Teammates Turned Rivals: Homecoming 2017

BOOM's Ata Hinnawi and Ben Bryant Face Off for Leyden's Homecoming


Pete Skylakos

Ata Hinnawi keeps defender away during run against Proviso East

The ancient celebration of Homecoming started with the vikings. They’d come back to their lands bloodied and bruised after pillaging other lands. The whole population would come together to celebrate both the return of their loved ones and the victories overseas. Today, we focus mostly on pillaging the local Walgreens for poster boards and share our successful proposals on Snapchat, but there are still battered heroes to celebrate: our football team.

After playing away for three of the first four home games, Leyden returns home to play against the best team on our schedule: Lyons Township. Lyons Township started this season as the #11 team in 24/7 Sports’ Illinois High School Football Rankings and has yet to move out of that spot. To put that into perspective, DGN is #131, and we seemed out of place in our game against them.

The LT attack is led by 6’3”, 200 lb QB Ben Bryant, who committed to the University of Wisconsin immediately after his sophomore season. After some miscommunication and a tweet thanking the University of Georgia for an offer, Bryant lost his scholarship to Wisconsin, his dream school. After another season on the top ranked Midwest Boom 7v7 Football Team, Bryant committed to Cincinnati and will be a Bearcat by Fall 2018.

One of Bryant’s Boom teammates was Leyden senior WR/S Ata Hinnawi. “It’s gonna be pretty fun,” Hinnawi said about facing Bryant. “I played against him many times during Boom practice. He’s a great QB and it should be a fun, challenging matchup.” It will no doubt be challenging for the Eagles, especially for Hinnawi who is tasked at setting up the secondary every play.

Yet it may prove even more challenging for the Eagle offense led by junior QB Kyler Britten. “Our offense has been slow this season and it can’t be the same if we want a real chance against LT,” Britten said. “I realize it starts with me and my ability to make plays just as Ben [Bryant] does against us.”

Britten did not exaggerate when he claimed the offense to be slow. As of week three, they had been responsible for only four touchdowns (all scored by RB Gabe Guarderas) while the defense had scored five of its own. And, as impressive as the five defensive touchdowns are, the Eagles defense has given up an average of 21 points a game and hada rate of 20% of plays going for double digit yardage.

If the Eagles want to stand a chance in this Homecoming game, it will take some Viking-like strength to not only keep Bryant and the Lions to limited points and yards, but to tack on some points when Head Coach Tom Cerasani’s offense takes the field. A victory is Improbable, but not impossible, and, to Hinnawi, the tough matchup serves as fuel.

“Freshman year,” he explained, “varsity didn’t win its homecoming and seeing them angry at the dance was terrible. It’s not a feeling that I want,so I’m leaving it all out on the field.”

Grabbing wins is not unfamiliar to Leyden. After making playoffs a year ago, the Eagles started this season on a high note demolishing Fenton in their own home 42-9. After a Silver loss to DGN 35-7, Leyden played two straight conference teams: Willowbrook and Proviso East. Willowbrook has been the only home game this season, and Leyden put up a bigger fight than expected. The offense failed to put the ball in the endzone but LB Miguel Cooper scored his second and third defensive touchdowns of the year. The Eagles followed their 20-13 loss with an easy win over Proviso East 37-0 last Friday night.