Dwight managed to draw the game closer halfway through the third quarter when they scored on a six yard pass. The 2-point conversion failed when Greg Meyer and Rick Scudder hammered the Trojan ball carrier dropping him short of the goal line. But the lead was reduced to 15-6 with plenty of time left. The Lisle defense stiffened the rest of the way and Jenkins erased any doubt about a Lion victory when he carried over from the one yard line with a minute to go. Kaczmarek’s PAT finished the scoring and the Lisle had its victory 22-6. Overall the Lions manhandled Dwight. Cafaro carried 10 times for 138 yards, plus picked off a pass. Greg Meyer, Bob Bailiff, Mastandrea, and Jenkins combined for another 146 yards on the ground. Overall Lisle shredded the Trojans defense for 314 yards. It appeared that suddenly Lisle had an offense the defense could be proud of. On defense, Scudder, Gary Mol, Greg Meyer (fumble recovery), Mitch Meyer, Bob Vodicka, and Ken Herout harassed Dwight’s quarterback the entire game, forcing him to go 9-26 in the air for just 65 yards. Gary Mol batted down two Dwight passes from his defensive end position while Bruce Janovsky picked off the Trojan’s first pass of the day and added another pick to stop a drive later in the game. For good measure Janovsky also recovered a fumble for a stellar individual performance. On the ground, Dwight managed just 17 yards on 10 carries. A truly dominant team win against a quality opponent. More important, a benchmark win as the Lions program tried to turn the corner. Three offensive touchdowns and a victory. It had been 12 games without a win. Lions football had arrived.
The 59 game undefeated regular season conference streak had begun. Game one was in the books. Next up was Marseilles and Lion fans would soon learn if the Dwight game was a precursor or an anomaly……………
Senior Tim Doerr had one of those days. And not in a bad way. The two-way standout put the Lions on the scoreboard when he gathered in a John Jelinek bomb and sped the remainder of the 57 yards for the touchdown. The Parents Day crowd erupted and the Lions were on the board. Up 7-0 with less than two minutes to go in the half, the Panthers tried to move the ball out of their territory and get some points before intermission. The Lion defense had other ideas and popped the ball carrier as he tried to turn the corner. Doerr was there to scoop it up and shot 36 yards with the loose ball for the touchdown. Suddenly there was a little more breathing room and Pete Mastandrea increased it when he blasted over from 2 yards out on the conversion. Lisle 15, Marseilles 0 as both teams headed into halftime.
The Lions roared out of the locker room with a 15-0 lead to start the second half. Mastandrea got the half rolling when he capped a long drive with screen pass reception, then proceeded to dodge, shift, and dart his way into the end zone. Ed Herout converted the PAT and instantly the Lions were leading 22-0. Once again, the defense chose the moment to flex its collective muscle. After stuffing the Panthers on the first two plays of the half forcing a third and long from their own 10, the Lions hammered the ball carrier, the pigskin popped loose, and Monster John Shamet was on the spot to scoop it up and slash 10 yards to pay dirt. The Navy and White defense celebrated its second TD of the day as Herout converted the PAT. The lead reached 29-0. Herout and the special teamers pinned the Panthers deep in their own territory with the ensuing kickoff. On the first play after the kick, Brian Montague jumped the route and picked off the pass, handing the ball back to Jelinek and his offense. The senior signal caller proceeded to find end Rich Hampton in the corner of the end zone with a strike and after Herout’s kick, the score rose to 36-0. In less than ten plays from scrimmage the Lions scored three touchdowns and blew the game wide open. Senior fullback Bob Bailiff put the icing on the cake in the fourth quarter when he capped another drive with a four yard blast up the middle behind Rex Giesler. The conversion was no good, but the final score was very good. Lions 42, Panthers 0. The defense scored two touchdowns and allowed just 4 pass completions and 39 yards rushing on the day. Coach Nalley and Coach Neahaus always prided themselves on defense and the ’73 edition was turning out to be elite.
A more than capacity crowd held its collective breath as the game, the season, and a playoff berth came down to one moment. Lisle’s veteran kicker Ed Herout calmly stepped up and booted the Lions one step closer to the top of the mountain. A successful PAT was something Herout had done dozens of times before, but this one carried a whole lot more weight. What led up to Herout’s heroics was far from calm or stoic. The game was mayhem. Lisle had made a furious comeback to force overtime at Lemont, a very big and very athletic team, with a fierce pass rush and ground-game crushing line and linebackers.
A true team effort lead to the Lions first touchdown as they went up 6-0. The sequence began with a Brian Montague interception at the Lisle 42 yard line. The Navy and White proceeded to capitalize on the turnover with a solid drive that ended a few plays later when Kurt Grutzmacher followed a pancake block by Mike Sumner, and raced 16 yards to the end zone. Foregoing the almost automatic Ed Herout PAT, the Lions two point conversion attempt failed and the visitors were up quickly 6-0. Lemont answered with a touchdown of their own after a 65 yard drive, and like the Lions, Lemont’s two-point conversion failed thanks to a key Kevin Maxwell tackle. It looked like the first half would end 6-6, but Lemont connected on a 65 yard bomb and followed with a two-point conversion and suddenly the host Injuns were up 14-6 with two minutes to go in the half. True to the back and forth nature of this game, Lisle came right back and brought the ball all the way down to the Lemont one. The last play of the half saw the Injuns stop Jeff Payne on the one foot line. Lisle thought he was in, but the referees saw it differently. As expected, the white Lisle Relays hat got stomped over the matter.
The second half was the stuff of legends and began with a long run by Payne in the early going. But it was brought back on a holding call and Lisle eventually punted. The Lions defense made a crucial stand on their own 12 yard line taking over on downs when it looked as if Lemont would go up by two scores. The Lions then embarked on a game-saving, season-saving drive. A 17–play marathon that consumed most of the fourth quarter ended in a Pete Neisius keeper. The Lisle stands erupted when the referees signaled Neisius’ score, but the Lions still trailed by two and it was late in the game. Grutzmacher’s number was called and the junior wasn’t to be denied. He hammered the ball into the end zone to complete the two point conversion. Game tied 14-14. Three times the Lions converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Every fourth down more pressure-packed than the last. The play of the game, make that season, was a Dave Casper moment that will always be one of the most important plays in Lisle football annals. Every championship season has that one moment, one sequence, that one unexplainable occurrence, and the Lions 1974 season had one of its own. Faced with a fourth and four, Neisius kept the ball on the option and was clobbered after just a two yard gain. The hit was so violent the ball was jarred loose and it rolled forward. In the scramble for the fumble, Bob Andrzejewski, the Lions all-NEC offensive tackle and two-year starter, was at the bottom of a massive pile with the ball. It was enough for a first down. The scoring drive was preserved by Andrzejewski’s downfield hustle, and the Lions went on to tie the score.
Thanks to a Brian Montague fumble recovery, Lisle had one last chance in regulation. They got the ball in position for Herout to attempt a 35 yard field goal into the wind. From contact, the boot looked like it would make it, but the ball dipped just under the cross-bar. Overtime.
In the extra stanza, the Injuns had first possession with the ball spotted at the 10 yard line. Lemont scored on second down, and went up 20-14. The Navy and White stuffed the two-point conversion attempt on a titanic effort from defensive end Kevin Maxwell. Another game-saving effort. Lisle took their crack at the end zone and on third down, after going nowhere on the first two plays, Neisius hit Rich Hampton for the game-tying overtime touchdown from 10 yards out. Now it was up to Herout. This time he delivered and Lisle had somehow survived and triumphed. An incredible game and a heroic struggle.
Lisle was North Division champs and would now face Dwight at Wilde Field to see if three was indeed the charm after coming so close in ’72 and ’73.
Lemont touted a strong and fast defense. Their balanced offense could be explosive at times, but at a minimum, they were typically good enough to afford the Injuns a comfortable winning margin. Lisle’s defense had scored four touchdowns in conference games and shut out four opponents. Coming into the clash it was safe to assume the game would ride on the shoulders of each team’s defense.
True to form, when the halftime horn blared over the roar of the more than capacity crowd, the Lions clung to a 7-6 lead. Senior speedster Kurt Grutzmacher scored the first of his two touchdowns in the first quarter when he bolted around the corner and out-raced Lemont to the end zone from 33 yards. Dave Hanson booted the PAT and the Lions were up early, 7-0. A Pete Neisius to Kevin Groce third down completion kept the drive alive, leading to the Grutzmacher score. In the second quarter Lemont answered with the only regular season touchdown pass allowed against the Lions all-junior secondary when the visitors connected from 64 yards through the air. Overall, the rugged Lemont defense had the Lions sputtering on offense, so Coach Nalley dug deep into the playbook to come up with a way to kick- start the second half offense.
Lisle took the second half kickoff, then quickly went to a no-huddle offense as Wally Bass gained 8 yards around right end on the opening play. Immediately, the Lions lined up again with no huddle. Senior back-up quarterback Dick Maxson took the fullback slot. Standing idly near the Lions sideline, but legally in bounds, was junior Jay Grochowski. A direct snap, through quarterback Pete Neisius’ legs to fullback Maxson set the next play in motion. As Neisius carried out a quarterback sneak fake and the middle of the Lemont defense piled on, Maxson actually had the ball and let fly with a bomb down the right sideline. Grochowski gathered it in and out-raced the Lemont defense for a 65-yard touchdown. The “sleeper play” proved to be the spark the Lions needed to overcome a stunned Lemont defense and the standing room only home crowd erupted. Up 14-6 after Hanson’s PAT, and with the crowd roaring on every play, the Lions piled a total of 28 third quarter points on the visitors and rolled into the fourth quarter up 35-6. A stunning turn of events over a quality opponent.
Following Grochowski’s TD, Neisius hit Dave Gorden for a 30 yard scoring strike, then handed the ball to Grutzmacher who plunged over from the one for his second touchdown of the day. As if to remind the crowd that Lisle’s defense was still a dominant force and point-producer, two-year starter, junior Mike Stanley scooped up a Lemont fumble on his own 35 and followed a convoy of blockers as he rambled 65 yards for the Lions fifth defensive touchdown of the NEC campaign.
Neisius completed the scoring with a fourth quarter TD dive from one yard out. The rout was complete as Lisle blitzed its way to the North Division crown on the heels of a 42-6 drubbing of the Injuns. Senior Day was a rousing success. Lisle dominated the Injuns by rolling up 311 yards in total offense. Another solid and complete team victory. Now it was off to Marseilles for a Halloween Night tilt with the South Division champs to attempt to retain the NEC crown.
The senior class of ‘77 returned a number of defensive starters and looked to be very strong. Wally Bass was back at linebacker and Mike Stanley, an All-NEC nose tackle and two year starter, anchored the defensive line. Ron Helms was a regular substitute on the line as a junior so he had solid experience.
The defensive backfield returned completely intact. Todd Miller was back at Monster in the 5-2 set-up, while Jeff Sauer and Dave Shoop returned at the corners. Jay Grochowski, All-NEC as a junior, patrolled the deep middle at safety. Senior LB John Wagner and senior DE Kevin Ireland were first time starters. They were joined by a pair of junior linemen Al Garringer and DE Dave Knodell to round out the starting eleven. It looked like it would be awfully hard to score on Lisle once again.
The question was, could the Lions revamped offensive lineup score some points with only two returning starters (Bass and Wagner) out of the eleven available positions?
You bet. Only super-sized.
Here’s a fun fact to best illustrate the dominance of this version of the Navy and White. In the first ten games of the season, the tenth being the first round of the IHSA 3A playoffs, the Lions went to the halftime locker room leading by a combined score of 228-0. Not one first half point allowed while averaging close to 23 points per game by intermission.
What the revamped backfield lacked in varsity experience it made up for in size and speed, perfect for the wishbone. Replacing Dave Hanson at fullback was junior Shawn Hickey, a quick-footed ball carrier and the hard-nosed blocker needed in the wishbone. Bass was the lone returning backfield starter. The senior running back mixed size, quickness, and power, and was a devastating lead blocker. Fellow senior Wally Tarasewicz was big, strong, and very fast. The defending NEC 100-yard dash champion to be exact.
Grochowski took over at quarterback and was also a state-level track sprinter. The senior signal-caller anchored the 440 relay team that competed in Charleston at the large school, Class AA, state track meet. To mix with their speed and quickness, the senior trio of Bass, Tarasewicz, and Grochowski, averaged 6‘1” and 190 pounds. Speedy junior Larry Esposito joined Grochowski on the record-breaking 440 relay team and looked to handle the ball at running back plus some downs at wide receiver. Finally, senior Glenn Grutzmacher, like Esposito, was tall, with a long stride, and both would have been starters on any other team in the NEC. Grutzmacher was sure to add some quality carries throughout the season. This deep and talented backfield ran the wishbone behind returning starter Wagner at guard, Helms at center, plus senior linemen Chuck Vodicka and tight end Bruce Bilinski. Juniors Bob Bonomo and Garringer, were newcomers on the line. All were exceptional blockers. Sauer, Miller, and Shoop replaced Gorden and Pausche, to lead the receiving corps. The Lions were off and running….literally.
Dwight simply ran into a buzz saw when the Navy and White rolled into town in October. Lisle had its finest first half offensive output of the season scoring the first five times they touched the ball and raced out to a 29-0 halftime advantage. Mike Deibel got the Lions day under way when the speedy junior back took a hand-off from senior Ron Grutzmacher on the kickoff, reversed direction, then raced down the sideline for a 70 yard gain to the Dwight 21 yard line. Junior Gary Guerino broke the scoreless tie a few plays later when he bulled his way into the end zone. Up 6-0, the Lions defense stuffed the Trojans on fourth down and it only took a few plays for Craig Wilson to cross the goal line on a 24 yard option keeper. Ray Kerrins booted the PAT and it was quickly 13-0. On Lisle’s next possession, Wilson rattled off another long gain, this one for 42 yards, and put the Lions deep into the Red Zone. But the drive stalled and Kerrins came in to boot a 23 yard field goal. The first quarter ended with Lisle up 16-0 and the rout was on. Dwight did have some success running the ball against the Lions, rolling up 207 yards on the ground before the day was over. But the Navy and White’s bend-but-don’t-break defense, came up big in key spots. The first of which was with the Trojans threatening early in the second quarter.
Senior all-conference tackle Al Garringer blew into the offensive backfield on fourth and one and stopped Dwight cold turning the ball over on downs. After a pair of long gains by senior Shawn Hickey, junior back Gary Guerino took a Wilson pitch, followed a terrific block from Brian Gurski, and rambled into the end zone from 37 yards out. Just before halftime, junior receiver Dave Wills made an acrobatic leaping grab in the end zone as his 24 yard catch finished the scoring for the first half and brought the tally to 29-0.
The second half was relatively uneventful as the Lions defense stiffened each time Dwight got across midfield and the offense controlled the ball on the ground and ate up the clock. A fitting end to the scoring came when the entire middle of the Lions defense blasted into the backfield on a Dwight punt and blocked the kick. After the ball was recovered on the three yard line, Shawn Hickey took the next play into the end zone finishing the day’s scoring at 35-0. Reserves on offense and defense played the fourth quarter and had some success moving the ball with quarterback Mark Krope getting some quality time under center and rushing for 42 yards on seven carries. Tim Boyd stopped a fourth quarter threat with a leaping interception highlighting a quiet final stanza.
On the day Lisle ran up 301 total yards with Wilson carrying for 91, Deibel chipped in 79 on six carries, Guerino carried five times for 56 yards, and Shawn Hickey picking up 34 yards on 9 tries……….
Game five of the 1978 campaign saw the fourth conference opponent try and topple the Lions from the top of the NEC. This time it was Westmont’s turn and the Sentinels came in with some momentum and designs on upsetting the Lions. Mark Krope had other ideas.
The junior signal-caller opened the game by guiding the Lions on an eight-play drive before keeping the ball and breaking the goal line on an option keeper. Even though the PAT failed, Lisle took the early lead. Jim Shamet fell on a Westmont loose ball two minutes into the game to set up Krope’s touchdown, giving the Lions the ball on the Westmont 40 yard line. The defense stepped up again to bring the crowd to its feet, when Bridson Wills picked off a Westmont aerial and gave the Lions solid field position. But the Lions turned it over themselves as the two teams traded possessions and turnovers while the game rolled toward halftime. The defense continued to shine as it only allowed Westmont 44 total yards in the first half, led by tackles Tom Sumner and Carl Csukor. It looked like Krope’s early TD would be the only score of the first half, but with just 40 seconds on the clock before intermission, short-yardage specialist Russ Krause hammered the ball over from the one and Lisle went to the locker room up 12-0. Krause’s touchdown was made possible when John Krebs pounced on a muffed punt at the Westmont 33 yard line giving the Lions an additional chance to score before the half.
After some…uh-hum….words of encouragement from Coach Nalley, the Lions got the message and roared out of the locker room ready to take over the game. Thanks to some fine running by fullback Ken England, the chains kept moving on the first drive of the second half. Gary Guerino also carried for a key first down, along with Mike Deibel, before Krope, turned up-field on an option keeper and scored from 12 yards out. A few minutes later, Westmont went three-and-out thanks to two Chris Vodicka sacks. To underscore what had been a long day for the Sentinels, their punter proceeded to pop his kick straight up for zero yards and Lisle had the ball on the Westmont 34 yard line. On the very next play, England cut behind a key block by Mark McCann, and powered the 34 yards to pay dirt. Dave Brodess kicked the PAT and the score moved to 25-0 just before the fourth quarter began. Both teams traded field position throughout the final quarter, before a fumbled punt gave Westmont the ball deep in Lisle’s Red Zone.
The botched punt return resulted in a six-yard score, but it was certainly too little, too late for the visitors.
Westmont failed to gain 100 total yards, the fourth Lisle opponent to fall under the century mark in the first six games of the season. Westmont also failed to complete a pass. Ross Giesler, Steve Looft, Paul Spokas, and Tom Wagner all had perhaps their best individual performances of the season to that point in the Westmont tilt. Deibel ended the day with 71 yards on 13 carries. Krope toted the ball 11 times for 62 yards.
Be careful what you wish for.
It didn’t take long for the Navy and White to get on the board. With the ball on their own 22 yard line, quarterback Mark Krope, executed a perfect fake to the big fullback Ken England, then sent an option pitch to Tony Ferrandino. Like he had all year, the speedy senior out-raced the entire Elmwood defense, taking it 78 yards for the touchdown behind a terrific lead block from Mike Kitcoff. The visitors had jumped on the home team 6-0, where it stayed after the conversion attempt failed. But the Tigers roared right back by completing a 39 yard touchdown strike to tie the score. Ross Giesler and Curt Johnson blew up the conversion attempt and the first quarter ended 6-6. Tony Ferrandino made sure it didn’t stay that way for long as he broke a tackle and followed a key block from Andy Swift, who took out two defenders, for a 47 yard touchdown run and quickly the score was unknotted. Krope kept the ball and pushed into the end zone for the two point conversion. The Lions 14-6 lead was threatened late in the first half when the Tigers drove the ball deep into Lisle territory. But Curt Willeford picked off a pass at his own two yard line and brought it back out to the 17.
Rather than take a knee, Lisle opted to try and add to their lead. A Kitcoff run, and a Dave Brodess to Swift connection, brought the ball to the Tigers 36. With 13 seconds left in the half, Brodess lined up for what would be a 53 yard field goal. Not only was it good….it was State-Record good. Brodess had booted the longest field goal in IHSA history, sending the visitors to the locker room with a 17-6 lead.
Both teams exchanged punts throughout the third quarter and with two minutes gone in the fourth, Lisle began a clock-grinding drive that ate up a chunk of time before Krope found Marty Sauer wide open in the end zone for a nine yard TD pass. Brodess’ PAT moved the score to its final, 24-6. A huge win for the Lions. While Lisle’s offense made the headlines with Brodess’ record-setter and Ferrandino’s 180 yard performance, the defense was as powerful as ever. Pete Sinnick recorded three sacks and Johnson added 11 tackles on the day to lead the defense. Elmwood Park averaged 43 points per game coming into the contest, but could only manage one TD on the day. Coach Barney Neahaus cited the play of standouts Sinnick, Johnson, Kitcoff, Willeford, Brodess, Giesler, Steve Looft, Jim Shamet, and Carl Csukor as stalwarts in the effort, especially since a number of them also play full time on offense.
An exhausted and victorious Navy and White squad stared down a new rival, on their own turf, and came away with one more giant step toward a sixth consecutive crown. The Streak was now 56 games long and the Lions were in the catbird seat.
As we gear up for the All-Years Reunion and the host of activities surrounding the event and our school’s 60th Anniversary, the timing was perfect to highlight this era. Especially as we also wish Coach Nalley a happy 80th birthday, the man who built the Lions into a powerhouse on the gridiron and galvanized the school and Lisle communities. It was an honor and pleasure to edit these stories from the newspapers of the day.
See you October 6 and 7, 2017!
President, Carlin Nalley Foundation