O'FALLON — Lyons Township, of LaGrange, scored two touchdowns in a span of 25 seconds in the third quarter Saturday, sparking it to a 42-27 victory over O'Fallon in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
O'Fallon scored just before halftime to cut its deficit to 22-14, but Lions senior quarterback Zach Mahoney had a 5-yard TD run with 7:37 to play in the third quarter, and after the Lions recovered a fumble by freshman Kentrail Moran, senior Jemari Brooks scored on a 10-yard run to make it 36-14 with 7:12 left in the period.
O'Fallon (8-3) was in catch-up mode the rest of the game, but was unable to make that plan work as the Lions (7-4) continued to punch away en route to a berth in the quarterfinals.
Lyons will play host to Mount Carmel, of Chicago, on Saturday.
"I thought we did a good job keeping them off-balanced," Lions coach Kurt Weinberg said. "They've got a lot of great players defensively, a lot of speed. I thought we kept them off-balanced with a lot of different things and we executed very well, too."
Sophomore Leonard Ross had touchdown runs of 5 yards and 1 yard, Mahoney added a 13-yard TD run and senior Jake Elliott kicked four field goals for Lyons.
"Defensively, we had some trouble slowing down their offense," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. "They were able to run a little bit, throw a little bit. We knew coming in they were a very good offensive team. We didn't expect it to be that kind of offensive output. Give them credit."
Lyons led 22-7 late in the second quarter, but O'Fallon trimmed its deficit to 22-14 on senior quarterback Todd Porter's 17-yard touchdown pass to junior Tae'Mon Franklin with 6.5 seconds left in the half, culminating an 80-yard drive.
That momentum disappeared after halftime when the Lions put themselves in the driver's seat with the two quick-strike touchdowns.
"We know what kind of talent O'Fallon has offensively and defensively," Weinberg said. "But offensively, they can score quickly. We talked about this being the most important drive of the season coming out of halftime, for sure.
"You're not going to keep a team like O'Fallon out of the end zone all day. I thought we did a pretty good job --as well as anybody I've seen."
Joggerst said the Panthers felt good in the locker room at halftime, but the positive vibes were fleeting.
"All of a sudden, before you know it, it's 36-14," Joggerst said. "We had some momentum right before halftime. They were able to convert those offensive field-position (advantages) they had with two quick scores, and that put us behind the 8-ball."
Time after time, O'Fallon was deceived by the shifty Mahoney, whose fake handoffs to Ross led to big runs for Mahoney. Ross, meanwhile, was dangerous on every play when Mahoney opted to make the handoff.
"Ross is a big weapon," Joggerst said. "We knew they had a multitude of weapons we had to try to contain. We had to pick our poison a little bit. Unfortunately, we got stung a little bit when we had to give up something to try to cover those guys."
Lyons struck first, getting a 42-yard field goal from Elliott with 8:50 left in the first quarter. O'Fallon went ahead 7-3 on Porter's 7-yard touchdown run with 6:57 to play in the period.
Elliott's second field goal of the game, from 23 yards out, cut the Panthers' lead to 7-6 with 47.7 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Lyons then began to take over, pushing ahead 8-7 when Moran was tackled in the end zone for a safety with 8:55 left in the second quarter.
The Lions took the ensuing free kick and marched 60 yards in six plays, taking a 15-7 lead on Ross' 5-yard TD run at the 6:09 mark. Senior Ben Grissim recovered a fumble by Porter, setting up Ross' touchdown run that made it 22-7.
O'Fallon got within 36-21 on Porter's 41-yard touchdown pass to senior Darius Mosely with 6:06 to play in the third quarter. Elliott's 44-yard field goal with 3:28 to play in the period made it 39-21.
Porter's 13-yard touchdown run brought the Panthers within 39-27. But Lyons recovered a fumble by Mosely and turned it into a 26-yard field goal by Elliott to make it 42-27 in the fourth quarter.
The Lions sealed the outcome with two interceptions in the final 3:28.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.