Matthew Harris is back for Lyons’ football team, and just in time.
With four losses, Lyons cannot afford to lose another game if it hopes to return to the playoffs for the 11th time in 13 years. Lyons has advanced to the Class 8A state quarterfinals the past two years.
Harris, a 6-foot, 180-pound receiver headed to Northwestern as a defensive back, missed the last three games due to a chest injury. He returned for homecoming Saturday as Lyons trounced winless York 49-21. Lyons led 49-7 in the third quarter and scored the first 35 points in the game.
Harris didn’t score a point and only played on offense after going two ways to begin the season.
He suffered bruised lungs while catching a pass over the middle in the first half of Lyons’ 49-7 loss at Glenbard West Sept. 8. Though Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg indicated that Harris was prepared to make an earlier return, he finally suited up and was at midfield for the opening coin toss for the first time since the Glenbard West game on Saturday.
“It wasn’t too tough [being out],” Harris said. “I was glad to cheer for my teammates.”
Harris’ return came in a slightly revised role. In order to stay healthy, Harris has been replaced on kickoff and punt returns by senior Jemari Burks. While out of the lineup, Burks has been the primary target for quarterback Zach Mahoney and even caught three passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against York. Burks’ first TD went for 99 yards on Lyons’ second play from scrimmage.
Harris had a team-high four catches for 66 yards Saturday, but surprisingly, Harris’ biggest impact was behind center.
Harris started at receiver and touched the ball for the first time since Sept. 8 on a running play. He took Mahoney’s handoff to start Lyons’ second possession and went nine yards to the right on a sweep. Harris took his second carry of the game on the same drive for six yards seven plays later.
Lyons (3-4, 2-3 West Suburban Silver) opened the game with a five-receiver, no-running back formation while using the no-huddle spread offensive for its first two drives.
Then Lyons went to the Wildcat with Harris taking shotgun snaps. He even completed 2-of-3 passes for 36 yards. His first attempt was a 9-yard completion to quarterback Zach Mahoney, who caught his first varsity pass.
“Once I got the OK to play, all you can do is go out and play hard,” Harris said. “It comes down to whoever has the most heart.”
One of Harris’ passes came out of a reverse. On fourth-and-2 at York’s 36, Harris completed a 25-yard pass to Connor Pavletic. Opponents usually game plan against Harris when he is on the field.
“Having Matthew in is always a good part,” Mahoney said. “He gets double covered. Lately, Jemari has been double covered.”
Harris’ return proved to be good timing for Lyons, which is already short-handed with starting running back Trevon Woods (sprained left MCL) out for the rest of the regular season.
“[Having Harris], certainly feels good,” Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. “Obviously he’s a tremendous football player, but he’s also a great kid. We did a lot of stuff today. Some of that is because we got Matt back. He does a lot of things for us.”
Lyons plays at Proviso West (5-2, 2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday night and hosts West Suburban Gold leader Leyden (6-1) on Oct. 19.