Lyons’ safety Brendan Swinehart uses speed to make up for lack of size

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WESTERN SPRINGS — Lyons continues to fight for a Class 8A playoff berth and senior safety Brendan Swinehart keeps on turning one big play after another.

Swinehart had another memorable game Friday night for Lyons, which needs at least two victories to keep it postseason hopes alive with three regular season games remaining.

As the starting safety in Lyons’ new 3-5-3 defense, the 5-7, 140-pound Swinehart earned his fourth interception of the season Friday when he picked off Hinsdale Central quarterback Matt Rafferty’s first pass attempt of the second half.

Also the team’s primary return man on kickoffs and punts, Swinehart had 95 yards on runbacks during the 37-23 loss to the Red Devils in the West Suburban Silver. His 60-yard kickoff return with 7:15 remaining in the second quarter set up Lyons’ second TD, a 2-yard pass from Tom Fiedler to Alec Cohen to give Lyons (3-3, 1-2) a 14-13 lead.

“I’m definitely a little undersized,” Swinehart said. “I make up with it for my speed. I’m not the best hitter, but I’ll do it.”

His career highlight came one week earlier when Swinehart intercepted Downers Grove North quarterback David Edwards and returned the ball 36 yards for a TD.

“That was pretty special,” Swinehart said. “That was my first varsity touchdown. We were in man-to-man. During the route, I came behind [the receiver]. It was off his hands and came to me.”

He credited senior defensive lineman Andrew Ostrowski with throwing the key block that allowed him to reach the end zone.

Lyons used a 4-3 defense last season with graduates Matt Mrazek and Kevin Palmer as safeties until Palmer became injured. Eventually, Brent Moskiewicz and Swinehart finished the season as safeties; Swinehart estimated that he started three games.

Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg and defensive Mike Morrison switched defensive systems to take advantage of the team’s personnel depth at linebacker. In the new alignment, Swinehart is the only safety among the three defensive backs. Lyons’ starting cornerbacks are senior Danny O’Malley and junior Timothy Hangsterfer.

“Brendan is a very smart. He’s very athletic and he’s able to close quickly,” Weinberg said. “He gets to the ball quickly. He gets a lot of opportunities. He can close quickly because of his speed.”

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