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Twice late in the first half Friday it looked as if Lisle was on the verge of erasing a 14-0 deficit in a game the Lions desperately needed to have to help their playoff hopes.
But both times visiting Peotone came up with big plays, including an amazing 90-yard screen pass to Joey Janutis, who seemed to break tackles from just about every Lions defender on his way to a heartbreaking score that gave the Blue Devils a 21-7 lead at the half and sent them on their way to a 28-14 Interstate Eight Conference crossover victory.
After Peotone (6-2) had jumped ahead 14-0 after one quarter, Lisle (4-4) answered with a 12-yard Kevin Coppin touchdown run and then looked primed for an equalizer after Peotone fumbled the ball away at its own 21 with three minutes left in the half.
The Lions just missed a TD when Janutis broke up a pass in the end zone just before Andy Simpson secured the catch, and two plays later Lisle fumbled the ball back to the visitors. Even so, it looked like Peotone would have to punt when Janutis caught a screen on third-and-5 and was quickly covered by Lisle defenders.
But Janutis did much more than get a first down and allow his team to keep the ball, he somehow shed a pair of tacklers near the line of scrimmage and then cut all the way back to the left side of the field, leaving a number of would-be tacklers in his wake on his way to the 90-yard score, his third TD catch in the first two quarters.
"There's not much to say," said Coppin, who plays both running back and linebacker for Lisle. "We struggled on a couple plays. There were a couple big plays that really killed us."
In the first half Janutis turned in most of those key big plays senior for the Blue Devils. Janutis took a short toss from quarterback Brandon Wenzel, broke one tackle and raced 58 yards for the fist score of the night. Later in the first quarter he got open behind the Lions secondary and hauled in an 82-yard pass for a 14-0 lead.
Then Janutis delivered the final dagger to Lisle's dimming playoff hopes with the long touchdown late in the first half.
"You've got to tackle. I'm not going to sugarcoat this," Lisle coach Dan Sanko said. "We had an opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it. Period. For that we will not make the playoffs. It was a game with urgency and we didn't play with urgency."
Just like last year, Lisle will take a 4-4 mark into its season finale against Sandwich, and just like last year the Lions might not have enough playoff points to qualify for the playoffs.