LT denies Downers Grove North its fifth win
Lyons Township senior Joey Antonietti was given a new offensive role beginning with the Week 6 Homecoming game against Proviso West.
The returning all-West Suburban Conference Silver Division quarterback was also going to play -- or only play -- running back and wide receiver.
"I just do what coach (Jon Beutjer) asks me to do," Antonietti said.
"He wanted to try some new things. Right now it's working so we're going to keep doing it going into the playoffs."
With Friday's critical game tied at halftime, Antonietti scored the next two touchdowns -- one each as a receiver and running back -- and the Lions pulled out a 21-14 Silver victory at Downers Grove North to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
"I've been playing with these guys since freshman year so it's awesome to make it to the payoffs with this group," said Antonietti, who had 101 rushing and 25 receiving yards. "And I couldn't do it tonight without the linemen. They were making holes for me. It's a big testament to them."
LT (5-4, 3-3) also got a great effort from sophomore quarterback Ryan Jackson, who passed for two TDs and 165 yards. The defense collected turnovers from Alex Bailey and Owen Cherry.
The Trojans (4-5, 1-5) also hoped to win to become playoff eligible.
"I'm so happy for our kids and the program. They've worked really hard," Beutjer said.
"We've been in some close games against some really good football teams. Our message this week was win every down and then you have to respond when there's adversity and I felt like our kids did that."
Antonietti scored first on a 14-yard reception from Jackson for a 14-7 LT lead with 3:45 left in the third quarter and on the next drive had a 14-yard TD run up the middle with 9:05 remaining.
The Trojans rallied as quarterback Sam Reichert found Ethan Thulin for a touchdown with 6:44 remaining to close to 21-14, but the Lions never gave them the ball back by methodically grinding out four first downs.
After starting 3-0, the Trojans lost their last four games, the last three by a combined 12 points. There still is an outside chance of qualifying if any 4-5 teams are needed to fill the field because Downers North will finish with 50 playoff points.
"We play in an unbelievable conference, phenomenal coaches, phenomenal teams. We're the smallest in the Silver and I'm just proud of our kids. They fought. They competed," Downers North coach Joe Horeni said.
"I feel bad for our seniors. They as freshmen won two games. As sophomores, won two games and to be in the last four games, all of them, against the top teams in our conference, is a testament to them and their leadership."
Jackson first found Colin Grace for a 31-yard TD pass in the second quarter to complete a 99-yard drive after an interception at the goal line by Cherry.
The Trojans tied the game 7-7 on the ensuing possession with a 33-yard pass from Reichert to William Guerin.
Against Proviso West, senior Aiden Sullivan made his first varsity start at quarterback and Jackson made his varsity debut after playing for the sophomores.
On Friday, Jackson was alternating with Sullivan and occasionally Antonietti but then became the primary quarterback after Sullivan was hit hard in the second quarter.
Jackson was 8-for-8 passing in the second half for 109 yards. His last completion was an 8-yard pass to Noah Pfafflin on fourth-and-4 at the Downers Grove North 35 with 2:04 left to allow the Lions to run out the clock.
"It feels really good. I didn't know I was starting today. All I did was come in and did my role," Jackson said. "(The crowd) didn't faze me. I'm kind of used to it. I like that stuff. I like that environment. (Antonietti and Sullivan have) helped me a lot."
Besides Cherry's interception, the Trojans opened the second half with a drive that reached the LT 10 but ended with a missed 28-yard field goal.
"We've been in a lot of positions with good teams where it's tied up going into halftime and then we fall up short," Cherry said. "To come out and be able to put two good halves together and come together at the right time, it feels great."