Defensive end Dante Stefanini finds his place at Lyons

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Lyons junior defensive end Dante Stefanini has tried to walk a fine line between idolizing his older brother Rocco, while also trying to make a name for himself.

Dante Stefanini transferred to Lyons from Fenwick during his freshman season while Rocco Stefanini was a junior starring on the Friars’ offensive line. Dante Stefanini didn’t leave to escape his big brother’s shadow, but it has allowed him to be his own man.

“Everyone always thought of me as Rocco’s little brother and I love being his little brother but I wanted to take on the challenge of trying something new,” Dante Stefanini said. “I thought that took some guts. I was doing well (at Fenwick) and was captain of the freshman team. But it just wasn’t working out and (Fenwick) was 45 minutes away and I knew a lot of kids at Lyons.”

Transferring to Lyons wound up being a great decision for Dante Stefanini in many regards.

“Lyons was a step ahead,” the Indian Head Park resident said. “The amount of classes and activities they have is great. I’m on the school radio and work for the newspaper.”

Dante Stefanini has also been tearing it up on the football field. He was called up to varsity for the final six games during his sophomore season. He played the entire game in last year’s 42-27 second-round win over O’Fallon and even had a sack.

Wanting to play in college like his brother Rocco, a 6-foot-3 270-pound offensive lineman who is being redshirted at Drake, Dante Stefanini put in hard work during the offseason. Dante Stefanini isn’t as big as Rocco yet, but he’s already 6-1, 215 pounds.

“Last year I was 180 pounds and was quick and could make the quarterback scramble,” Dante Stefanini said. “I wanted to get a lot stronger for this year so I just got in the weight room and worked hard.”

Stefanini also credits his dad, Mario Stefanini, for helping him beef up. Mario owns Mario’s Table, an Italian restaurant on Chicago’s Gold Coast.

With size and strength to go with his speed, Stefanini finished the regular season with a team-high six sacks and had 32 tackles. His play has impressed both his coaches and teammates.

“He has a great work ethic and plays hard all the time,” head coach Kurt Weinberg said. “He’s a smart heady player and is a great leader.”

“Dante is a player that doesn’t take plays off,” said junior quarterback Tom Fiedler. “He has a high motor and is very aggressive. I love having him to go against every day because it gets me ready for games.”

While the 2013 season may have been personally successful for Stefanini, as a team, Lyons (5-5) recovered to snatch a playoff berth after starting the season by dropping three of its first four games. The Lions had to travel to face Simeon in the opening round of the Class 8A state playoffs Saturday and fell 20-16 at Gately Stadium.

It’s the third straight year Lyons has entered the playoffs with a 5-4 record.

“For some reason we can’t win a game in September,” Stefanini said. “This junior class is really prepared to take the reins and make a difference in that regard. We’re going to change some stuff and we’re going to come out like a bat out of hell.”

That kind of talk makes Weinberg a happy coach.

“I’m proud of how we came together and got in the state playoffs but I’m sick and tired of the slow starts,” Weinberg said. “That will be our number one, number two and number three focus this offseason.”

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