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Every year, Grayslake North's football team seems to be so close to finally getting past Lakes.
Finally, after six years of near misses, the Knights got the job done.
Fulfilling their team motto — Rise Up — Grayslake North rose to the occasion with a 49-39 nonconference victory in a season opener over host Lakes on Saturday night.
"We've always played them tough, no matter how good our teams have been," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "It's always close — either we had the lead going into the fourth, or we're driving to take the lead. We've never been able to hold on."
Knights held on in the fourth quarter this time around, building a 49-32 lead early in the fourth quarter on the third rushing touchdown by Titus Booker (33 carries, 268 yards) on a 5-yard run.
The Eagles managed to add a touchdown on TJ Edwards' 4-yard scamper with 7:48 left, cutting the margin to 10.
But Grayslake North's defense came alive in the final minute and denied Lakes another score.
"We didn't know what to expect," Wood said. "We were playing some young kids. We knew that we had potential. We have playmakers and they had a tremendous off-season.
"This was a true indication of how hard they worked. Things got tight in the fourth and they kept their composure."
Booker's other scores were from 30 and 59 yards as he produced a stellar effort on the ground.
"Our line did a great job of blocking," said Booker, who had a previous rushing high of 155 last year. "I was seeing my teammates and I was playing for them. There's no one in this country I'd rather play for than my teammates."
Knights sophomore quarterback Merrick Gentile took over for the graduated AJ Fish. Gentile rushed for two scores and had 2 throwing TDs.
"If Coach didn't think I could do it, then he wouldn't play me," Gentile said. "He gave me all the confidence, and the team gave me all the heart. The O-line pushed, and Titus in the backfield made it easier."
Lakes started the evening with a Jake Billiu 91-yard kickoff return. Eagles sophomore running back Devyn Cedziddlo (9 carries, 172 yards) had TD runs of 5 and 54 yards.
"Our goal isn't to beat Grayslake North," Lakes coach Luke Mertens. "That's not our goal and it never has been. Our goal is to get 6 wins and get into the state playoffs."