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Lyons safety Connor Onion (9) tackles Oak Park's Jakari Cammon (32). | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Until this season, Connor Onion took the hits on the football field instead of dishing them out.
Onion has been a quarterback during his entire career, both at the high school and the youth level. The Lyons senior started last season at quarterback, but coach Kurt Weinberg decided to switch starters after seven weeks and went with Zachary Mahoney as Lyons advanced to the Class 8A state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.
Mahoney held on to the quarterback spot this season, which led to a big change in terms of Onion’s role for this season.
The lifetime offensive player became a defender. Now he’s Lyons’ 5-11, 185-pound senior safety.
“Playing offense and playing quarterback has helped me out playing defensive back,” said Onion, a La Grange resident. “I know the tendencies offensive guys have had. It has helped me pick up technique.”
Onion isn’t the only former offensive player in the West Suburban Silver now playing safety. Hinsdale Central’s Teddy Kwasigroch started last season at running back, but suffered a season-ending broken hand in Week 4. A year later, he has filled a need as a defensive back for the Red Devils since another established running back returned with Jack Adams.
Both Onion and Kwasigroch have not taken an offensive snap this season.
“As the season went on, each week there is something to pick up,” Onion said. “Each game, there is something to learn. I have not played the position before, so there is a high learning curve.”
Lyons’ defense had its worst game of the season Friday night in a 35-34 loss at Oak Park-River Forest. Lyons lost a 32-20 lead in the fourth quarter as OPRF scored 29 points in the second half. Three OPRF rushers combined for 338 yards on the ground while quarterback Lloyd Yates completed 14-of-20 passes for 150 yards.
“We were making the same calls at the beginning of the game that we were at the end of the game,” Onion said. “We were not making plays like we were at the beginning of the game.”
Lyons gave up only six points in the first half on touchdown by Jakari Cammon with 9:26 to go in the second quarter.
Lyons (2-4, 1-3) must win its remaining games to become playoff eligible.
This season, Onion replaced former safety Will Konstant, who is now playing football at Dartmouth after graduation.
Onion’s transition to defense started over summer workouts. Playing safety during several 7-on-7 scrimmages during the summer helped. Onion hopes to use his experience at safety when he plays basketball this upcoming season.
“It will help me play defense now when I go into the basketball season,” Onion said. “Defensive back makes you work your feet a lot.”
Mahoney injured his shoulder against Downers Grove North Sept. 14 and could not play against No. 11 Hinsdale Central Sept. 21. Instead of using Onion, Weinberg gave sophomore Tom Fiedler his first career start on the varsity. Fielder sparkled in his debut passing 14-of-25 times for 285 yards and two TDs in a 24-20 loss.
Onion didn’t even consider playing quarterback, He knew Lyons’ depth at safety already took a hit when Victor Conforti suffered a season-ending broken hand a few weeks ago.