Berwyn's Morton West High School is home to one of the oldest and most cherished high school football stadiums in the area.
But it's not the best place to play soccer, in the opinion of Lyons Township coach Alex Hernandez. It's a field of grass rendered brutally uneven by decades of football and quite a bit narrower than what the Lions are accustomed to playing on at home and, for that matter, on Morton's regular soccer field nearby.
"It's very difficult to control the ball," said Hernandez, whose team arrived for Saturday afternoon's West Suburban Conference crossover showdown expecting to play on the regular field.
But this was Homecoming and LT would have to contend with the Gold-Division-power Mustangs in the stadium before an electrified crowd. Despite all the elements stacked against them, the Lions eked out a 1-1 tie and flirted with a victory.
Senior Mark Zeman headed in a free kick from junior Kyle Luetkehans (14 assists on the season) deep in the penalty area to give Lyons the equalizer about 30 minutes into the match. A couple of minutes later, the Lions nearly grabbed the lead and kept the pressure on the Mustangs through most of the scoreless second half.
Although sloppy passing plagued LT through much of the first half, the team gradually adjusted to the difficult field conditions and found itself more in-sync in the second stanza.
"We pressed a lot," observed Hernandez. "I was far more pleased with play in the second half."
This increase in passing accuracy was an encouraging sign since, explained Hernandez, the Lions will play on similar conditions in less than two weeks when they begin the De La Salle Regional in Chicago. Seeded first in the 18-team field of their own sectional, the Lions will play on Oct. 18 against either the regional host or Bronzeville of Chicago.
Plus, according to the recently-released State playoff pairing, Lyons could very well be on a collision course with Morton, which is seeded second in the same sectional. If the two teams meet again, it would be in the sectional final?"on the Lions' home field.
Tying Morton moved LT's overall record to 11-1-2 and extended its unbeaten streak to six games.
The Lions moved to 5-0 in the West Suburban (Silver) by outlasting Oak Park and River Forest 1-0 Thursday night in Oak Park.
LT mostly controlled the ball in the first half, peppering the hosts with eight shots on goal and scoring the only goal about 20 minutes into the match. Senior Pat Magnesen one-timed a Luetkehans cross pass near the top of the 6-yard box into the lower left corner of the net.
The Huskies, who were missing a handful of starters due to injury, tightened up on defense and yielded only two shots on goal in the second half.
"We were working it around, but they were really good at packing it in," said Magnesen, whose team fell to the Huskies 3-0 last year. "It was just a matter of us settling the ball down in the second half. We had trouble with that."
LT takes on Hinsdale South on Friday night (7:30 p.m.).