Leo’s hopes of a Red Division championship in the newly merged Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference went by the boards on Friday, Oct. 25, with a 43-12 loss to Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights. The Spartans finished 3-0 in the four-team Red grouping, and their fifth victory overall sends them into the IHSA playoffs in Class 5-A.

The Lions’ IHSA playoff chances had evaporated in the previous week’s loss Fenwick. With the loss to Marian they finished 3-6 overall and 2-1 in the Red, but they’ll play at least one more game, traveling to De La Salle on Friday, Nov. 1, to face the Meteors (3-6, 0-3 CCL/ESCC Orange) in the first round of the Prep Bowl playoffs.

Leo had seven sophomores in the starting lineup at Marian, and Coach Mike Holmes believes an additional game and more practice time will be beneficial for his young team down the road.

One series into the Marian game, Leo was headed for a thumping.

As he rolled to his left to elude Marian’s pass rush, quarterback James E’Akels was caught from behind and went down under several defenders. His left ankle was badly twisted in the pile-up, and E’Akels limped off, not to return.

With the promising sophomore sidelined, Tobias Sample moved to quarterback from running back, leaving the Lions without a ground game to speak of—junior Jalen Johnson was in street clothes and on crutches after spraining his ankle the previous week against Fenwick. Forced to improvise on offense, Leo managed very little beyond Sample’s 70-yard TD pass to Rayion Davidson and Chris Lindo’s 25-yard touchdown run.

Both were inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. With scatbacks Taj Lawson and Jah’mar Daniel combining for 162 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries, the Spartans rolled up a 36-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Kevin Johnson added a 40-yard TD run and hit Daniel with a 24-yard scoring pass for the Red Division champs.

The Lions also had more than 140 yards in penalties, and they handed Marian a safety when one of the evening’s several errant shotgun snaps rolled out of the end zone.

Consolation being where you find it, Leo had those seven sophomores in its starting lineup. And five of the six teams to which the outmanned Lions lost this season were IHSA playoff qualifiers: Marian Catholic, Fenwick and Evergreen Park in 5-A, Nazareth in 7-A and Notre Dame in 8-A. Senior lineman Dorion Owens, senior linebacker Jordan Anderson, junior linebacker Trenton Guilford, junior running back Jalen Johnson, sophomore wide receiver Rayion Davidson and sophomore quarterback James E’Akels joined Tobias on the All-Red Division first team.