After winning its final two games of the season, Lyons is back in the state playoffs with a 5-4 record and travels to Gately Stadium to face Chicago Public League powerhouse Simeon (6-3). The Lions have made the playoffs for the fifth straight season and reached the quarterfinals each of the last three years under head coach Kurt Weinberg, who is in his fifth year. Here’s a look at the numbers behind Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. matchup.
When Lyons throws …
Lyons is very balanced, passing the ball 254 times this season while rushing on 270 plays.
Quarterback Tom Fiedler has thrown the vast majority of those passes, completing 136-of-234 for a 58.1 completion percentage. He’s averaging 6.46 yards per attempt and most importantly, he’s taking care of the football. Fiedler has just two interceptions while throwing for 16 touchdowns.
The junior QB also does a great job of spreading it around. Six different players have caught touchdowns and five have double-digit receptions. Seniors Matt Mrazek (44 catches, 412 yards, 7 TDs) and Marcell Kellum (42 catches, 556 yards, 5 TDs) are his primary receivers.
When Lyons runs …
Junior tailback Leonard Ross gets a vast majority of the carries and has picked up 976 yards on 151 carries for a 6.46 average.
Simeon hasn’t seen a running back as good as Ross in a while. The Wolverines have won their last six games by a combined score of 284-19 so they’ll need to make sure Ross doesn’t get going early.
“It’s going to be a total swing now,” said Simeon coach Dante Culbreath. “We’ve heard remarkable things about the young man. Really, we want to gang tackle and try and get the ball.”
Ross did have a costly fumble that turned into points and could have cost Lyons in Week Nine, but the Lions rallied for the win on a 5-yard touchdown run by Fiedler. Fiedler isn’t a look-to-run QB but he can definitely pick up a first down if he gets chased from the pocket.
When Simeon throws …
The Wolverines have two quarterbacks who can do a little bit of everything in junior Timon Watkins and senior Christian Plummer.
No matter who is throwing the ball, one thing is certain: Senior wide receiver Darnell Cockrell, who Culbreath described as “a nuisance to defenses,” is a playmaker no matter what he’s doing on the field. In a Week Four 60-13 win over Lane, Cockrell had touchdown catches of 41 and 52 yards, an 80 yard-touchdown run and a 37-yard interception return.
Cockrell scored on a 55-yard punt return and a 20-yard fumble return in a 42-0 win over Marshall, so Lyons will need to make sure he doesn’t get the ball in open spaces.
“He’s an excellent football player,” Weinberg said. “We have to get a lot of guys going to the football. They throw some stuff deep but they get a lot of mileage out of throwing it short and making a bunch of people miss.”
When Simeon runs …
The Wolverines have two backs who have a lot of speed and athleticism in junior Dion Earls and senior Jordan Jackson. In a Week Seven 46-6 win over Dunbar, Jackson had 93 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while Earls had 91 yards and three scores on 11 carries.
Lyons senior linebackers A.J. Villarreal and Ben Rimmele will be key players trying to shut down the run. Villarreal leads the team with 54 tackles while Rimmele has 53.
“We need to stay disciplined and be in the right spots,” Weinberg said. “They’re very athletic and if you leave your feet and let them get into open space it’s going to be a big problem.”