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Playoffs on the line as Dukes face LT

York running back Kyle Stearns finds an opening against Oak Park-River Forest on Friday, September 27 in Elmhurst.
York running back Kyle Stearns finds an opening against Oak Park-River Forest on Friday, September 27 in Elmhurst.

ELMHURST – York’s football team enters tonight’s Lyons Township game in need of a win, and defensive leaders like Zach Ray and Joe Helton will need to perform well for that to happen.

The Lions’ spread offense features prolific running back Leonard Ross, who already has Division I offers, and a passing game that spreads the ball around to a few tall and athletics receivers. LT is averaging 28.6 points per game.

After the Dukes lost to Downers Grove North 28-7 last week, tonight’s game is a match up between 3-4 teams that must win to stay alive for playoff contention.

“That’s why the intensity has been picked up this week because we know what’s on the line,” said Helton, a York senior linebacker. “We really have to play our ‘A’ game.”

The Lions’ offense is a bit different than what the Dukes have seen so far. Willowbrook, which beat York 28-13, runs a spread offense but is more pass-heavy than LT. Other teams like Oak Park-River Forest and Proviso East also runs a spread offense, but run very different plays out of it.

The Dukes know remaining disciplined on defense is the key.

“They’re a little smaller up front than teams we’ve faced this year, but they’re a lot quicker, also,” said Ray, a senior defensive end. “Our D-line and linebackers have been working real hard at looking at all of our keys.”

LT’s more balanced and open offense will contrast York’s hard-nosed running offense. The Dukes’ running game couldn’t get going against Downers Grove North. York didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter when the host Trojans already led 28-0.

If York gets the win they will also need to beat defending Class 7A champ and conference leader Glenbard West in the regular season finale and hope they have enough playoff points to get in as a 5-4 team. Before they can look ahead, the Dukes must beat LT first.

“I’m really just looking forward to us getting a big win and some much needed momentum for the game next week, too,” Ray said.

It’s not the spot York was hoping to be in, but after an 0-9 season last fall, simply talking about being in the playoff hunt this late in the season is a big step forward.

“The expectations were a lot higher for this year,” Helton said. “I honestly feel we were in there with a lot of teams.”

Week 7 result:
Downers Grove North 28, York 7

York scoring play:
Charlie Rose 15-yard pass to Mike Nasser

Week 8: York vs. Lyons Township
7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Clarence D. East Football Field, 355 W. St. Charles Road, Elmhurst
Records: York (3-4, 1-3 WSS), Lyons Township 3-4 (2-2 WSS)
Outlook: It's must-win time for both teams, making this game a virtual elimination game. The loser of this game will be out of playoff contention while the winner can cling to hopes of getting in at 5-4. The Lions have won three straight in this series.

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