Lyons sneaks into the postseason

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Lyons entered Friday’s West Suburban crossover contest against Leyden the same way it had the previous two games — needing a win to become playoff eligible.

The Lions (5-4) took away all the suspense, racing to a 36-point lead in the first half and coasting to a 49-6 victory in Western Springs.

“These last three weeks, we have pretty much been playing in the playoffs, because it is win-or-go-home,” said Northwestern-bound Matthew Harris, who had an interception, returned a fumble for a score, and caught a TD pass. “It has not really been tough because it has made us closer as a team. It has just been great to get these wins under our belt.

“We definitely put ourselves up against a wall. Of course we wanted to have a better record, but we cannot do anything about it now, we just have to look forward to the future.”

The immediate future for Lyons is facing second-seeded Marist (8-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Chicago, in a Class 8A opening round contest. The Lions enter the playoffs as a dangerous 15-seed.

“They (Marist) are a very good team, they play in a tough conference (East Suburban Catholic) and they only have one loss,” said Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg. “They are tough, they run a similar type of offense and defense to us. They are spread-oriented offensively and have a 4-3 look defensively.

“So it is an interesting dynamic. It is kind of like playing against ourselves to a certain degree. It is definitely a tall task, playing at their place and everything, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Nobody is going to challenge the credentials of the Lions entering the playoffs. Their schedule included seven teams that qualified for this year’s playoffs, including six from the West Suburban.

When they dropped a 35-34 decision to Oak Park-River Forest on Sept. 28, they were forced to win their final three games or be eliminated from the playoff picture.

“I think we had total trust after the Oak Park loss,” said defensive back Connor Onion. “We took it back a step, we refreshed. We stepped up our intensity in practice. The guys got together and practice has been a lot more player-driven than coach-driven, and I think that is a big factor in our success.

“We have to keep the pedal to the metal and keep the intensity up. It has been working the last three weeks, so I think we will keep it the same.”

Weinberg, who has taken the Lions to the playoffs each of the four years he’s coached the team, sees that the players are taking more responsibility.

“I would agree 100-percent that has been a major part of us playing better, in my opinion,” Weinberg said. “I am very much of the belief that the best football teams are player-driven, and obviously coaches have to be strong figures on the team, but they cannot be the only ones that are pushing the team and directing the team.”

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