LIONS STRIKE FIRST IN SEASON OPENER, BEAT COWBOYS 38-21
Lightning delay at Ameche Field doesn’t stop Leyden from taking down Western Conference foe
By Andrea Bradley
Nine-year veteran and wide receiver Mike Swiatkowski had two scoring catches and running back Dion Foster ran for 92 yards and a score as the Leyden Lions took down the Northern Illinois Cowboys 38-21 Saturday night in Kenosha, Wisc. The win marked the start of the Lions 2012 MSFL season.
Foster got the offense rolling early and often, breaking free for a 24-yard run on the team’s first drive. Rushes from Pierre Myers, Terry Slaughter and Foster brought the ball to the 2-yard line, and Andrew Orton punched the ball into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to put the Lions up 7-0 five minutes into the game.
The Lion’s second touchdown came 39 seconds later on another run, this time by Foster. The Lions set-up at the Northern Illinois 8-yard line after defensive lineman Dave Wisbrock registered a sack and forced a fumble at the Cowboys 21-yard line. Linebacker Andrew Tryner recovered the ball and returned it 13 yards, where Foster capped off the drive with a pair of 4-yard runs. The Lion’s used a four-man rotation in the backfield, which led to a 171-126 yard advantage on the ground.
“We wanted to establish the run more,” said head coach Jose Rodriguez. “We adjusted the blocking scheme and the offensive line and we went back up. Basically, [in preseason games] we passed a lot more. Now we are back to playing our game which is run first and pass second.”
Up 14-0, the Lions began their third drive hoping to finish it like their first two. Three plays later, the Lions were in the end zone again when Orton hit wide-out Swiatkowski down the left sideline. Swiatkowski lead all receivers with three catches for 65 yards -- his longest coming on the 46-yard touchdown catch that saw him shake two defenders to put his team up 21-0. He would score again late in the third quarter with a 4-yard grab.
The Lion’s fourth drive resulted in yet another touchdown when wide receiver Julius Holland put himself in the scoring column with a 14-yard grab. Orton found Holland alone in the corner of the end zone to give the Lions a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter. Orton finished the game going 7-11 with 117 yards and two touchdowns. Dave Fugate, the team’s newest quarterback, took over in the final quarter and tacked on another 46 yards through the air and a touchdown to seal the win.
“The offense is designed for the quarterbacks that we have,” Rodriguez said, noting that the starting quarterback position is still up for grabs. “The quarterbacks are taught to throw to an open area, instead of waiting for a man to get open. So now they are getting rid of the ball a lot faster.”
Defensively, the Lions were just as good as their offensive counterparts. After holding the Cowboys to a scoreless first half, Leyden did not let up a point until late in the third quarter, when they decided to rest some of the starters. Even then, Northern Illinois had a tough time getting drives going, only converting on 1 of 8 third-down attempts.
It was Cowboys quarterback Jeremy Shedrick that broke the shutout on a 16-yard scamper to the goal line. Shedrick was the only man consistently making plays on the ground for Northern Illinois, rushing for 84 yards on 10 attempts. That total was twice the amount of yards gained from four other Cowboy rushers combined.
“He’s big, he quick and he’s fast. Any defense would have problems with him,” Rodriguez said of the 6’5’ quarterback. “These guys are pretty good, and they are going to win some games. But right now we are missing three defensive linemen in Perry Sanders, Aaron Andersson and Ian Isbell. That rotation, that’s huge.”
Despite his impressive ground game, Shedrick threw for two interceptions, hit only 9-21 pass attempts, and was sacked three times. Lion’s linebacker Ryan Dietrich, and cornerback Alex Fuller hauled in the interceptions, while Brandon McGriggs kept the opposing offensive line on their toes, picking up two of the team’s sacks for a total loss of 15 yards.
The Lions return to the field Saturday July 16th at Serpico Field in Melrose Park, Ill. Kick-off for the 2012 home opener is set for 7 p.m. against the Indiana Nighthawks 0-1.