OAK PARK – The Lyons football team got off to a late start on the delayed season.
Thus, it’s not shocking the Lions also started off on a sluggish note in their season opener against Oak Park-River Forest on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions showed some encouraging signs in their opener, scoring the game’s last 15 points in dropping an 18-15 decision in Oak Park.
The Lions (0-1, 0-1 West Suburban Silver) fought back behind the do-it-all play of Joey Antonietti. The junior quarterback was the main source of offense for the Lions, carrying the ball 21 times for 101 yards and finishing 16-for-38 passing with two touchdowns.
Antonietti admitted he was “little tired” after his heavy workload against OPRF’s aggressive defense, but also due to the Lions playing their first game in 18 months.
“It was a hard-fought battle and we came out a little slow in the first half, then toward the end of the game we were able to pick it up,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys for fighting the whole game.”
Antonietti said he gained valuable insight into the pressure of starting quarterback last season when he started the final three games after an injury to Blaise Reichert. He displayed some moxie by enduring a rough start, which included numerous dropped passes and several overthrows. He rebounded by relying on his legs to create space and for numerous long runs.
Lyons first-year coach Jon Beutjer, a former quarterback at Iowa and Illinois, said Antonietti showed a lot of toughness in directing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. The Huskies (1-1, 1-1) built an 18-0 lead early in the third quarter before the Lions stormed back. OPRF quarterback Jack Landis passed for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Joey) needs to work on reading the defense and his accuracy,” Beutjer said, “but what I’m most proud of Joey is his grit and he kept fighting and battling and also made some good decisions and throws out there.
“I was really proud of their grit and ability by the team to keep fighting…It’s a big challenge coming off 18 months not playing, then we were coming off quarantine and had only three days of practice. You learn a lot about offense and defense in game reps. We hurt ourselves a couple of times but can improve on.”
Senior wide receiver Tommy Asleson, a Denison basketball recruit, was a big factor in the late comeback. He caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, hauling in TD catches of 2 and 7 yards.
“The first touchdown gave us all more energy, and showed that the game is not over yet and we still have time and gave us some hope,” Asleson said. “Me and Tommy have worked a lot in the offseason together and we can tell each what works and where to put it, and that helped keep our heads into the game.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Antonietti sparked the offense with his running, waking up the unit with 16 and 13-yard runs late in the third quarter. He added a 17-yard scamper in the fourth. The Lions showed some rust with some miscommunication, and weren’t able to convert two key fourth-down attempts deep in OPRF territory in the first half.
Antonietti said the offense showed their potential in the loss. The defense added three sacks.
“I think for a lot of guys it was a walkup call to start the game but we showed what our offense can do once we get our heads straight and start,” Antonietti said.