By Dan McGrath

The Leo Lions continue to be good for what ails opposing football teams from the Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic Conference.

Notre Dame College Prep was the third consecutive previously winless squad the Lions had faced in this pandemic-induced spring season when the teams squared off at Legends Field in Niles on Friday, April 9. The way the Dons played in a 42-6 victory suggests the only explanation for the 0-3 record they brought into the game was strength of schedule: Montini, Marist and Providence.

Behind a road grader-efficient offensive line, the Dons ground out 255 rushing yards, with running backs Jimmy Fidanzia, Francesco Ricciardi and Colin Randazzo combining for 196 yards and three touchdowns. 

Meanwhile quarterback Vincenzo Ricciardi’s nimble feet and dart-throwing left arm were an ideal complement to the heavy-duty running game; the slick sophomore completed five of six passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns.

This is not to say Leo (0-4) lacked effort or even played poorly. Junior defensive tackle Jakolbi Wilson manhandled every Don who tried to block him and had four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Sophomore defensive back Tim Durr made plays all over the field. 

But too often the young Lions missed assignments or were caught out of position on defense, which is how three- and four-yard gains become 10- to 12-yard gains and scoring drives are sustained.

On offense the Lions couldn’t get much going on the ground as Jalen Johnson had just 24 yards to show for his 12 carries. Leo couldn’t gain a yard on fourth-and-one when it was still a ballgame in the second quarter, and quarterback James E’Akels took  a nine-yard sack on a third-and one play on the series following its lone touchdown.

E’Akels did complete 10 of 17 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, a season-long 73-yarder to Raiyon Davidson, who caught a short hitch, turned it upfield and outran everyone, one of Davidson’s five receptions for 125 yards. But two interceptions—one of which glanced off the receiver’s hands—set the Dons up for short-field scoring drives.

“We played better tonight,” Coach Mike Holmes said. “I know the score doesn’t show it, but we’re improving, and I expect we’ll play better against Fenwick next week.”

Leo will face the Friars (1-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 16 at Triton College in River Forest. 

The effort is there. The Lions just need some results to follow.