Nate Rusk is an established receiver in the Lyons Township football team’s high-powered offense.
He also happens to be the Lions' kicker and punter.
“I like to think of myself as a receiver who kicks. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m here to do it,” said Rusk, a senior. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was a little kid and actually still do play so kicking is just second nature for me.”
As a receiver, Rusk had six touchdowns in 2016.
On Friday, he earned already the fourth of this season in the undefeated Lions’ 33-8 victory over York in the West Suburban Conference Silver opener for both teams in Elmhurst.
Rusk’s 20-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback and Cincinnati recruit Ben Bryant just 30 seconds before halftime gave the Lions (3-0, 1-0) a 23-0 halftime lead.
“Last year I actually had an OK year, but this year I feel like I’m more of a key player,” Rusk said. “Ben is an amazing quarterback and he puts it right where it needs to be and the line deserves a lot of credit.”
The 6-foot-3 Rusk is a great complement to senior and third-year varsity player Brandon Fischer, who had a team-best nine catches for 75 yards. Rusk had three catches for 43 yards.
On his touchdown, Rusk beat the defender in the air but couldn't attempt the extra point after catching a cleat in his shin.
“Nate’s amazing. He’s awesome. I know I can just throw him the ball and he’ll catch it,” Bryant said. “Over there (in the end zone), he was getting injured and making plays. I know he’s always a playmaker on our team.”
Bryce Moskiewicz had Lyons' first two rushing touchdowns of the season, starting with a 2-yarder to complete a 64-yard drive on the game’s first possession. Rusk also was successful on field goals of 26 and 27 yards, giving him five this season.
“He makes some great catches for sure. He has some great ball skills and he’s calm because of his experience,” Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. “He’s a versatile athlete, big kid, so we’re lucky to have him.”
York (0-3, 0-1) opened the second half with a 76-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion from senior quarterback David Leonard to senior Joey Chiappetta. The Dukes reached the Lyons 6 on their next possession, but the Lions held and pulled away with Moskiewicz’s second rushing touchdown and Rusk’s second field goal.
The Lions are 3-0 for the third straight season.
“I thought we got better in Week 2. I thought we looked good in the first half of this one,” Weinberg said. “Obviously 3-0 is great but we just want to keep getting better and shooting for the long haul.”
Bryant also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass in the far right corner of the end zone to junior Hareson Willis, who also had an interception on defense.
Chiappetta scored his first varsity touchdown by beating his defender for a ball just past midfield and then going the rest of the way.
“We just started playing with confidence (offensively),” Chiappetta said. “The first half, we were kind of getting down on ourselves, arguing in the huddle. The second half we just started to say 'Let’s go out there and play hard and play with confidence' and we started getting chunks of gains.”
York's ensuing drive reached the Lyons' 6-yard line
On fourth-and-2 after an incomplete pass, though, Leonard threw an incomplete pass at the goal line to Josiah Scott.
York was without key running backs Grant Melion and Joey Jaeger, sidelined by ankle injuries.
“Unfortunately that score that we didn’t get took the wind out of our sails,” York coach Matt Monken said. “I feel like (we’re progressing) each week, even though the (final) score didn’t show it tonight. I thought our kids played really well. We easily could have tucked it in (after halftime) and we didn’t. We made it a ball game.”