Leyden gets to .500 with solid all-around effort
As Leyden and Addison Trail entered the third round of West Suburban Gold play, they found their postseason hopes in critical condition at 2-3 overall and in search of a win to pull even on the year.
Moreover, both teams were in search of points to put on the scoreboard after going a combined 14 quarters scoreless entering Friday night's affair.
Thanks to an offense that found its scoring mojo in the first half and a defensive effort that held Addison Trail at bay when it needed to, the Eagles stabilized their condition with a 14-7 win in Addison.
"It was nice to get this one," said Leyden coach Tom Cerasani. "It was great seeing our guys being able to pound this one out offensively and put this thing on ice with our defense being able to close to deal."
Leyden got on the scoreboard on its second possession of the contest.
Playing the field position game, the Eagles started their drive on the Blazer 45, and six plays later junior QB Kyler Britten found senior wideout Ata Hinnawi for a 28-yard score on a fourth-and-5 with 4:16 left in the opening quarter.
For the visitors, it ended a five-quarter scoreless drought dating back to their win at Proviso East two weeks earlier.
The Britten-Hinnawi connection worked again in the second quarter.
This time, they hooked up again from 25 yards at the 8:50 mark to expand the Eagles' advantage to 14-0 which they took into halftime.
That was the cushion Leyden needed the rest of the game as Addison Trail ended an 11-quarter scoring drought dating back to third quarter of a WSC crossover loss to Glenbard West three weeks ago.
It started when senior defensive back Chris Cici recovered a fumble at the Eagle 26 with 8:35 to play in the third quarter.
Three plays later, Blazer seniors Mike Ruffolo and Jacob Grygo lined up a 24-yard pass play that found the end zone, cutting the deficit to 14-7 at the 7:05 mark.
From there, the Eagles' defense broke no more, holding the Blazers to one first down in their final three possessions that featured a pair a Tramon Thomas sacks, including one third and 15 at midfield.
"We talk about how important it is to get to the ball," Thomas said with a smile. "As a unit we've become more motivated. It feels great to get a win."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior also heaped praise on his fellow junior Guarderas.
"I couldn't be more happier for Gabe to come back with those big runs to put the game away for us down the stretch," he said
The big runs that Thomas referred to came on the Eagles' final possession.
The 5-11 junior carried the ball on Leyden's final six plays, gaining 24 of his 69 yards including first-down runs of 9 and 4 yards that preserved the win.
"I felt like that I had to step it up after that fumble," Guarderas said. "It's a matter of your keeping yourself lower to the ground which makes it harder for the defense to bring you down. As a unit we did what we needed to do to get the job done on offense."
Leyden (3-3, 2-1) moved back to .500 mark with consecutive home games against Downers Grove South and Hinsdale South upcoming. The Eagles travel to Morton to finish the regular season. Two wins in its final three regular-season games would gain Leyden playoff eligibility.
"We've regained control of our destiny," Cerasani said. "The momentum you get from a win like this is so important. It's going to be nice being at home these next couple of weeks."
Addison Trail coach Paul Parpet took the time to laud his team's comeback effort in the second half.
"I said to the boys how pleased I was on the half of football we played in the third and fourth quarters," he said. "However, you can't put yourselves down 14-0 at halftime in this conference and expect to win."
The Blazers (2-4, 0-3) will travel to Hinsdale South on Friday before finishing with Morton at home followed by an away test at Proviso East.
"We've got to play those games with the pride we showed in the second half," Parpet added.