Lemont’s Ryan Dawson makes quarterback job his own

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For the first three weeks of Lemont’s season, Ryan Dawson often rotated offensive series at quarterback with Chris Thompson.

With the Indians winning their first three games, the plan to rotate figured to remain intact.

Or so it appeared.

Dawson earned the start against Oak Forest in Week 4 and led the Indians to three first-quarter touchdowns. He played at such a high level during a 42-20 rout of the Bengals, completing 20 of 25 passes for 267 yards and six touchdowns, he pretty much forced the coaching staff’s hand.

The days of rotating quarterbacks were over.

“Going into that game, the plan was to keep rotating,” Dawson said. “We got a quick score and I got into a rhythm. After the second touchdown, coach (Bret) Kooi told me they were keeping me out there. I knew I couldn’t slack off.”

The only thing Dawson has done since Week 4 is excel.

In fact, he’s been one of the top quarterbacks in the south suburbs the past five weeks.

In all five of Dawson’s starts, the Indians have scored at least 40 points. On three times, including Friday’s 57-20 win over Tinley Park, Lemont topped 50.

Against Tinley Park, Dawson threw seven touchdown passes, bringing his total to 32 for the season — tops in the Southland. He’s twice thrown six touchdowns in a game twice: in Week 6 vs. T.F. North, a 55-13 final, and Week 7 vs. Oak Lawn, a 45-0 win.

In leading the Indians to an 8-0 record, Dawson has completed 87 of 131 passes for 1,291 yards.

“It’s been an incredible season so far,” Dawson said. “I’ve never expected to be this dominant. I’ve just been really focused. I’ve had to give 110 percent, not just 100 percent.”

Beyond the hard work and determination, the 6-1, 180-pound senior attributes his success to two other factors: first-year coach Kooi’s offense and receiver Flynn Nagel transferring from Marist for his senior season.

Kooi led Lockport to consecutive Class 8A state championships in 2002 and ’03. Nagel, a Duke recruit, provides a weapon few other programs can match.

Dawson also acknowledged the “awesome job” the Indians offensive line has done providing him with time to flourish.

“I had trouble understanding the offense at first,” Dawson said. “I had trouble hitting the wide receivers out of the break and not hitting them in a certain spot. It took time. We had very good receivers, like Jimmy Kepouros, but with Flynn coming in, we knew it was going to make us that much better.”

Dawson played his youth football with the Lemont Hornets, starting at age 6. However, he didn’t start playing quarterback until he was in eighth grade.

“I was tossed around everywhere — lineman, linebacker, wideout,” Dawson said. “One of the coaches asked me to throw the ball around in eighth grade and then moved me to quarterback.”

Dawson’s first love entering high school was baseball. Once he was able to understand the nuances of quarterback, his love for football grew so strong, he hung his baseball spikes for good.

Dawson’s not sure where he’ll attend college. What he does know, however, is that he wants to continue to play football.

Kooi believes Dawson’s best days are ahead of him.

“Ryan wants to succeed,” Kooi said. “He takes pride in his performance and is an extremely hard worker. I’m very proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. But I believe he’s just going to continue to get better.

“He’s put up some incredible numbers, but I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet.

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