VICTORY, in first football game of the season
The Leo Lions enjoyed a glorious opening to their 2017 football season.
There’s no better word to describe it.
Playing at Soldier Field for the first time in more than 30 years, Leo defeated Lane Tech of the Chicago Public League 21-13, in perfect weather conditions on Friday, Aug. 25. The Lions combined the strong running of seniors Stephon Howard and and Antoine Wheeler with solid defense to the delight of a large, exuberantly pro-Leo crowd in the finale of a season-opening triple-header at the historic lakefront venue.
A bravura performance of the national anthem by the world-renowned Leo Choir set a perfect tone for the event. Members of the 1974 Leo team who played at Soldier Field were introduced and took part in the coin toss. The stage was set for a memorable evening, and memorable it was.
A two-yard run by quarterback Luke Calkins staked Lane to a 7-0 first-quarter lead, but Leo used two defensive plays to grab an 8-7 advantage at halftime. Senior Marquelle Griffin blocked a Lane punt, and when the ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety, the Lions had their first two points of the season.
On Lane’s next possession, senior Chris Reno stepped in front of a Calkins pass and brought the interception back 34 yards for Leo’s go-ahead touchdown.
The third quarter was all Lions. Howard’s 24-yard touchdown scamper gave them a 15-7 lead, and then quarterback Darryl Ousley closed out the scoring for Leo with a seven-yard TD pass to DeJon Harris.
Thomas Jacobs’ 12-yard TD run brought Lane within 21-13 midway through the final period, but Leo kept it on the ground and ran out the clock.
Howard finished with 165 yards on 13 carries and would have surpassed 200 yards if a 36-yard burst hadn’t been negated by a holding penalty. Wheeler had 81 yards on 12 carries. Ousley, taking over for graduated Lawless Award winner Aamir Holmes, misfired on his first five passes but finished 7-for-16 for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Dejon Harris is the younger brother of Keith Harris, an All-State running back for Leo in 2011 who scored a touchdown for Northern Illinois on his collegiate carry, against Iowa at Soldier Field in 2012. DeJon Harris also scored a touchdown in his first game at Soldier Field.
“Not bad for a season opener,” coach Mike Holmes said. “The kids were really excited to be playing at Soldier Field and it showed early, but we settled down and played good football. The crowd, the setting, the choir—what a great night for Leo.
“We’ve got some things to work on, but I think we showed we can be a pretty good team.”