Thomas Skokna strikes again, big kickoff return gives Hinsdale Central boost in win over Lyons

Red Devils ride momentum of Skokna’s 96-yard return to 35-16 win

HINSDALE – Senior Thomas Skokna returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the Hinsdale Central football team’s victory last week against Proviso East.

Skokna struck again Friday against Lyons Township, and it was even sweeter.

His 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter right after the Lions tied the game gave the Red Devils the momentum for good in their 35-16 victory in Hinsdale in the West Suburban Conference Silver opener for both teams.

“(This) was exciting because the momentum was against us,” Skokna said. “Last week it was the opening kickoff so it just kept the energy flowing for the whole game (in a 51-0 victory).”

Skokna’s score later was followed by 21 unanswered points by the Red Devils (2-1) in the final three minutes of the second quarter to build a 35-10 halftime lead. Skokna also began that stretch too by returning an end zone punt 11 yards to the 23.

The Red Devils took the opening kickoff 75 yards as they scored on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard keeper by junior quarterback Billy Cernugel.

LT answered with an 80-yard drive, which included an electrifying 62-yard run to the 14 by senior quarterback Joey Antonietti, who later scored from the 2.

Then came Skokna’s heroics.

“It was very exciting, got the energy flowing a different way. Huge for the team I think,” Skokna said.

“It flipped the whole game,” Cernugel added. “They came down, a big play, touchdown. The next thing you know, Tom takes it to the house. It gave us all of the momentum back.”

Skokna is among the key returning offensive contributors from the spring and the only returnee with a receiving TD, which came against York.

“Thomas is just a special football player. It was fun to watch. A captain and playing like a captain and being a great leader for our team,” Hinsdale Central coach Brian Griffin said.

“(LT) took the momentum back and drove down and scored on us. Give them all of the kudos but for (our players) to answer with special teams. We talk about special teams. We practice special teams. We talk about the importance in games like these and they prove to be big. We flipped the field on punt a couple of times. It’s fun when you preach that stuff and it actually comes to fruition.”

Cernugel’s 7-yard TD run gave the Red Devils a 21-10 lead. After a fumble recovery by Finn Little at the 25, Nick Fahy scored on a 19-yard run for a 28-10 lead and Joe Boggs’ 34-yard interception return to the 6 set up Fahy’s 1-yard TD run for the 35-10 lead 30.0 seconds before halftime.

Little later had two interceptions, including one in the end zone.

“He’s a lock-down corner, underrated,” Skokna said.

The Red Devils beat their big rivals for the eighth straight season following the 31-10 victory in the finale of the abbreviated spring season that clinched an undefeated 6-0 season and the Silver championship as the only undefeated team in conference play at 5-0.

Next week the Red Devils visit District 86 rival Hinsdale South.

“I know our guys played hard. I know it means a lot to them,” LT coach Jon Beutjer said. “We prepared and thought we had a really good chance to beat that football team but I think when you turn the ball over that much. And hats off to them. They had a good game plan.”