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As the Grayslake North football team serenaded the fans and cheerleaders with the school fight song after the Knights' Fox Valley Conference Fox Division opener with visiting Woodstock, sophomore quarterback Merrick Gentile decided singing just wasn't his forte.
"I can sing, I guess," the sheepish Gentile said. "I don't know if I am good at it but I will try."
He ended up belting out a few cords of the fight song before he walked away and took a quick glance at the scoreboard in the North end zone. The final tally, a 42-14 Knights' win over Woodstock, was a testament to another scintillating performance by the first-year starter.
Gentile rushed for 127 yards and threw for 126. But his most impressive number of the evening was 5. Gentile scored 5 consecutive touchdowns on the ground — he also threw for the other to help the Knights to their first 3-0 start in school history.
"I remember when we were just trying to score 14 points in game," said North coach Steve Wood. "Now we are putting up almost 40 points every week."
The high octane offense of Grayslake North (3-0, 1-0) was a bit sluggish early before Gentile finally helped the Knights find the end zone. A perfectly thrown ball from Gentile to Andrew Martineau came with 6:43 left in the first quarter putting the home team up 7-0.
"When we changed our offense three years ago, we knew we had kids like Merrick and AJ (Fish) coming up to run it," Wood said. "We studied and watched a lot of tape and that's just what Merrick does every week. He is watching a ton of tape trying to get better."
North defensive tackle Ian Pearce recovered a fumble off a sack by linebacker Spencer Davis giving Gentile and the offense the ball at midfield. Nine plays later, Gentile took it in from 5 yards out for the first of his 5 rushing scores and the Knights were in control.
"I have to give all the credit to our receivers and especially my offensive line," Gentile said. "I would be dead without that group up front."
North put the foot on the gas in the second quarter converting two long drives into scores, the best of which was a 13-play gem that went for 79 yards putting the Knights up 21-0 on a dazzling 14-yard run by Gentile.
"I watched AJ a lot last year and between that and video games I learned a few moves," Gentile said. "My dad did always tell me that if you don't have to go down, don't go down so I don't go down."
Gentile scored on runs of 10, 1 and 3 yards to close out the scoring for the Knights.