The Leo Community is understandably eager for the debut of the Marques Stevenson Era, which will take place on Friday, August 25 when Leo’s Lions face Bishop McNamara in a nonconference football season opener at St. Rita’s Cronin Field. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Stevenson has taken over as head varsity football coach for Mike Holmes, whose name became synonymous with Leo football over a 30-year association that featured a standout playing career, service as an assistant coach and two terms as head coach, highlighted by an appearance in the IHSA Class 1-A state playoff semifinals in 2013. 

But there is still a Holmes connection to the program: Mike’s son Aamir, a Lawless Award-winning quarterback for the Lions in 2016, is on Stevenson’s staff as varsity quarterbacks coach and frosh-soph offensive coordinator.

Stevenson, a U.S. Navy veteran who played at Culver Stockton College in Missouri, comes to Leo from St. Laurence, where he served as varsity defensive coordinator and frosh-soph head coach. He also worked as an assistant at St. Joe’s until the Westchester school closed its doors, and at St. Francis in Wheaton.

The in-school reaction to Coach Stevenson has been strong: More than 70 young Lions have been involved in summer drills at the frosh-soph and varsity levels. Greater numbers should help address the depth issue that arose in recent years when injuries occurred. 

Stevenson has emphasized conditioning since his first day on the job, when he concluded a meeting with returning players by distributing an off-season workout plan which they were to follow. He also has the players more mindful of proper diet and nutrition.  

 Aamir Holmes  has been working closely with sophomore Marshawn Durr, who will open the season as the Lions’ starting quarterback. “He’s not going to fling it 60 yards down the field, but he can make the throws he has to make, he sees the field and he really works at getting better,”  Holmes said.

Junior Javon Logan, who led the Lions in rushing as a sophomore, is back to anchor the running game, with help from sophomore track star Chase Jordan. Kevin Jackson, who caught nine touchdown passes last  season, will be difficult to replace in the passing game, but junior basketball player Neil Anderson has opened some eyes as a wide receiver and junior Gavin Donald can make things happen after he catches the ball.

Tackle Aman Swain, linebacker Joshua Burke and cornerback Lawrence Lee bring savvy and experience to the Lions’ defense.

“I’m excited,” Stevenson said. “The kids have been working hard and they’ve bought into how we want to play. We’re very mindful of the history and traditions involved with Leo football, and we want to make some history of our own, starting this year. This is a great opportunity.”   

The schedule:

Friday, August 25—Bishop Mac,* 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 1–at Walther Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 8—at Marmion Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15—at DePaul Prep, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23—St. Laurence*, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30—De La Salle*, 3 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6—at Joliet Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14—Wheaton St. Francis*, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 19—at Marian Catholic, 7:30 p.m. 

*=home game at St. Rita’s Cronin Field, 78th and Western