BUFFALO GROVE – Lyons Township running back Jack Cheney had a productive freshman season on the varsity football team but missed last season with an injury.
“There was a lot of hunger tonight,” the 5-foot-10 junior said. “After missing last season, I wanted to come back and show what we could do.”
Cheney’s menu was full in the Lions’ season-opening 38-35 nonconference triumph over Buffalo Grove at Grant Blaney Stadium on Aug. 26.
Cheney rumbled for a career-high 230 yards on 33 carries and scored four touchdowns (three 5-yard runs and one for 7 yards) as the visitors rallied from a 21-17 halftime deficit to edge the Bison.
Cheney’s final score put his team ahead 38-28 with 7:23 left. However, like it did all night, Buffalo Grove answered with Payton Diaz’s 18-yard TD pass to Jakub Niedojdlo to make it 38-35 with 4:34 left.
Lyons’ 6-foot-5 senior Graham Smith recovered the Bison’s onside kick at the Lions’ 49-yard line. Lyons proceeded to drive to Buffalo Grove’s 4-yard line before taking a knee in the final minute to seal the win.
“Obviously, Jack’s yards are a testament to our offensive line (Kevin Cruz, Aidan Hallett, Eddie Tuerk, Mikey Nunez and Cooper Komsthoeft),” third-year Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said.
“They brought it today. Our offensive line coach and running game coordinator (coaches Brennan Quick and Kyle Simms) do a great job. We kind of want to set the precedent early in the season that we can run and we can throw and be physical. I was really proud of the offensive line and with Jack. He ran with heart.”
Lyons went 81 yards on the game’s opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Cheney took it in from seven yards out.
The Bison came back with an 80-yard drive to tie it at 7-7 when Anthony Palano grabbed a nine-yard pass from quarterback Payton Diaz (21 of 25, 339 yards) with 3:35 left.
David Waight’s 38-yard field goal gave the visitors a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, but Buffalo Grove answered in two plays, scoring on Diaz’s 70-yard bomb to Samuel Cho.
After a three-and-out by the Buffalo Grove defense, the Bison scored its third TD of the game. With Ryan Reid, CJ Relias, Brody Mac, John Saracco and Anthony Perricone providing the protection, Diaz completed three straight passes before a 2-yard TD run by Michael Cervantes made it 21-10.
The Lions answered with a 65-yard drive to get to within 21-17 before the half. QB Ryan Jackson (17 for 20, 230 yards) completed two passes to Travis Stamm (6 catches, 105 yards) and one to Smith before Cheney scored on a 5-yard run with 1:06 left.
Cheney’s 5-yard TD run gave Lyons the lead for good at the start of the second half. Stamm’s 30-yard TD catch extended the advantage to 31-21 before Diaz connected on a 35-yard pass to Mitchell Verdico (4 catches, 111 yards) to get Buffalo Grove to within 31-28.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Bison coach Jeff Vlk said. “We were really only one step away. We had the ball on the ground a few times and it just didn’t bounce our way. Our kids competed. They fought to the very end. You can look at their size and the difference from our size. But our kids didn’t back down. That’s what I love about this team.
“At the end, I think their size wore on us a little and they beat us up. But we threw everything we had at them. I told the kids to hold their heads high and come back ready to play and compete next week.”