ELMHURST – York junior quarterback Matt Vezza was thrust into a tough situation early in his team’s Week 4 game at Downers Grove North.
Vezza responded like a veteran, coming off the bench in the second quarter to guide the Dukes to a memorable comeback victory.
A week later, in front of a large Homecoming crowd, Vezza spun his magic for a second time against Lyons.
Vezza passed for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 71 yards in a 14-7 win in West Suburban Silver play on Friday in Elmhurst.
With the win, the Dukes (5-0, 3-0) are off to their best start since opening with six victories in a row in 2010.
By his solid play, both running and passing the ball on a wet, rainy night, Vezza solidified his starting quarterback status. When the final buzzer sounded, Vezza and his teammates were mobbed by the large student body on the field, leading to a wild celebration of the program’s undefeated start heading into next week’s colossal challenge at Glenbard West.
Vezza, for his part, said he’s happy to be a contributor on a winning team.
“It’s been awesome, just a lot of hard work,” Vezza said. “But you have to give credit to our defense. They’ve played great in the first five games and really helped us out.
“It’s about the team. I just wanted to contribute. I knew this team was special. We’re off to a great start and want to keep it going.”
In a game where both teams struggled finding a flow due to each team compiling penalty after penalty — Lyons with 11 penalties for 95 yards; York with 10 for 120 yards —the Dukes relied on their defense to keep the Lions (2-3, 1-2) in check.
Lyons quarterback Joey Antonietti failed to complete a pass until late in the third quarter, finishing 2-of-12 for nine yards. Overall, Lyons’ two quarterbacks threw two interceptions and passed for 19 yards, with York defensive back Connor Wall sealing the victory with a late fourth quarter interception, his second of the game.
Junior linebacker Danny Pasko’s 57-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter was the biggest highlight for the Lions.
“We weren’t very disciplined tonight,” Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said. “(York) came to play, and our kids responded at certain points of the game. We still had a chance at the end with two minutes left to score, but I feel we really hurt ourselves with penalties, dropped passes and missed blocks and not sustaining drives. We have a lot of guys banged up, but credit to York. They came out with a good game plan to beat us tonight.”
York scored its first touchdown on the second drive of the game, when Jack Wagner leaped in the air to grab a 20-yard touchdown pass from Vezza on fourth down early in the second quarter. Wagner was a key source of offense, with six receptions for 65 yards. Junior running back Kelly Watson, who scored on a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter, earned a hard-fought 82 yards on 27 carries.
“I’m extremely proud of this group and the guys who came before them,” York coach Mike Fitzgerald said. “They kept working and believed in what we were doing. We had a lot of doubters along the way. We’re not done yet. We’re going to enjoy this, but we’re still in the heart of our schedule.
“Our defense has played amazing. You have to fight to get an inch against those guys. They’re playing together and our coaches are doing a great job preparing them.”