more catch or first down, and simply not enough time. They add up to how much the Lions’ level of performance and expectations continue to rise after last year’s run to the state quarterfinals.
“I thought we came out as a team with more intent,” said Tuerk, a two-way lineman who will play at Illinois. “It seemed like every single senior was playing like it could be his last game and everyone was making plays, giving their best effort. The underclassmen were doing their best for us.
“It came down to the last couple of drives. There were some calls that didn’t go our way, but that’s how it goes in high school football. You’ve got to make plays yourself. The outcome’s terrible but in the end it was a successful season.”
The loss particularly stung because the Lions (7-4) played their West Suburban Conference Silver Division rivals much better than the 24-14 homecoming loss on Oct. 14.
But the Dukes (10-1) also showed why their senior class has only lost twice. York regained possession at its 20-yard line with 6:00 left after an unsuccessful 41-yard field goal attempt by the Lions’ Tommy Newcomb.
The winning drive covered 67 yards in 17 plays. As time expired, York’s Damian Glodz kicked the game-winning, 30-yard field goal after missing a 41-yard attempt in the second quarter.
A 12-1 state semifinalist in 2022, York advances to the quarterfinals against Edwardsville (10-1), which beat Silver champion Glenbard West 48-14 Saturday.
“Our kids fought and battled. I don’t think we played great but we hung in there and had opportunities to win,” LTHS coach Jon Beutjer said.
“The last three years, York has been the standard for our conference. I was really proud of our team for how far they’ve come and fought. [Our seniors have] committed so much to our program. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking. We felt like that was a winnable game.”
On the game-winning drive, the Dukes converted a controversial fourth-and-inches at their 29 and had a key 14-yard pass completion from quarterback Sean Winton to Chris Danko on third-and-8 to the Lions’ 43. They followed with seven running plays, two for nine yards.
The Lions nearly regained the ball earlier — twice.
On third-and-1 at the York 29, they recovered an apparent York fumble that instead was ruled down. On fourth-and-inches, the Dukes barely converted and some LTHS defenders disagreed.
Coming off the sidelines, Beutjer said the officials refused his request for a measurement with the sidelines chains to confirm the first down.
“I guess what bothered me was I requested a measurement and I was denied,” Beutjer said. “When it’s a close game like that and both teams have worked so hard … why not measure it? It’s a big game.”
York scored first but LTHS took a 14-7 halftime lead on two leaping catches in coverage.
Jackson threw a 30-yard TD pass to Jack Cheney with 3:04 before halftime following a 40-yard TD pass to Jack McQueeney on the last scrimmage play of the first quarter. Newcomb kicked both extra points.
“[Cheney and McQueeney] don’t get a lot of attention at receiver and it was nice to connect with them. They did a great job of stepping up when their number was called,” said Jackson, who passed for 143 yards. “I thought we played a pretty complete game.”
York tied the game 14-14 in the third quarter. On its final possession, LTHS reached the York 23. On third-and-11 at the 24, Jackson went to the end zone for top receiver Travis Stamm, who nearly made a leaping catch before Danko knocked the ball loose.
“For me, we were going for the win. We wanted to score [a TD] and put the pressure on them,” said Beutjer, also the offensive coordinator.
Tackle leaders on defense were Cheney and McQueeny (10 each), Luke Wehling (9, 2 for loss, sack) Tuerk and Patrick Cheney (7 each) and Danny Montesano and Roman Sosnovyy (6 each). Patrick Cheney and Tuerk combined on a 23-yard sack.
Wehling, who has broken his collar bone twice this season, played his first complete game since Week 2.
During the final drive, senior linebacker Noah Pfafflin injured his left knee, encouraging teammates while being helped off the field. Pfafflin broke his left wrist two days before the first York meeting but continued playing with the injury heavily padded.
“That’s the game, just things not going our way calls-wise that really hurt, but we gave it our all,” said the Colgate-bound Pfafflin, scheduled for an MRI Tuesday.
“The leaders last year were such mentors to us and we kind of wanted to bring that this year. Next year’s guys know how to win. I think that this can be carried on. I’m glad that we were part of the way to help bring that forward.”