Needing to re-hydrate after a draining 26-16 non-conference loss against Sandburg, Lyons Township linebacker Les Bates walked around with a gallon of water after the game. Collectively, the Lions must also replenish their resolve after dropping their home opener in disappointing fashion.
According to Lyons Township head coach Jack Derning, the panacea is simply better overall execution with a bullet point next to making big plays.
Against Sandburg, the pre-season ranked Lions (0-1) gave up too many big plays and squandered several opportunities of their own. Trailing Sandburg 19-10 midway through the third quarter, Lyons quarterback Beau Spreck (19 carries, 76 yards) led a seven-play, 49-yard drive only to commit a huge turnover on the Sandburg 15.
Five plays later, the Lions literally dropped the ball again missing a surefire interception pass thrown from Sandburg quarterback Ryan Baise.
"We're going to look at the film and learn from our mistakes," Bates said. "This is not a time to dwell on the past. You cannot keep your heads down. We're still a good football team, and we still have a shot at conference and at state."
The visiting Eagles capitalized on Lyons' aforementioned mistakes by putting together a long scoring drive that culminated on a 3-yard touchdown run to make the score 26-10 with seven minutes left in the game.
Before a vocal home crowd at packed Bennett Field, the Lions looked impressive in the early going when cornerback Mike Callaghan picked off a pass to stall a Sandburg drive. Callaghan, a promising junior, filled in admirably as a starter for the Lions' banged up secondary.
"We have some key injuries right now," he said. "If guys can step up, it should help keep the team together."
Sparked by Callaghan's interception, the Lions proceeded to march down the field 81 yards, including long runs of 31 and 34 yards from Casey McMurray (10 carries, 95 yards). Spreck capped off the offensive series with a 2-yard touchdown run off the right side to stake Lyons to an early 7-0 lead.
However, Sandburg responded with a momentum changing play of its own when Mike O'Neil took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to end the first quarter. Biase (12-for-21, 205 yards passing) also hooked up with O'Neil on a 57-yard scoring play off a slant pattern.
"We need to shore up our defense a little bit," Derning said. "I thought we played tentatively (tonight)."
Despite their miscues, the Lions only trailed 12-10 at halftime. They made one final push in the fourth quarter. Trailing 26-10, running back Luke Gacek crashed into the end zone on a 1-yard plunge to make it 26-16 with five minutes remaining. McMurray set up the score with a spectacular 23-yard catch.
For the game, the Lions totaled 13 first downs and only committed one penalty. Chris Clamovski went 1-for-2 on field goal attempts, nailing a 42-yard kick right before the half.
The Lions travel to Hinsdale South Friday (7:30 p.m.) for a non-conference.