High school football: Jake Melion answers the call, helps York take down Lyons

Saturday did not play out how York junior Jake Melion figured it would, at least not for him personally.

Senior Kelly Watson, the Dukes’ top running back, was helped off the field with an apparent right leg injury midway through the first quarter of the matchup with fellow West Suburban Silver unbeaten Lyons and did not return.

“I felt bad for him because he’s a key part of our team,” Melion said. “I was upset but I knew I had to stand up.”

Indeed, Melion took over as the Dukes’ RB1. And he lived up to the role, running 24 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-14 win over the Lions in Western Springs.

“No, I was not expecting that at all today,” Melion said. “But when they call on me, I’m always gonna be ready and I just felt like it was a great team win for all of us.”

“That is a strength of this team,” York coach Mike Fitzgerald said. “We do have some good depth. Jake Melion is a very talented back and we have 100% confidence in him. … We knew his time was coming and there were going to be games where he would have a breakout like this. He did it at the lower levels and he does it in practice.”

Melion added some welcome balance to a York offense led by senior quarterback Matt Vezza, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 208 yards and one score.

“Hopefully he’s doing well,” Vezza said of Watson. “We’re going to need him moving forward. But just a credit to the O-line and Jake Mellion for stepping up. … He’s a competitor. He works hard every day and totally believed he would do exactly what he did. It was just a great performance in the run game.”

All the same, the play of the game for the Dukes came courtesy of Vezza’s arm. Lyons (4-1, 2-1) had just scored to cut its deficit to 19-14 and had York (5-0, 3-0) facing third-and-19 from its own 11 midway through the fourth quarter,

Vezza, who earlier threw a 43-yard TD pass to Charlie Specht, found Luke Mailander for a 44-yard gain down the left side. Seven more running plays later, Melion punched it in from 14 yards out for his third TD and it was a two-score game with 2:19 remaining.

“We’ve been really good on third down this year and even last year we were good on third down,” Vezza said. “So we have a lot of confidence. … I trust my guy Luke Mailander, he went out there [and made] a very physical catch and moved the chains.”

Lyons had a productive game from its mobile junior quarterback, Ryan Jackson, who was 15-of-23 passing for 137 yards and a TD and also ran for a touchdown.

No. 24 York, meanwhile, will turn its attention to its third straight game against an unbeaten conference opponent. The Dukes, who escaped with a 24-17 overtime win over Downers North last week, host No. 5 Glenbard West on Friday. York’s win over Glenbard West last season was the Dukes’ first in the series since 2007.

“It’s gonna be wild.” Melion said. “I didn’t want to say it, but this is a game the whole York team has been looking forward to because we know that they want to come beat us … just as bad as we want to beat them.”

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