Lyons’ Jack O’Malley solves Willowbrook passing attack

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VILLA PARK — For the better part of three quarters, it seemed like Lyons defensive back Jack O’Malley was the only defender who could slow down Willowbrook’s potent passing attack.

The senior had two pivotal interceptions that allowed Lyons to remain within striking distance of Willowbrook, enabling the Lions to rally for a 25-21 victory in the final minutes Friday in Villa Park.

O’Malley’s first varsity pick came as the first half ended when he out-battled 6-5 Willowbrook receiver Kyle Rushing in the end zone, allowing Lyons (1-1) to maintain a 10-7 lead.

“They threw me in at the last second to guard him (Rushing), so I knew they were going to throw to him,” O’Malley said. “He is a big, tall guy out there. I had to come down with it, and I did. I just had to work on my vertical (jump), I guess.

“It was huge, we needed to stop them. They had the momentum at that point, so we turned it over.”

After Willowbrook (0-2) scored on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to take a 21-10 lead, it looked as though the Warriors might move down the field again easily, when O’Malley grabbed his second pick.

Not only did O’Malley get the turnover, but he returned it 40 yards to the end zone, allowing Lyons to cut the margin to 21-18 following a Leonard Ross PAT run.

“I moved there (to the ball) and I got to it,” O’Malley said. “It opened up and I knew I was going to take that back. I did not see an opening to the right, so I just cut it hard left and dove in.

“It was a momentum changer for sure, it changed the whole perspective around on our team.”

The Lions still needed to complete the comeback, which happened in the final minutes of the fourth, when they capped a 10-play, 85-yard drive with a two-yard run by Ross (27 carries, 120 yards).

Even though the offense had not scored since the first play of the second quarter, there was not much concern.

“I was not worried at all, we had this game in the bag,” said senior Michael Kirksy, who had a 25-yard reception on the game-winning drive. “We knew what the (Willowbrook) defense was looking like. At the end, our coaches pumped us up.”

Willowbrook junior quarterback Billy Degnan put together a huge night, completing 27-of-44 passes for 355 yards and two scores, before throwing incompletions on his last five attempts. Rushing pulled down nine receptions for 130 yards.

“They know what they are doing, they are extremely well coached,” Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. “They have athletes. When you have a kid like that (Rushing), that is a matchup nightmare for any defense.”

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