The Leo Lions were impressive enough in their season-opening nonconference win over Chicago Bulls Academy to suggest they could be a quality, playoff-caliber football team.
What they demonstrated against Marian Catholic in Week 2 is that they’re not good enough to overcome a litany of damaging mistakes. Leo turned the ball over on its first two possessions, an interception and a fumble leaving the Spartans with short fields that almost invariably result in two-touchdown leads.
Try as they might the Lions could not climb out of that hole. A 20-12 loss at St. Rita’s Cronin Field on Friday, Sept. 3 left them with a 1-1 record … and the disquieting knowledge that a winnable game had slipped away from them.
“That first quarter killed us,” Coach Mike Holmes said. “We settled down and battled after that, but we put ourselves in a really tough spot.”
A goal-line stand just before halftime—Marian was turned back on four straight plays inside the 5-yard line—energized the Lions, and they made it a one-score game when quarterback James E’Akels hit fellow senior Austin Ford with a 65-yard touchdown pass on the first scrimmage play of the second half.
Marian then went three-and-out, and Isaiah Knox’s 14-yard punt return set Leo up at the visitors’ 37, only to have another lost fumble negate the opportunity. Marian failed to capitalize and was looking at fourth-and-seven when a suspect dead-ball personal foul call—Jakolbi Wilson was flagged for complaining that Marian’s linemen were holding him—gave the Spartans a drive-sustaining first down.
Ten plays later, Randall Nauden’s 6-yard TD run restored Marian’s two-touchdown lead. E’Akels’ and Ford hooked up for a 16-yard score that brought the Lions within 20-12 midway through the final period, but they could get no closer.
E’Akels completed eight of 17 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns, finding Ford three times for 89 yards and both scores. With starting running back Marcus Ray sitting out the game on suspension, Leo had no semblance of a ground game, calling just six running plays that produced 27 yards.
Marian was under no such restrictions; Nauden (20 carries, 121 yards, two TDs) and slippery quarterback Kyle Thomas (15 carries, 90 yards, one TD) kept the chains moving all evening as the Spartans (1-1) dominated time of possession.
Next up for the Lions (1-1): a trip to Mundelein on Friday, Sept. 10 for a 7 p.m. game against Carmel Catholic (1-1).