WESTERN SPRINGS — Michael Johnson is thankful anytime he’s able to take the field this season for Hinsdale Central’s football team.
The Red Devils’ offensive lineman has endured two injury-plagued years, but his hard work through rehab two years ago and a little bit of luck by staying healthy this season is paying off while starting at left guard.
Hinsdale Central’s offensive line was reconfigured this week after the loss of senior right tackle Stefan Ivanesevic. But the line produced one of the Devils’ top offensive games of the season as quarterback Matt Rafferty threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns and running back Juwan Emond rushed for 179 yards and scored another TD in the Devils’ 37-23 West Suburban Silver victory Friday night at Lyons.
The Devils (4-2, 3-1) led 26-23 after Joe Bruni kicked a 33-yard field goal for Lyons (3-3, 1-2) with 10:26 remaining in the game. But Hinsdale Central receiver Thomas Ives provided some cushion when he caught Rafferty’s short pass and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown play with 2:52 to go.
“[The offensive line] was awesome,” Ives said. “Coach [Dan Hartman] preaches consistency. We had a good whole week of practice and the offensive line buys into it.”
The 6-3, 280-pound Johnson has recovered since missing all three sports his sophomore year due to a torn ACL in his right knee that he sustained when a teammate fell into him during a game. He eventually had surgery, but missed the rest of the football season and could not play basketball and baseball.
Johnson, who no longer plays basketball, returned to the baseball team in the spring and was limited to designated hitter.
Last season, Johnson suffered a concussion and could play in only four games. He also tweeked his knee.
“Sitting on the sidelines is never fun,” Johnson said. “I’m getting back in the swing of things this year.”
The senior has been playing alongside junior left tackle Doug Kramer. Kramer and right tackle Matt Allen are the only non-senior starters on the offensive line.
“[Playing with Johnson], gives me someone to look up to, obviously,” Kramer said.
Only senior center Josh Mysliwiec and right guard Rich Budicak are playing the same offensive line positions as in the season opener. Johnson and Kramer have switched spots on the left side and Allen filled in for Ivanesevic.
Ivanisevic suffered a concussion Sept. 26 in the loss to Glenbard West and was carted off the field. He was held out of Friday’s game, but is expected to return for The Doings Cup against Hinsdale South Oct. 11.
“Stefan is huge. He’s an important part of our offensive line,” Johnson said.
With the return of Ivanisevic, the offensive line will be reconfigured once again, perhaps with Allen at center.
- Ives started a 22-point burst for the Devils in the second quarter with a 13-yard TD catch from Rafferty. Rafferty went 13-for-22 and completed his last six attempts after throwing an interception early in the third quarter. He was not sacked by Lyons. Ives (six catches, 157 yards) caught multiple TD passes in a game for the first time in his career.
- Lyons’ only touchdown in the second half came on quarterback Tom Fiedler’s 3-yard run. Running back Leonard Ross was stopped on the two-point conversion to maintain Hinsdale Central’s 22-20 lead.
- Senior Joe Bruni cut the Devils’ lead to three points in the fourth quarter, but his second field-goal attempt hit the left upright with 3:51 to go. Ives scored Hinsdale Central’s decisive touchdown three plays later.
- Miami, Ohio-bound running back Ross had 27 carries for 121 yards on 27 carries, but no TDs.