Lyons rallies late to beat Downers Grove North
Patrick Cramer scooped and scored on his blocked punt, turned toward a loud Lyons Township student section behind the end zone and took a deep bow.
The Lions' special teams were worth an encore.
Cramer's blocked punt for a touchdown was one of two fourth-quarter special teams plays that swung the game in the Lions' favor. Lyons, which trailed almost the entire way, scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes and change to rally for a 24-13 West Suburban Silver win over visiting Downers Grove North in Saturday's regular season finale.
"It was just heat of the moment; those are friends who are not on the football team, and it felt great," Cramer said of his touchdown celebration. "You can't have a comeback without being down first. It feels good. Team effort. It feels even better to now get a home playoff game."
Lyons (7-2, 4-2), which had trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and 13-10 in the second half, had already seized a 17-13 lead before Downers Grove North (6-3, 3-3) dropped back to punt with just under four minutes left.
Cramer burst through the line for the block, and scooped up the loose change in the end zone for a touchdown that all but sewed up the comeback win.
"I heard their linemen call out what they had and I knew one of the back guys. All I had to do was shimmy ... and I was able to get around and get a hand on it," Cramer said. "My teammates coulda had it, too, just scoop and score."
It was the second big special teams play of the quarter. Earlier Carter Reid's booming 52-yard punt, coupled with a Downers Grove North block in the back penalty, pinned the Trojans' inside their 5-yard line and set the stage for Lyons' go-ahead drive.
"We knew going into the game it was going to be a battle," Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said. "The message to our kids was all three phases."
Lyons got the ball back at midfield after the deep punt with 7:45 left trailing 13-10. The Lions went 51 yards in six plays, with the benefit of a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty.
Three straight Danny Pasko runs ended the drive, the 215-pound Lions' senior taking in the go-ahead TD from 3 yards out with 5:28 left.
"We just had to out-physical them and run hard," said Pasko, who ran for 70 yards on 15 carries and later had back-to-back sacks defensively at linebacker. "They have a fantastic defense and are very physical and like to hit. That touchdown, we have a play where Jack Falls and Graham Smith block in front of me. They're fantastic blockers. I would follow Jack Falls anywhere."
The pass interference call was one of five fourth-quarter Downers Grove North penalties.
"I don't know if all of a sudden we're not a clean football team and they are, I find that hard to believe personally," Trojans coach Joe Horeni said. "There were some things that could have gone the other way but no excuses. We have to sustain drives offensively."
Indeed, Downers Grove North's only touchdown came on a trick play, Ethan Thulin's 59-yard double pass to Will Guerin that gave the Trojans a 10-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first quarter. Downers Grove North's only other offense came on Sean Ryniec field goals of 32 yards in the first quarter and 36 yards with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
"Our defense in the first half was on the field for 36 plays and offensively we were on the field for 18. Same narrative as our Glenbard West game, we have to get better," Horeni said. "We were in the red zone twice and we kick field goals. We have to punch in those scores."
Lyons pulled even 10-10 at halftime. David Waight kicked a 22-yard field goal and Ryan Jackson, who was 15-for-22 for 104 yards, threw a 2-yard TD pass to Travis Stamm with 21.4 seconds left in the half to cap off a 16-play, 65-yard drive.
Lyons reached seven regular-season wins for the first time since 2016.
"Last week, losing to Glenbard West, we said we didn't play four quarters. That was the challenge all week was to put a full game together," Beujter said. "I'm just proud of our guys for overcoming adversity and earning that win."