Lions IHSA Class 1-A Track and Field Results

By Dan McGrath

Leo’s 4-x-100 relay team placed ninth and earned two points for the Lions in the IHSA Class 1-A State Track and Field Championships at Eastern Illinois University on Thursday, May 25 and Saturday, May 27.

Freshman Chase Jordan anchored the team, which also included seniors Isiah Knox, Ja’Mari Winters and Kevin Jackson. A ninth-place showing in preliminaries (:43.60) got the Lions through to the finals, where they moved up one spot to eighth despite posting a slightly slower time (:43.85).

Forreston won the event in :42.91, followed by Decatur St. Theresa (:42.98).

Leo’s 4-x-100 and 4-x-200 relay teams qualified for the state meet by virtue of first-place finishes at the Hope Academy Sectional one week previous, The 4-x-200 team (Knox, Jackson, Tim Durr, Jordan) could not get past the preliminaries, placing 13th in 1:31.52.

With a third-place finish at Hope (:11.33), Jordan was an individual state qualifier in the 100 meters. He finished 24th in the preliminaries at :11.35. Peyton Locke of Taylor Ridge Rockridge won the event in :10.86. Brady Anderson of Morrison (5th, :11.01) was the only freshman to finish higher than Jordan.

Catlin Salt Fork won the Class 1-A state championship with 45 points, followed by Shelbyville (30.5), Newton (30), Tuscola (29) and Auburn (25).

Leo Sophomore Nick Armour didn’t qualify for the shot-put finals after finishing 30th (37, feet 6 inches) in preliminaries. Garrett Taylor of Catlin Salt Fork won the event with a best effort of 50 feet, 6 inches. Evan Sanders of Johnson City (25th, 42 feet, 7 inches) and Brynner Inman of Nashville (29th, 39-8) were the only sophomores to place higher than Armour, who was making a return trip to the state meet, qualified by finishing second in the Hope Sectional with a heave of 39-8.

Junior Joshua Ball, another repeat participant, was eliminated from triple-jump competition in the preliminaries, topping out at 40 feet, ½ inch. Junior Max Mibreth of Pecatonica was the winner at 44 feet, 8 inches. Ball was first in the Hope Sectional with a best effort of 41-8.

Lions Baseball Season Comes to an End

By Dan McGrath

In the sixth inning, the scoreboard at Joliet Catholic Academy’s Gillespie Field  showed the Leo baseball team with one run and five hits. 

A third column told the real story of the Lions’ 10-1 loss to JCA in an IHSA Class 2-A Sectional semifinal on Thursday, May 25: seven errors.

Two fielding bobbles, four errant throws and a catcher’s interference call accounted for six unearned runs, gifts the talented and fundamentally skilled Hillmen hardly needed in improving to 22-8 for the season and earning a date with Chicago Christian in Saturday’s sectional title game.

Leo closed the books on a 12-18 season, its highest victory total in 10 years.

“You hate to see it end like this, in a game where we didn’t play our best, but I’m proud of the season we had,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “I want to thank the seniors, who left it all on the field every day. And I want the younger guys to keep working hard, keep improving.

“This is definitely something to build on.”

Starter Matthew Hernandez struggled with his control early and issued two first-inning walks, both of which came around to score. The Lions were inches away from getting out of the inning, but couldn’t quite turn a double play, and the Hillmen’s 2-0 lead grew to 4-0 when  Zach Pomatto banged a two-out, two-out double into the left-field corner.

Leo broke through with a run against Michael Tuman in the fourth inning, but ran themselves out of a chance for more. Amar’e Hall stole second after delivering an RBI single that scored Hernandez. He took third on Mitchell Hall’s tap to the mound, but made too wide a turn and was thrown out scrambling back after Tuman threw behind him rather than go for the out at first. The inning ended when Mitchell Hall was cut down trying to steal second.

The Lions’ bats went silent at that point, and a parade of fielding miscues helped the Hillmen tack on two runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. A disappointing end to a season that featured, in addition to a 10-year high for victories, these highlights:

* Senior Kyrent Cole, who played shortstop and center field and pitched, was named co-Player of the Year in the Catholic League White Division

* Fellow senior Matt Hernandez, who played third base and pitched, joined Cole on the CCL White Division all-conference team

* Leo was honored with the White Division Sportsmanship Award in a vote of conference coaches.

“I think it suggests we competed hard and respected the game, and we can be proud of that,” Anderson said.

MASSIVE COMEBACK! Lions Score 4 in the Bottom of the Seventh to Win 9-8!

By Dan McGrath

Matthew Hernandez could see the game of his life slipping away when his Leo Lions went to the bottom of the seventh inning trailing University High 8-5 in the IHSA Class 2-A regional title decider in Palos Heights on Saturday, May 20.

Hernandez, a senior, held the Maroons to one earned run over five innings of stellar pitching. He doubled and scored in the first inning, delivered a sacrifice fly in the third and gave the Lions a 5-4 lead with a clutch two-out, two-run single in the fifth.

But after Hernandez left the mound, Nathan Kilkus’ two-run double put U-High up 6-5 in the sixth inning, and the Maroons pushed two more runs across in the top of the seventh to lead 8-5. With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh, the Lions were looking at the end of their season.

But they simply refused to lose. A walk, a Joaquin Huerta single and an RBI single by Hernandez–who else?—got Leo within 8-6. After Kyrent Cole was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Mitchell Hall’s single scored Huerta for 8-7 and left the bases full.

Nate Sims popped up the first pitch he saw, but the U-High shortstop had trouble tracking the ball in the late-afternoon sun. As it glanced off his glove, Hernandez crossed the plate with the tying run. Cole, running with two outs, never stopped and beat a hurried throw home with a headfirst slide to score the winner.

Leo 9, U-High 8. Pretty amazing.

“I know we got some breaks, but what stands out to me is we kept fighting, kept battling and never got down on ourselves when we fell behind,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “When you do that, you give yourself a chance.”


By securing the regional title, the Lions gave themselves a chance to face host Joliet Catholic in a semifinal of the Joliet Catholic Sectional on Thursday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m. The Hilltoppers are 19-8 overall, they finished third in the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference at 8-4 and they claimed their regional title with a 5-3 win over Wilmington.

On paper, they’d be favored. But after Saturday, Leo is of a mind that anything is possible.  

Lions Track Schedule

Lions Track Schedule

Thurs. May 25: IHSA 1A State Final Prelims, Eastern Illinois Univ., Noon
Sat. May 27: IHSA 1A State Finals  Eastern Illinois Univ., 11:00 A.M

Lions Track Team Finishes Third in the IHSA Sectional

By Dan McGrath

Three first-place efforts and a remarkable performance by freshman Chase Jordan carried Leo’s track team to a third-place finish in the IHSA Class 1-A Sectional held at Hope Academy on Wednesday, May 17.

As a result, the Lions will send two relay teams and three individual qualifiers to Charleston for the IHSA state meet at Eastern Illinois University on May 25-27.

Leo earned 66 points in the sectional, which left the Lions third behind host Hope Academy (104 points) and the Chicago Latin School (91). But Jordan was one of the meet’s top individual performers, anchoring the 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams to first-place finishes and placing third in the 100 meters. His time of 11.33 seconds bettered the state-meet qualifying standard of 11.35 and sends him on to Eastern.

Seniors Isiah Knox, Ja’mari Winters and Kevin Jackson joined Jordan on the victorious 4×100 team, turning in a time of 43.96 seconds to beat out runner-up North Lawndale (44.35) and host Hope (44.52).

Knox, Winters and Jackson set up Jordan’s anchor leg in the 4×200, and he brought the Lions home in 1:33.20, ahead of North Lawndale (1:33.40) and Hope (1:34.98).

Leo’s 4×400 relay team placed third and missed qualifying as Knox, Winters, junior Lordan Black and senior Tim Durr came in at 3:40.62, behind Latin (3:38.57) and Beacon Academy (3:39.48). They needed to better 3:35.17.

Junior Joshua Ball will make a return trip to the state meet after winning the triple jump with a 41 feet, 8 inch effort. Ball also placed eighth in the high jump, two spots behind sophomore teammate Neil Anderson. Both cleared 5 feet 5 inches, but Anderson had fewer misses. Kejuan Williams of Clark won the event with a leap of 5-11.

Leo’s other individual state qualifier is sophomore Nick Armour, who placed second in the shot put at 39 feet 8 inches, behind only Sam Forst of Francis Parker, who won the event with a heave of 40-5. Junior teammate Joshua Burke was fourth at 36-4. 

Junior Garry Brown gave the Lions third-place points in the discus (102 feet, 5 inches), where Christ the King’s Patrick Walker dominated with a throw of 141-6. Leo’s Xavier Robinson placed sixth at 96-6. Sophomore Marshawn Durr accounted for a fifth-place finish in the long jump at 19 feet, 5 inches, while junior teammate Lawrence Lee was sixth at 19-2. 

Jordan seems ready to take his place among Ryan Shields, Chris Watkins, Keith Harris and Theo Hopkins in the pantheon of great Leo sprinters. That can only bode well for the Lions’ track-and-field future. 

Baseball Lions Wallop King in IHSA Playoff Game: 26-0

By Dan McGrath

As expected, the rigors of Catholic League competition prepared the Leo baseball team for postseason play, and the Lions find themselves one victory away from claiming an IHSA Class 2-A regional title.

They’ll face the University of Chicago Lab School—better known as U-High–at Chicago Christian’s Schaffer Athletics Complex, 6100 Cal Sag Road in Palos Heights, at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 20. The winner advances to next week’s 2-A Sectional at Joliet Catholic.

Both Leo and U-High sailed through the first round of the regional with mercy-rule victories over Public League opponents, the Lions besting King and the Maroons polishing off South Shore. U-High is 11-8 overall and finished second in the Independent Schools league with a 10-2 record.

A split with perennial Catholic League contender Montini and a Senior Night victory over Horizon Charter gave Leo some momentum headed into the postseason. A 5-4, nine-inning victory over Montini on May 9 was probably the Lions’ most impressive win since they knocked off Brother Rice in their Catholic League opener back in March.

They took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, only to have Montini tie things with a three-spot. It remained 4-4 through the seventh and eighth, but Mitchell Hall led off the bottom of the ninth with a booming triple to right-center field. Esai Jacinto scored him with a sharp single to left, and a 5-4 Leo victory went into the books. 

Montini got even with a 12-5 victory in Lombard two days later, but it was a close, competitive game until the Broncos pushed four runs across in the bottom of the sixth.

“I think we’ve proved we can be competitive with the good teams in the Catholic League,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “That’s something to build on.” 

Seniors Mitchell Hall, Amar’e Hall, Kyrent Cole, Matthew Hernandez, Joaquin Huerta, Esai Jacinto and Nate Sims were recognized in a pre-game ceremony before the Horizon game. Baseball is fairly new to the near-West Side charter school, and not until gametime did Anderson realize he had scheduled a mismatch.

“Games like this really don’t do us any good,” he said. 

The regional first-rounder was a mismatch as well. But it gave the Lions a chance to rest their regulars, play their youngsters and line up their pitching so they’ll be at full strength for Saturday.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Anderson said. “A regional title would be a great thing for these kids who have put so much into this.”  

Baseball Lions Beat Brother Rice

By Dan McGrath

The 2023 Catholic League baseball opener featured the most significant victory in recent memory for the Leo Lions.

Leo rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge Brother Rice 9-8 at Chicago State. The Crusaders are the defending Catholic League champions, they’re a perennial state contender, they’re nationally ranked in some polls and, well, no one around Leo was quite sure when the Lions had last beaten them.

“Probably in my era,” said Coach Mike Anderson, a 1991 Leo grad who played three varsity seasons. “I remember us beating them at least once, probably the year we won the South Section.”

The Lions collected 14 hits and got four solid innings from starting pitcher Matthew Hernandez but still trailed 8-5 in the bottom of the seventh. Two walks and RBI singles by Kyrent Cole, Joaquin Huerta and Amare Hall tied the game. With the bases loaded, freshman Derrick Davis III drew another walk to force in the winning run and give Leo its third straight victory.

The euphoria was short-lived as the Lions took a 16-1 pounding at St. Laurence one day later. The hard-hitting Vikings banged out 12 hits, but walks and hit batters were equally responsible for the four-inning mercy rule being applied as Leo’s pitchers struggled to find the strike zone.

Still, the Brother Rice win was one to build on as it affirmed the belief in each other the Lions were building during preseason workouts.

“It’s going to be different this year,” Anderson said. “We’ve got more players in the program, and more pitchers. We’re working hard, and the attitude is let’s have a special year. It’s our time.”

Seniors Hernandez, Cole and Esai Jacinto are four-year varsity players. Nate Sims is in his third year, and Amare Hall is a two-year starter. Huerta and Mitchell Hall look to be impact newcomers. Sophomore Aiden Lott is a promising pitcher, and fellow sophomore Ian Dunn and the freshman Davis look capable of competing at the varsity level.

Nonconference victories over Ogden International Charter (6-2) and Englewood STEM (a 16-0, five-inning no-hitter) preceded the Brother Rice game. Then the weather intervened, forcing four nonconference postponements that will be made up as the schedule allows.

Otherwise the schedule is almost all conference games the rest of the way, and the Catholic League is a meat grinder.

“But this year is going to be different,” Anderson said. “I really believe it.”

Lions Have a Good Showing at the IHSA Wrestling Regional

By Dan McGrath

Rigorous Catholic League competition proved to be good preparation for the IHSA state series for Leo wrestlers Nick Armour, Chris Mathis and Fred Chandler.

Armour, a sophomore heavyweight, pinned all three opponents and took first place at the IHSA Class 1-A Regional at St. Laurence High School on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Mathis, a senior, placed second at 120 pounds, and Chandler, a freshman, finished fourth at 138 pounds. Sophomore Trevor Turpin also competed, but lost both his matches and didn’t place.  

The top three finishers in each weight class advance to sectional competition, so it’s off to Coal City and the 1-A Sectional for Armour and Mathis on Feb. 10-11. Chandler also will advance if any of the three wrestlers who finished above him are unable to compete for any reason. The top three sectional finishers advance to the state meet Feb. 16-18 at State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus.   

 As a team, Leo placed seventh among 10 teams with 47 points. Host St. Laurence won the regional with 150.5 points and Nazareth was runner-up with 133.5 points.

 Armour was an All-Catholic League Red Division defensive lineman as a sophomore for the Lions, while Mathis is an honor student and a member of the National Honor Society. We wish them well at the sectional.

Senior Joaquin Huerta Signs with Wilberforce University

With his mom Miriam Huerta, his dad Jesus Huerta and Leo baseball coach Mike Anderson looking on, Leo senior Joaquin Huerta signed a letter of intent to continue his baseball career at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, near Dayton. An honor-roll student, Joaquin transferred into Leo from Brother Rice. He’s a pitcher/middle infielder with good speed, a solid bat and a bright future.

Lions Defeat Montini

By Dan McGrath

January was an excruciating month for Leo’s basketball team, but the Lions closed it out on a winning note by beating Montini 50-36 in Lombard on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Behind Keeland Jordan’s 21 points and 12 from Jachi Lewis, the Lions improved to 6-18 overall, 2-8 in the Catholic League. Montini is 3-19, 1-9.

The Broncos’ active 1-2-2 zone defense had Jordan dealing with two defenders each time he touched the ball in the first half, which ended with Leo leading 21-19, though Jordan scored but four points.
In the third period, Jordan set up shop in the high post, and the Broncos couldn’t contain him. He scored 10 points and distributed three assists as the Lions outscored Montini 16-4 to take control of the game.
The Broncos made a mini-run and cut Leo’s lead to five with just over a minute remaining. But freshman Zion Wilkins knocked down two free throws and Leo went 7-for-10 at the foul line in the final minute to taste victory for the first time in nearly a month.

Next: Evergreen Park (14-12) in the Evergreen Park Shootout on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 3:30.