By Marty Farmer
Junior cornerback JJ Dutton is a top playmaker for the Lyons Township High School football team.
He made his presence felt during the host Lions' 35-20 homecoming win against Proviso West on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Bennett Field in Western Springs.
With LTHS leading 29-6 in the last minute of the second quarter, Dutton intercepted a pass from Proviso West quarterback Deveon Bryant and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, extending the Lions' lead to 35-6 at halftime.
Considering the Panthers rallied with two touchdowns in the second half, Dutton's pick proved timely in terms of the eventual outcome. With Proviso West poised to score on the LTHS 1-yard line, Dutton's pick served essentially as a 12-point swing on the scoreboard.
However, Dutton wasn't exactly a one-man show. Led by Cincinnati-bound quarterback Ben Bryant (13-for-21, 219 yards, 3 TD), running backs Tyrone Smith (29 carries, 169 yards) and Bryce Moskiewicz (10 carries, 95 yards) and wide receivers Brandon Fischer (6 receptions, 111 yards) and Nate Rusk (3 catches, 30 yards, TD), LTHS scored 23 unanswered points to establish a sizeable lead at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter. The Lions amassed 439 yards of total offense.
After a three-and-out by Proviso West, the Lions blocked a punt by Deveon Bryant out of the end zone for a safety and 2-0 lead at 10:04 of the first quarter. LTHS added a touchdown when Smith scored on a 1-yard run off left tackle. Rusk kicked the extra point to put LTHS up 9-0 about midway through the first quarter.
Ben Bryant threw a 4-yard slant pass to his favorite target, Fischer, for another TD as LTHS built the lead to 16-0 at the 2:58 mark of the first quarter.
LTHS senior cornerback Louis Banda intercepted another Deveon Bryant pass deep in Lions' territory. LTHS proceeded to go on a 15-play, 90-yard scoring drive, capped off on Ben Bryant's 3-yard pass to Moskiewicz. Rusk added the PAT as the Lions' advantage swelled to 23-0.
The Panthers responded with a 9-play, 65-yard march that culminated on Deveon Bryant's 28-yard pass to running back Tyrese Christian. Proviso West failed on the 2-point conversation but at least cut the deficit to 23-6 with 5:02 remaining until halftime.
Dutton's aforementioned 99-yard interception return closed out the first-half scoring. Midway through the third quarter, Deveon Bryant connected with wide open senior wide receiver Demeco Price who scampered down the middle of the field for a 65-yard reception. Three plays later, Deveon Bryant scored on a 12-yard run into the end zone to make the score 35-12 with 5:33 left in the third quarter.
Although LTHS didn't move the ball nearly as well in the second half, a golden scoring opportunity was missed early in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-goal at the Proviso West 1, Smith was stuffed for no gain by the Panthers.
Deveon Bryant struck once more on a 9-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Kyle Morrison with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter to pull the Panthers closer at 35-20.
On the next play, LTHS junior Hareson Willis secured the ball during an onside kick by Proviso West. The Lions went on a ball control drive to run out the clock and secure a hard-fought conference victory.
LTHS (4-0, 2-0 West Suburban Silver) visits Leyden on Saturday, Sept. 22 in a nonconference matchup. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Along with defending conference champion Hinsdale Central and 2016 Class 8A semifinalist Glenbard West, the Lions are undefeated in conference.
LTHS and visiting Glenbard West clash on Friday, Sept 29. The winner of that game will have the inside track to winning conference.