After rolling up 143 points over its first three games, Grayslake North was looking for more of the same going into Friday night's Fox Valley Conference Fox Division matchup at Johnsburg.
Instead, the Knights ran into a very prepared Skyhawks defense that held them scoreless in the first half.
Fortunately for the Knights (4-0, 2-0 in Fox Division), they found their offensive rhythm on their last two drives and rallied past Johnsburg for a thrilling 21-13 victory.
Grayslake North quarterback Merrick Gentile was only thinking about one stat after the game.
"In the second half, that was the most heart I had ever seen, from both teams," said Gentile, who amassed over 300 total yards of offense and 3 total touchdowns. "The only stat was heart in this game."
Trailing 13-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Knights put together a nine-play 70 yard drive with Gentile scoring from 5 yards out to put Grayslake North ahead. After the Knights' defense forced a three-and-out, Gentile found receiver Brad Baker (5 catches, 72 yards) on a 10 yard touchdown pass, capping off a staggering 15-play, 97 yard drive that took over seven minutes.
"We are always open on the outs," said Baker. "I kept telling this guy (Gentile) to throw it on the outs. He did, and that is what we do, and we scored."
"I got on the radio with all the coaches," said Grayslake North coach Steve Wood before the drive. "I said, 'We need a death march here. We need to go the length of the field and eat up some clock.' We had a couple of huge third-down conversions. It was good to see the kids respond."
Grayslake North running back Titus Booker, who had missed the previous two games due to an ankle injury after an outstanding Week 1 performance against Lakes, returned and had 23 yards on 5 carries.
Johnsburg (0-4, 0-2 Fox Division) took the lead in the second quarter as Bailey Stefka intercepted Gentile and raced 67 yards to the end zone. Skyhawks quarterback Nick Brengman (153 passing yards) gave the home team the lead again as he hooked up with receiver Brad Iverson in the second half for an 11-yard touchdown.
"After that first half, I thought we could do it," said Brengman. "It was homecoming week. We were all pumped up. After they scored, our team morale was still there. In the end, there were just too many little mistakes."
"They're gonna win some games," said Wood of Johnsburg. "Our job as coaches is to get our team to believe they can win. They did a wonderful job and believed that they could win.You could tell they could believe that."