Costly mistakes, including a game-winning kickoff return, kept host Lisle off the winning end of the scoreboard Friday night.
The Lions were flagged for 11 penalties, missed a fourth-quarter extra point, were unable to score on their opponent's 1-yard line, and gave up an 85-yard kickoff return that went for a score.
It all added up to a 14-13 loss to Seneca in the Interstate Eight Small opener for both teams.
"I'm so disappointed right now," Lisle coach Dan Sanko said. "It was penalty after penalty and missed tackle after missed tackle. That's a team that doesn't have their head in the game."
Lisle (1-2, 0-1) had just taken its first lead on a 14-yard scoring pass from Nick Saul to Ryan VanVolkenburg and seemingly had the momentum with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter.
But just as quickly as Lisle had taken the lead, Seneca (1-2, 1-0) took it right back. On the ensuing kickoff Logan Pifer scampered through a wide-open gap in the Lions' coverage. He marched 85 yards down the field and into the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
"I don't even have to look at it on tape to see how horrible it was," Sanko said of the kickoff return. "Guys were running around blocks instead of trying to go through them and staying in their lane. I can't remember the last time a kick was returned on us."
Both teams traded a pair of second-quarter touchdowns as the Fighting Irish got on the board first when Bo Taylor capped an 11-play, 56-yard drive with a 7-yard scoring run up the middle and a 7-0 lead.
The Lions answered with an 11-play, 60-yard drive of their own. On fourth-and-3 from the Seneca 29-yard line, Saul connected with Cliff Krause in the flat for a 25-yard gain. On the next play Krause found the end zone on a 4-yard run and a 7-7 tie heading into halftime.
Again Lisle looked to have the momentum midway through the third quarter when a roughing-the-kicker penalty was called on Seneca during a Lisle punt, giving the Lions the ball at the Fighting Irish's 29-yard line. Lisle took the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line but lost 9 yards on a false start penalty. Three plays later, Seneca made a goal-line stand for a turnover on downs.
After Pifer's kickoff return went for a score, Lisle followed with a three-and-out series but still had an opportunity to win the game. A fumble by Taylor on the second play of the ensuing possession was recovered by VanVolkenburg at Seneca's 38-yard line with 3:18 left.
Saul orchestrated a drive down to the 11-yard line with a pair of 13-yard completions, one to Dawon Burrell and one to Adam Grego, which set up a possible game-winning field goal. A 33-yard attempt with 29 seconds left was wide right, sealing the Fighting Irish win.