By Dan McGrath
With a roster so depleted by injuries that it’s almost unrecognizable, the Leo Lions needed to be perfect to stand a chance against Nazareth in a Catholic League/East Suburban Catholc Conference crossover game in La Grange on Friday, Oct. 8.
Moreover, the Roadrunners, an uncharacteristic 2-4 coming in, were playing for their playoff lives … and celebrating homecoming before a large, festive crowd.
Four turnovers created an insurmountable gap between Leo and perfection.
To their credit, the Lions conceded nothing and competed gamely through the final whistle. But Naz just had too many weapons, and the 42-6 final was fairly indicative of where the two teams stand seven weeks into a nine-week regular season.
One of the more potent Nazareth weapons is a mere freshman. Coach Tim Racki went with Logan Malachuk at quarterback after the Roadrunners opened with three straight losses. They’ve gone 3-1 in his four starts, and the Lions can attest to why after the youngster completed nine of 13 passes for 160 yards and four touchdowns: 36 and 15 yards to Quentrell Harris, 16 yards to James Penley and 11 yards to Justin Taylor.
Kaleb Miller (10 carries, 91 yards) added a 5-yard touchdown run, and Harris brought Leo’s first punt of the night back 48 yards for a score, setting the tone for the big-play fireworks to follow.
In James E’Akels’ injury-induced absence, Leo also went with a freshman quarterback. Derrion Lee connected on four of nine passes for 36 yards but was constantly under siege by Nazareth’s swarming defense and threw two interceptions that negated productive possessions.
Junior Matthew Harvey (5-for-8, 43 yards) took over in the second half and was on the field for Leo’s lone touchdown, junior Rayshaun Davidson’s 17-yard run.
Senior Rayion Davidson had a 51-yard run on a reverse and senior Austin Ford’s two catches covered 31 yards. That was pretty much the extent of Leo’s offensive highlights.
With their IHSA playoff hopes dashed, the Lions (2-5) will be playing for pride when they host Marmion on Senior Day at St. Rita’s Pat Cronin Field on Saturday, Oct. 16. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Their nonconference regular-season finale at Rich Township scheduled for Friday, Oct. 22 is likely to be canceled due to a COVID outbreak within the Rich Township School District.