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Daily Herald's 2014 Season Coverage
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Article updated: 8/22/2014 10:04 PM
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Grayslake North will have ability to score again
 

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Grayslake North will have ability to score again
 

Back during its first season of varsity football in the fall of 2006, Grayslake North scored a total of 49 points over nine games.

Shortly after that, the Knights revamped their entire offense and put an emphasis on a high-flying, up-tempo, pass-oriented attack. Points came at a much more furious clip.

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Last season, Grayslake North (7-3) averaged nearly 34 points a game and scored more than 40 points in five of 10 games.

This season, the scoring might be even more accelerated. The Knights have so many weapons, including senior running back Titus Booker, an Indiana commit who was hurt for much of last season, that they may be averaging more points per game than they scored in all of that inaugural season.

"That's kind of become our M.O.," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said of his offense's ability to put points on the board. "This year, we've got a lot of weapons, some who probably need to (be double-teamed). For some defenses, there just won't be enough guys to cover everyone."

Count on quarterback Merrick Gentile to exploit any defensive deficiencies.

A threat to both pass and run the ball, the junior started last year as a sophomore and averaged nearly 237 yards per game, including 134 yards through the air.

"He's obviously more mature, because he's older, and he's so much more patient," Wood said of Gentile. "He's not so anxious. At the beginning of last year, he would look to run more than pass because he was anxious to get going and make something happen. This year, he's doing a good job of sitting in the pocket and waiting for players to get open.

"And this year, Merrick is lucky to have five legit receivers to get the ball to. We've always had maybe two good guys out there. Now, we've got five guys and they can all catch. Merrick's doing a good job of waiting for them to get open and getting it to the right one."

Senior Eli Atwater leads the Knights stable of talented receivers. He stands at 6-foot-3 and has added speed in the off-season.

"I'd be surprised if he doesn't have Division I offers before the year is over," Wood said of Atwater. "I don't know if teams can cover him 1-on-1.

Brad Baker, a three-year starter and all-conference pick last season, will be a dangerous receiving option, as will Andrew Martinaue, also a starter last year.

Junior wide receiver Matt Aiken, who has impressed with his speed, will also be worked into the mix.

Speaking of speed, Booker turned the heads of college scouts last spring when he was clocked at the Nike Combine running a 4.4 in the 40 dash. He also placed second in the 100 meter dash at the IHSA state track meet.

"He's just fast and you can't teach that. I mean, he's got legit speed and those college coaches love that," Wood said of Booker, who also had other Big Ten offers, including one from Wisconsin. "If all of our guys stay healthy, with Merrick and Titus and all of our receivers, it's going to be an amazing offense."

To top it off, the Grayslake North offensive line will be the biggest it has ever been. Led by 6-foot-6, 310-pound senior Dan Krajewski, the line will average 250 pounds and feature no one shorter than 6-foot-2.

"Last year, we had two kids who were 5-foot-9 or shorter and we averaged 220 pounds across the line," Wood said. "We just have a bunch of kids on the line who have worked hard and that's really going to help our offense."

While the offense has size, speed and a total of seven returning starters, the defense is more of a question mark.

The Knights welcome back only three returning starters. Senior linebacker George Deligiannis, the leader of the defense, will try to get his inexperienced teammates quickly on the same page.

"I'm optimistic about our defense, because we have a lot of good kids on our defense," Wood said. "But we are definitely unproven. I think we'll surprise some people, though."

One pleasant surprise for the defense was the transfer of Mason McIntosh, who came to Grayslake North from Warren. He was a reserve running back there but will start at safety for the Knights.

"He's fast, he's long and he hits like a freight train," Wood said of McIntosh. "What a shot in the arm he is for our defense."

Grayslake North is still looking for the shot in the arm it needs to advance in the playoffs. The Knights have qualified for the postseason twice, in each of the past two seasons. But each time Grayslake North has lost in the first round.

Last season, the Knights lost to Rolling Meadows, 49-20.

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