By Dan McGrath

If a non-competitive, 50-8 stomping at the hands of St. Laurence felt like a doubleheader loss for the Leo football team, that’s because it was … technically.

Before kickoff at St. Rita’s Doyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 23, the Lions learned they’d have to vacate their season-opening 20-19 victory over Bishop McNamara over use of two ineligible players. IHSA paperwork hadn’t cleared on two transfer students who appeared in the game, meaning they were technically ineligible. By using the players, Leo was in violation of IHSA rules governing transfer students and was ordered to forfeit the game, leaving the Lions with a 1-4 record and the unlikely prospect of having to win out to earn a spot in the IHSA playoffs in Coach Marques Stevenson’s first season.

“No excuses,” Leo President Dan McGrath said. “We thought the paperwork had cleared; it had not. The IHSA isn’t interested in ‘we thought’ or ‘inadvertent.’ It exists to set policy and enforce rules, and we were in violation.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, but we have to be better.”

It could be argued that a win-that-suddenly-wasn’t demoralized the Lions and played a role in what transpired on the field, but it’s far more likely that St. Laurence’s superior talent and execution would have decided the outcome anyway. The 4-1 Vikings have the self-assured look of a playoff contender. 

They scored on their first four possessions, turned three Leo miscues into 15 points, got touchdown runs of 12, 5, 29 and 2 yards from sturdy running back Aaron Ball and denied the Lions any semblance of a running game with alert, hard-hitting defense.

A two-play sequence late in the first quarter was telling. Already trailing 14-0, Leo lined up to punt deep in its own territory after three three-and-out possessions. The snap sailed over punter Javon Logan’s head and out of the end zone for a safety. The Vikings’ Connor Engstrom then took the ensuing free kick at his 34-yard line and brought it back 66 yards for a touchdown. St. Laurence’s lead was 22-0, and a running clock was inevitable. 

Leo’s only sign of life was an eight-play, 69-yard second-quarter drive that ended with Marshawn Durr’s 10-yard TD pass to Neil Anderson for 22-8 after Durr ran for a two-point conversion.

Comeback? Nope. St. Laurence needed just four plays to go 55 yards and counter with Ball’s 5-yard TD run.

Logan, who’d run for 284 yards and nearly six yards per carry in his first four games, managed just 16 yards on nine tries against a defense geared to stop him. That left it up to Durr, who was 14-for-28 for 125 yards in his first game back from injury. But the Vikings knew he’d be throwing and came after him hard, forcing him to run for his life all afternoon.

It was a distasteful game, with well over 100 yards in penalties and assessed and several after-the-whistle skirmishes that distinguished neither team. 

The Lions, outscored 130-36 in three straight losses, can only hope for better in a Homecoming meeting with De La Salle (2-3) on Saturday, Sept. 30 at St. Rita. Gametime is TBD.