NORTHLAKE — On Leyden’s senior night, the memories began to build on the very first play from scrimmage.
Josh Padilla (5-11, 210), who has autism, entered Friday’s game following the opening kickoff. On the first snap, senior quarterback Tom Pajor underhanded the ball to Padilla and in a matter of seconds, he ran the length of the field to the end zone, with Proviso East’s cooperation.
While it was the first touchdown of his high school career, the score did not count. But his moment brought an ovation from the crowd and a rush of teammates for a celebration that proved to be a fitting start to Leyden’s 49-9 win in the West Suburban Gold.
“It was pretty emotional,” athletic director Randy Conrad said. “In sports, everybody thinks that it’s about the wins and losses … but I think these types of moments is what people are going to remember the rest of their lives.”
Later in the third quarter, Pajor approached Padilla on the sideline.
“I just told him I loved him and I wanted him to score a touchdown,” Pajor said.
Coach Tom Cerasani wasn’t sure beforehand how well the play would be executed.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do when he got the ball tonight,” Cerasani said. “I asked him before the game if he was going to score a touchdown. He said, ‘Yes,’ and he did. It was great.”
While Leyden (2-7, 2-4) and Proviso West (1-8, 0-6) struggled this season, the Eagles were able to put a stamp on the school record book.
With 3:37 left in the third quarter, Pajor found receiver Alex Lemon to his right, and he took the pass for a 32-yard score. With that play, Pajor became the career passing leader for the Eagles, finishing with 2,304 yards. Lemon’s catch also gave him the school’s all-time mark for receiving yards.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was about to break the record,” Lemon said. “I was happy.”
Pajor had faith that he would make history in the final game in an Eagles’ uniform.
“We’re brothers,” Pajor said. “It’s like we’re the same person. I trust him with everything. He trusts me with everything. I knew he was going to catch that ball and I knew we were going to break that record tonight.”
Junior David Demarais shined, contributing three touchdowns, including a reception for 39 yards.
There also was very little that senior John Robles did not do. He caught a touchdown pass, made an interception and had a 58-yard punt return for a TD.