2018 Football Preview

In Gabrell Spruill, a senior lineman, Leo boasts the returning Defensive Player of the Year in the Chicago Catholic League Red Division. Linebackers Romell Reno and Jokon Cousett, cornerbacks Dorian and Rod-shad Woods and safety Devin Flakes give Coach Mike Holmes plenty to work with on the defensive side of the ball.

But if the Lions are to return to the IHSA state playoffs for the first time since 2013, it will be their offense that carries them. A line with size and experience and some big-play performers at the skill positions give Leo the potential to improve upon last season’s 4-7 record. Five wins, against a typically tough Catholic League schedule, could get the Lions to the playoffs.

Coach Holmes is strongly considering employing a two-quarterback system. That’s no reflection on senior Darryl Ousley-Parr, who threw 11 TD passes as last season’s junior starter and another five as a sophomore subbing for injured Aamir Holmes the previous year. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement that Ousley-Parr is also one of the team’s best receivers, with speed, sure hands and route-running ability that can be utilized as a weapon.

When Ousley-Parr lines up at receiver, the quarterback will be Lateef Carwell, a senior. Carwell hasn’t played much since his freshman year, but he has the big-armed capability to stretch a defense and create openings for the running game.

The most intriguing runner among an impressive group of backs is junior Tobias Sample, a speedy two-way threat who scored seven touchdowns as a sophomore last season, then qualified for the state track meet in the 100-meter dash in the spring. Whether it’s Ousley-Parr or Carwell doing the throwing, Sample will be a prime target as the Lions seek to utilize his big-play capability.

Senior Jalen Harris, primarily a blocking back last season, and senior Brandon Williams will complement Sample as ballcarriers. They will be running behind a promising line that features two NFL-sized seniors at the tackle spots: Elijah Lamptey (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) and Marc McCleod (6-4, 270). Lamptey has attracted some attention from college scouts already; in addition to his size and skill, he has the grades to be an attractive recruit.

Leo has departed the Kroc Center and will divide its home games between St. Rita’s Cronin Field, at 77th and Western, and the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, at 56th and Ellis on the University of Chicago campus. The season opens with a nonconference game against Evergreen Park at St. Rita, then gets typically Catholic League tough with De La Salle, Fenwick, Brother Rice and St. Ignatius offsetting Red Division rivals DePaul Prep, St. Joseph’s and Hope Academy.

“I’m not in the prediction business,” Coach Holmes said, “but I’m optimistic. I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”