Montini Victorious Over Lions 38-14

By Dan McGrath

Cole Teschner, a senior three-year starter for Montini’s Broncos, put on a quarterbacking clinic against Leo at St.Rita’s Cronin Field on Friday, Sept. 23.

Darion Lee, a Leo sophomore in his first varsity season, watched closely and nearly matched him throw for throw.

But Teschner was working with more complementary weapons, and that was the difference as Montini improved to 3-2 with a 38-14 victory in a Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference crossover game.

A fourth straight loss dropped the Lions to 1-4.

Teschner completed 15 of 22 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to speedy sophomore BJ Searcy, including a 46-yarder on Montini’s first offensive play of the evening. Exploiting a breakdown in the Leo secondary, Searcy dashed up the field untouched and unencumbered, giving Montini a lead it would never relinquish 2-½ minutes into the game.

Lee was 18-for-31 for 233 yards and two scores, a 19-yarder to senior Coby Triplett and a 26-yarder to junior Dennis Jones, the first career touchdown for each receiver. Triplett finished with a career-best five catches for 66 yards, while fellow senior Merrick Sample caught six passes for 84 yards.

But once again, the absence of a running game—eight carries produced 15 yards—put too much of the offensive burden on Lee. Alternating a strong pass rush with seven and eight-man coverage schemes, the Broncos intercepted him twice and turned both takeaways into points while playing turnover-free football themselves.

Meanwhile, junior running back Alex Marre was an effective counterpoint to Teschner, piling up 94 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Another weapon: kicker Cole Stumbaugh, who booted a 42-yard field goal and five PAT’s while booming four of seven kickoffs out of the end zone.

With four games remaining, Leo faces the daunting prospect of winning out to have a shot at the IHSA playoffs, beginning with a nonconference Homecoming game against Thornton of Harvey on Friday, Sept. 30. Kickoff at St. Rita’s Cronin Field is at 7 p.m.       

Lions Lose to DePaul 14 to 12

As the 2022 football season progresses, the sting of a 14-12 loss to DePaul College Prep’s Rams is likely to linger for the Leo Lions.

The Friday, Sept. 16 meeting at DePaul was a winnable game that the Lions didn’t win. Instead, a third straight setback left them with a 1-3 record and in need of four wins in their five remaining regular-season games to secure a playoff berth, Leo’s first since 2013.

That’s a tall order against a schedule that includes Montini (2-2), Thornton (0-4), Nazareth (1-3), Marmion (2-2) and Rich Township (2-2).

Kevin Jackson didn’t have a touchdown reception after catching six TD passes in Leo’s first three games, but he returned an interception—one of his two in the game—for a 65-yard score that gave the Lions a 12-0 second-quarter lead. 

Leo’s first touchdown came on Javon Logan’s seven-yard run: The sophomore running back had 52 yards on eight carries as Leo ran for a season-best 77 yards, but six pass completions (in 16 attempts) produced only 36 yards. Meanwhile, the Lions negated nearly all that offense by being penalized 13 times for 101 yards, including four holding calls that were a factor in their scoreless second half.

DePaul controlled the clock with a running game that piled up 174 yards on 41 tries, a 4.2-yard average. Leo ran only 33 plays from scrimmage all evening.

Next up for Leo: Montini on Friday, Sept. 23 at St. Rita’s Cronin Field. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. 

Lions Fall to Carmel 42-12

One team ran the ball and one team didn’t, and that fact pretty much encapsulates the Leo Lions’ 42-12 loss to Carmel-Mundelein in a Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference crossover matchup at St. Rita’s Cronin Field on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Ten days after yielding 154 yards and six touchdowns to Marian Catholic sophomore Tyler Lofton, the Lions watched Carmel sophomore Donovan Dey pile up 104 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns. Quarterback Johnathon Weber completed 14 of 22 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown and ran for an additional score, giving the Corsairs (3-0) admirable balance.

The Lions, on the other hand, had no semblance of a running game (minus-4 yards for the evening), putting the offensive onus entirely on sophomore QB Darion Lee. His 14 completions in 32 attempts produced 280 yards and an 80-yard touchdown to Kevin Jackson, but the embattled youngster also threw four interceptions as Carmel—emboldened by Leo’s non-existent ability to run the ball—used either a fierce pass rush or seven- and eight-man coverages to frustrate him.

Two lost fumbles made for a grand total of six Leo turnovers, which along with 86 penalty yards pretty much explains the 30-point final margin.

Jackson had three catches for 144 yards and a touchdown, his sixth of the season. Merrick Sample caught four passes for 59 yards. 

The Lions (1-2) will try to halt a two-game losing streak when they visit DePaul Prep (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 16. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. 

Jamal Thompson, Leo Basketball Coach, Steps Down

Jamal Thompson ’00 has stepped down after four seasons as Leo High School’s varsity basketball coach. A search is under way for his successor.

“This is disappointing, to say the least,” Leo President Dan McGrath said. “We like Jamal, as a coach but more important as a person. He did a good job at Leo and brought the best out in our players. We thank him for his contributions and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Thompson won the Lawless Award as Chicago Catholic League Coach of the Year last season after guiding the Lions to their first CCL championship since 2010 with a 13-1 conference record. They added regional and sectional titles before losing to DePaul Prep in a Class 2-A Supersectional, finishing 25-5 overall.

Thompson’s overall record with the Lions was 76-27. He won two regional and two sectional titles and was inducted into the Leo Hall of Fame in April 2022.

Lions Have a Disappointing Evening Against Marian

Given the physical disparities they faced in Thursday night’s Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference crossover game with Marian Catholic, the Leo Lions needed to bring their ‘A’ game to Chicago Heights to stand a chance.

Didn’t happen. The Spartans (2-0) were bigger, faster, stronger and deeper, rolling to a 55-21 victory behind a road-grader offensive line that enabled sophomore running back Tyler Lofton to amass 154 yards on 13 carries with six touchdowns, on runs of 25, 1, 13, 62, 2 and 5 yards.

Slick quarterback Kyle Thomas (13 carries, 71 yards) scored on a 2-yard run and hauled down a 7-yard TD pass from his backup, Carter Magerski.

Marian had 10 possessions and produced eight touchdowns, a missed field goal and an end-of-game kneeldown its only “failures.” The Spartans completed just one pass all evening, that coming in the fourth quarter, but why bother throwing when a running game is running up 300-plus yards and averaging 6.7 yards per play? 

Then again, the four pass-interference calls that went against the Lions were as good as completions, resulting in 60 of the 100 penalty yards assessed to them. Factor in a litany of muffed kicks, bad snaps, missed tackles and three turnovers and it was an all-around bad experience on a deceptively pleasant late-summer evening.

And bad got worse with a Leo player’s accusation that a Marian opponent directed a racial slur at him. 

With no running game to concern them—Leo had one net yard to show for seven carries—Spartan defenders were free to come full bore after sophomore quarterback Darion Lee, and they did. On the rare occasions he was given time to throw, Lee completed nine of 22 for 172 yards and TD passes of 33 yards to Merrick Sample and 22 yards to Kevin Jackson.

Matthew Harvey relieved the battered youngster in the fourth quarter and hooked up with Tim Durr for an 80-yard TD on a screen pass to complete the scoring. 

Next for the Lions: Carmel of Mundelein, coached by former Chicago Bear Jason McKie, in another CCL/ESCC crossover game at St. Rita’s Cronin Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. It has to be better. 

Lions Beat Bulls Academy in First Game of the Season

By Dan McGrath

As debuts go, Darion Lee’s on behalf of the Leo Lions was one for the record books.

The sophomore quarterback completed 11 of 15 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns as Leo opened the 2022 season with a 32-6 nonconference thumping of Bulls Academy Charter on Saturday, August 27 at St. Rita’s Cronin Field.

Senior Kevin Jackson was on the receiving end of all four scoring throws, including a 99-yarder which Lee launched from the end zone one play after a gang-tackling goal-line stand thwarted Bulls Academy’s bid for a game-tying touchdown inside the 1-yard line midway through the final period.

“We knew they’d send everybody and try to get us in the end zone for a safety,” Coach Mike Holmes said of the longest play from scrimmage in school history. “Kevin had single coverage, and he just flew by the guy and Darion laid it out there for him.”

Leo’s lead grew to 19-6 as Jackson raced into the end zone untouched, and the admirable resolve the visitors had shown to that point seemed to dissipate. Lee and Jackson hooked up for a 40-yard score on the Lions’ next possession, and sophomore Javon Logan’s 26-yard burst set up his own two-yard TD run to close out the scoring.

The Lions built their 13-6 halftime lead on Lee’s 72- and 38-yard TD strikes to Jackson, who finished with five catches for 260 yards. He also made an end-zone interception to turn the Bulls away after they had burned more than 11 minutes off the third-quarter clock on a drive that featured 11 straight running plays.

Leo then lost a fumble on first down from its own 20-yard line, meaning the Lions owned the ball for exactly one play in the third period. The Bulls then drove to the Leo 1 in seven plays, but a swarm of Lions stopped Kameron Poynter just short as he ran wide right on fourth down, setting up the Lee-to-Jackson record-breaker.

Christian Bankston completed seven of 15 passes for 98 yards and the game’s first  touchdown, a 39-yarder to a wide open Kameron Poynter, in the first quarter. Jaden Poynter’s 15 carries produced 79 yards for the Bulls.

“It’s nice to be 1-0, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot to clean up,” Holmes said, referring specifically to 70 penalty yards and a running game that produced just eight yards in the first three quarters. “We’ll have to be better to beat Marian Catholic.”

The Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference opener for both teams will be played at Marian Catholic on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Marian Catholic.  The Spartans are also 1-0 following a 41-14 nonconference road win at Thornwood.

Football Preview

By Dan McGrath

How well the new blends with the old will determine the football fate of the Leo Lions this season.

The opener is Saturday, Aug. 27, with a 3 p.m. kickoff vs. Bulls Academy Prep at St. Rita’s Cronin Field. The Lions were originally scheduled to open on the road, but an issue with the Bulls Prep playing field prompted a switch to St. Rita.

Veteran two-way performers Tim Durr, Kevin Jackson and Isiah Knox will provide Leo with valuable experience on both sides of the ball, Durr at running back/cornerback, Jackson at wide receiver/cornerback and Knox at fullback/linebacker.

Fellow senior Merrick Sample, younger brother of former Lions standout Tobias Sample, is a home-run threat as a receiver/kick returner, and senior Coby Triplett will run the routes that made Austin Ford such a vital part of the Lions’ offense last season. Juniors Garry Brown and Theauntae “House” Jones anchor the offensive line.

Junior Joshua Burke, a starter since his freshman season, moves from linebacker to defensive end, where he’ll pair up with sophomore Nick Armour.

But a lot is riding on the development of Darion Lee, a sophomore starter at quarterback. Coach Mike Holmes likes what he has seen of the youngster so far.

“He throws a nice ball, he understands the offense, and he’s learning to move around back there,” Holmes said.

An expert on movement is helping with the process. Aamir Holmes, Coach Holmes’ son, was known for his scrambling ability during a Lawless Award-winning career as Leo’s quarterback. The younger Holmes has joined the coaching staff and is working with quarterbacks Lee and Matthew Harvey.

“It’s asking a lot of a sophomore to play quarterback in the Catholic League, but we think Darion can handle it,” Mike Holmes said. “We’re doing all we can to get him ready.”

Transportation to Leo Information

Transportation will begin August 22, 2022 and is offered to each student who attends Leo High School on a first come, first serve basis. Transportation is only offered for before school pick-up. Students are responsible for their own transportation after school. Students will be picked up at a designated location and time. This service typically starts the following week after Labor Day.

The cost is $50.00 per month. Total amount is $450 for the year and will be added to your tuition.

You will be contacted by your designated bus driver once routes and times are set. If you have any questions, please contact the Main Office at 773-224-9600.

Please complete the form below via link or QR Code. Thank you!

We Are Proud of Our 2022 Graduates

Sunday, May 8 was a festive, joyous day to remember for Leo High School’s graduating class of 2022, as well as their mothers as Leo upheld a longstanding tradition of graduating on Mother’s Day before a full house at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.

It was an especially festive and joyous day for two standout members of the class, whose many contributions over four years were acknowledged and honored.

In his Valedictorian address, Cameron Cleveland cited the obstacles he and his classmates overcame to reach graduation in the midst of a COVID pandemic that affected every aspect of their high school careers. Classroom success, basketball triumphs, community-boosting service projects … all seemed even more meaningful, having been achieved against a COVID backdrop that disrupted so many lives in so many ways.

Ranked No. 1 in his class for each of his four years at Leo, Cleveland earned the Valedictorian designation for finishing with the highest GPA within the Class of 2022. Befitting the two-year captain of Leo’s Catholic League championship basketball team, he also received the William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for Athletics, as well as the Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for Excellence in Mathematics and the Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership Initiatives.

Cleveland is headed for Morehouse College in Atlanta on an academic scholarship.

Oliver Brown Jr. —known as PJ around Leo—was the Class of 2022 Salutatorian by a razor-thin margin. He echoed Cleveland in noting that COVID-induced challenges brought his classmates closer and gave them a greater appreciation of high school experiences they might otherwise have taken for granted or even missed altogether.

Brown, who as “PJ the Deejay” was the MC for numerous Leo events over his four years, also received the Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for Excellence in English and the Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice. He is headed for Southern University in Baton Rouge, La,., on scholarship for baseball and academics.

Mother’s Day set a delightful tone for the ceremony. In one highlight, each graduate presented his mom with a framed copy of a Mother’s Day poem he had written to complete his Senior English project for Mr. Titus Redmond’s class.The world-renowned Leo Choir’s four-song set featured stirring solos by senior Robert Smith (“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye”) and sophomore Theauntae Jones (“See You Again”), as well as a lively rendition of “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” that brought the crowd to its feet to join in.

And in a speech that encapsulated the last four years, Principal Shaka Rawls reminded the graduates that the resolve they displayed in committing to their education as COVID upended their lives would serve them well as they move forward in life … as true Leo Men.

The complete list of honorees from the Class of 2022:

The William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for Athletics: Cameron Cleveland

The Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion: James E’Akels

The Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music: Jacori Elam

The Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History: David Gross

The Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science: Wellington Porter

The Thomas & Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics: Cameron Cleveland

The Dr. Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English: Oliver Brown Jr.

The Brother James Glos Gold Medal for Foeign Language: Jakolbi Wilson

The Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice: Oliver Brown Jr.

The Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership: Cameron Cleveland

Leo’s Annual Black History Pageant

Leo’s annual Black History Pageant, held in the school auditorium on Friday, Feb. 18, seemed even more high-energy than usual because of the involvement of so many Leo students. 

Mr. Kevin Steward, who teaches biology, supervises the National Honor Society and serves as student-activities coordinator, organized the two-hour program that featured “motivational speakers, cultural custodians and teachers of the people … who empower us to follow our dreams,” in the words of BeInvinceable Productions, which provided the entertainment. 

The World-Renowned Leo Choir took center stage as the opening act, but another dozen Leo students had roles, including sophomore Keith Smith (rap) and senior Jarrett Blake (spoken word), who performed original compositions pointing out that the Black man’s struggle in America is ongoing.

Readings by seniors William Anderson, P.J. Brown, Cameron Cleveland and Jakolbi Wilson; juniors Isaiah Knox, Christopher Robinson and Thomas Sims and sophomores Christian Brockett and Zion Cornell-Strickland paid tribute to the work of such celebrated Black writers as Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, while other passages acknowledged the contributions of Black inventors Charles R. Drew (the blood bank), Lewis Latimer (the incandescent-filtered light bulb) and Garrett Morgan (the red/yellow/green stoplight).

In the midst of a soul-stirring drum performance, Deshaun and Elizabeth Newman pointed out the differences in drums from the different regions of Africa, but no matter their origin, drums played a vital role in various aspects of African culture. They also noted that American slave owners denied their enslaved people access to drums lest they communicate with the enslaved people on neighboring plantations and create unrest over their living and working conditions.   

By popular demand, Vincent Gray and Brian Kizer were back with a high-decibel spoken-word performance that brought Leo students to their feet when it was performed in this venue several months ago.

Gray is a product of the Auburn Gresham community who said he would have attended Leo if his parents had been able to afford the tuition. Thus his knowledge comes mostly from the streets, and he used common-sense street vernacular to emphasize the importance of good decision-making.

“I don’t hear no because I live in yes … Are you doing what’s necessary or what’s comfortable? … How many of you have an I-phone? How many of you have I will? … My library card is more valuable than my driver’s license because my library card takes me places my driver’s license can’t … Eighty percent of success is showing up. Eight-five percent is showing up on time … You don’t have a problem, you have a choice. A problem is an opportunity to rise to the occasion.”

Kizer said he dealt with rejection issues as a youngster—he was born out of wedlock, and his father refused to acknowledge or accept him. He seemed  headed for the street life and a “career” as a drug dealer until a cousin intervened and reminded him of the wisdom of their grandmother: “You can do more than you’re doing. You can be more than you are. You can become the man you’re supposed to be.”

Kizer closed by emphasizing the importance of belief in one’s self. ”I am water to a well. Put me anywhere on God’s green earth and I will succeed.”

Finally, what would a Leo celebration be without some recognition for Principal Shaka Rawls? This time it came from the Cook County branch of the Illinois Principals Association, which recognized Mr. Rawls as a “bridge builder,” citing Leo’s various efforts to better the lives of its Auburn Gresham neighbors.

“My name is on this plaque, but the award is for Leo High School,” Mr. Rawls said. “All of us are involved in the work that’s being recognized here today. And we intend to keep it going.”