2011 Recap: 1-8 overall, 0-4 in CKL North, 0-3 in District.
After being shut out in the first two games, Lyons bounced back in Week 3 with a win over Haven. But the win didn’t bring forth a tide of momentum. The 12 points scored against the Wildcats was the first, and last time the Lions scored more than a touchdown in the 2011 season.
Returning Starters: Offensive 9, Defensive 6
2012 District: Ellsworth, Southeast of Saline, Sacred Heart
The Lyons offense has a lot of room for improvement from 2011. In each of the Lions’ eight losses, the team scored 7 points or less. The one game Lyons won was the one time it broke the 7-point level with a 12-6 win over Haven.
But the good news for Lyons is the nine returning starters on the offensive side of the ball who have seen the varsity lights and are hungry for success. Johnston has a good base of experience to work with in beginning to lay the groundwork for the future of Lyons football.
Having the amount of returning linemen the Lions have is a good place to start when it comes to improving an offense. Seniors Daniel Cline and Brett Wilson, along with junior Alan Pina give Lyons a strong core to the unit that will pave the way for the offense.
Junior Ryan McClure returns at quarterback and will have familiarity with the center Wilson in the snaps. McClure will just be the tip of the spear in the Lyons backfield. The Lions have a double-headed senior monster at running back with Lukas Padilla and Luis Rascon.
When McClure isn’t handing the ball to one of his senior running back, he has plenty of options at receiver to target. Senior Matthew Vincent provides an athletic receiver and junior Angel Holguin provides a threat on the other side of the field. Sophomore Grady Kirkhart is a young but experienced tight end making three viable options in the passing game.
The combination of a struggling offense, paired with a defense that gave up an average of over 31 points per game last season was not a good mix. The Lyons 2012 defense will be looking to make improvements in order to keep the team in games.
On the defensive line of scrimmage, the Lions will have a couple of returning seniors and a junior to set the table for the rest of the defense. Senior Daniel Cline will take up blocks in the middle and classmate Matthew Vincent is a quick defensive end who can get penetration on the outside. Junior Alan Pina provides more size and experience in the middle.
At linebacker, the Lions return senior Luis Rascon, but will need players to fill into varsity roles to provide support for Rascon in stopping ball carriers.
In the secondary, Lyons has a pair of returners in senior Lukas Padilla and junior Angel Holguin.
The Lions have the base of returning players in order to tighten up the defense. And after giving up 280 points to the opponents last season, the unit has plenty of room to improve.
Odds and Ends:
The Lions have struggled, going 1-8 in each of the last two seasons. But winning football is not something of the distant past for Lyons. When this year’s group of seniors first entered the halls of Lyons as freshmen, the football team went 6-4 and was a playoff qualifier. The season before, the Lions were 6-5 and won a playoff game against Phillipsburg.
Lyons is not far removed from back-to-back playoff years, and the players and community are hungry for more success. New coach James Johnston is not unfamiliar with winning football. Over the course of 24 years at South Barber, Johnston led the team to a 155-87 record and a state championship in 2005.
The challenge for Johnston will be making the transition from 8-Man, to 11-Man football. While there are some big tactical differences between the two games, the basic tenets of success remain the same. Johnston has a good base of experience to work with in his first season at Lyons and the sooner the leadership on this team buys into the system, the sooner the Lions will get back to winning football games. With Johnston’s track record, there is no reason for the Lions not to believe the message he is delivering.