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Preseason No. 20: Lyons

8/10/2011
Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.com

Last season: 10-2 overall, 5-1 West Suburban Silver, lost in the Class 8A quarterfinals to Mount Carmel, not ranked in the final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll

Season ahead: Coming off a 5-5 season in 2009, Lyons snuck up on everyone last year and took a share of the West Suburban Silver title and advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals. A season later, Lyons is expected to resemble that 2010 team again rather than the 2009 version. The Lions return four offensive starters and six defensives starters and plenty of athleticism and speed.

Star power: Senior running back Jaime Jones showed he can be a game-changer at times last season. He was the difference in Lyons' upset of Glenbard West, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns. With another year under his belt, the Lions hope to see more of those types of performances. "I think he's one of the top returning running backs in the conference," Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg said. "We're excited about his senior year possibilities." Jones finished the season with 866 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Breakout player: Matthew Harris saw the field as a defensive back, wide receiver and kick returner as a sophomore. As a junior, the highly athletic Harris is expected to shine in all three areas. His role will shift to a more offensive one this season. A number of Big Ten schools have already expressed interest in him. "I think he's going to be something special," Weinberg said.

Defensive difference-makers: Seniors Michael Thomas and Will Konstant return in the secondary to give Lyons skill and experience in the secondary.

Newcomer to watch: Junior Connor Onion will step into the starting quarterback spot for the Lions with the graduation of Brian Kelley. Onion did get a nice start to his varsity career as a sophomore. He was called up for the playoffs and completed 7-of-8 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

Schedule breakdown: There are few teams in the state that open with as tough of a schedule as Lyons. Its first three games are against Stevenson, Downers Grove South and Glenbard West. The one positive is all three games are at home.

Key game: Sept. 9 vs. Glenbard West: Lyons defeated Glenbard West 31-13 on the road last season. The Hilltoppers will be looking for revenge at Lyons.

Interesting fact: The Lions holds their first week of practices on the campus of Wisconsin-River Falls, a six-hour drive from Lyons. It's the same campus the Kansas City Chiefs once used for their training camp.

What they're saying: "We know we're very athletic," Weinberg said. "We know we got a lot of football players coming back. We know we had a great senior class that graduated, but we're excited about what we have coming back."