LaGRANGE, Ill. -- It was a do-or-die situation in a packed house, and as play began, every bit of momentum shifted from host Lyons Township to the visiting Eagles of Sandburg High School. Luckily for the Lions, there are four quarters to every game.
After giving up 10 early points, Lyons Township rallied to a 21-20 victory at Bennett Field in the second round of the Class 8A football playoffs.
Senior quarterback Brian Kelley accounted for the Lions' first two scores and junior running back Jaime Jones’s three-yard plunge put Lyons on top with under a minute to play in the third quarter.
"This was huge," said Kelley, amidst a pack of Lions fans. "This is the first time LT has gotten this far in the modern playoff era and this is the most wins all-time for an LT program. It feels great to do this as a senior."
It wasn't a pretty start for the Lions (10-1), who went three-and-out on their first two possessions. Sandburg (8-3) marched down the field and took a 7-0 lead on a five-yard run by Chris Lopez. After forcing another Lyons punt, Sandburg again moved the ball on the ground, setting up the first of two Taylor Zalewski field goals (43 and 32 yards) that gave the Eagles a 10-0 advantage.
Lyons finally started to move the ball in the second quarter, and after a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took more than six minutes off of the clock, the first of Kelley’s two rushing touchdowns cut Lyons' deficit to 10-7. Sandburg and Lyons traded touchdowns before the half, giving the Eagles the 17-14 lead at intermission.
Sandburg began the third quarter with a three-and-out, then forced a Lions’ turnover on downs. On Sandburg’s ensuing drive, Zalewski hit his second field goal to cap the scoring for the Eagles.
Lyons took its first and only lead of the ballgame when Jones found paydirt with :56 seconds to play in the third, the final score in the game by either team.
Sandburg, led by Lopez (66 yards rushing, TD) and quarterback Cody Miller (123 yards passing, TD), started its final drive with 5:20 left on the clock. However, after a penalty and back-to-back losses (on a failed lateral and quarterback sack) pushed the Eagles back 17 yards, Sandburg only gained 12 yards on fourth-and-27, giving the ball back to Lyons with 2:14 to play. From there, Jones would carry three straight times to ice the game.
"I was thinking, keep my head up and keep my feet moving. I tell myself that all the time," Jones said. "It was such a good feeling to get that last first down."
Lyons Township will now move on to face Mt. Carmel (9-2) in the quarterfinals.
Players of the game: Lyons Sr. QB Brian Kelley: 21 carries, 77 yds, 2 TDs and 10-for-14 for 119 yds passing. Lyons Jr. RB Jaime Jones, 22 carries, 88 yds, TD.
Stat of the game: Due to penalties and strong Lions defense, Sandburg lost a total of 22 yards on its final drive of the game.
It was over when: Jones rushed for five yards and a first down with :47 seconds left in the game, allowing Lyons to run out the clock.
Quote of the night: "For the seniors, we didn't want this to be out last game. LT's been great to us. We don't want it to end." -- Kelley