BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | Contributor | Pioneer Press October 12, 2012 11:40PM
Updated: October 13, 2012 1:08AM
NORTHLAKE — Leyden stormed back after a lackluster first half to easily dispatch Proviso East 18-7, earning the Eagles full control of the West Suburban Gold for the first time since 1979 and moving to 7-1 on the season on senior night.
The celebration may have started as soon as the clock hit zero, but it wasn’t all fun and games as Proviso East turned an early interception into seven points on junior quarterback L
awrence Griffin’s 1-yard run to tie the game going into halftime.
The Eagles came out firing from the start, demonstrating their ability through the air and on the ground en route to first downs on three of the first four plays, but fizzled out quickly as a big Pirates defensive line held its ground.
Tough running from senior Mickey Gulo (14 carries, 57 yards) paced the Leyden attack while senior wide receiver Andrew Garcia (8 catches 107 yards, TD) helped stretch the field throughout.
“(Garcia) has been my receiver since freshman year; I love throwing the ball to him,” said senior quarterback Mike Smith (13-18, 209 yards, TD, INT). “I can’t wait for next week.”
Garcia, who puts in time on defense as well, acted as Smith’s personal safety valve, bailing the Eagles out of several third-and-long situations.
“He’s always looking out for me and I’m always looking out for him,” said Garcia. “I understand how it feels to be a defensive back so I try to mix it up a lot on my routes.”
The game swung permanently in Leyden’s favor in the third quarter.
The defense stepped up after halftime with an interception on the first possession.
“We knew we were going to come out stronger in the second half,” said Gulo. “I told the guys, ‘We want it.’ We expected to win and we did.”
In a span of three minutes, Gulo scored on a 5-yard run and Proviso East snapped the ball over the punter’s head and into the end zone for a safety to give the Eagles nine unanswered points.
On the next Proviso East possession it was junior defensive lineman Cristian Murillo who caught the Pirates’ Griffin in the end zone for a second consecutive safety.
“It was a lot closer than we would have liked but we got it done,” Leyden head coach Tom Cerasani said. “Early we just couldn’t stick it into the end zone but in the end a win’s a win.”
With the victory, Leyden turns its sights on Lyons in a contest to could determine whether the Eagles have a first-round playoff game at home.
“Winning conference for the first time since 1979 feels great,” said Cerasini. “I’m proud of these guys, they deserve this.”
Pick up your local Pioneer Press newspaper on Thursday to read more about the Leyden football team.