Antioch will need a better start the next time it takes the football field. The Sequoits will need better energy, too.
And, oh, they will.
"(It'll be) a lot better," running back Hunter Price said with a smile after helping Antioch capture a 28-0 win over visiting Round Lake in a rare Thursday night game.
Antioch celebrated Senior Night by clinching a playoff berth for the second year in a row and seventh time in Brian Glashagel's 11 years as head coach. The Sequoits' win, coupled with Lakes' victory over Grayslake Central, sets up a first-place showdown in Lake Villa next Friday night. Both Antioch, which went 7-0 in the Northern Lake County Conference's inaugural season last year, and Lakes are 6-0 and 4-0 in the NLCC.
"This whole week was weird," Glashagel said of the Thursday game and short practice week. "Just how we structured was different. Everything just felt a little off."
Round Lake fell to 2-4 and 0-4 in the NLCC with its fourth loss in a row, but Panthers coach Cristo Garza couldn't have been prouder of his team. Round Lake trailed just 7-0 at halftime and 14-0 late in the third quarter.
"I posed a challenge to the kids on Monday," Garza said. "I said, 'Here's the deal, guys. They're undefeated, we're going the opposite way, and they're going where we want to be.' We want to close the gap."
While Round Lake responded to its coach, the game for Antioch was reminiscent of the Sequoits' Week-2 win over Woodstock North when they overcame a 14-0 deficit after three quarters thanks to a late rally.
"We started off a little bit slow but picked it up," Price said after rushing for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries. "We were a little bit off because it was a Thursday game. Everyone wasn't here (in the stands). There wasn't as much energy as we're used to. I feel like that got to us. We should have played a better game, though."
Round Lake showed early on that it was ready to play, stopping Antioch on downs at the visitors 7. Antioch's offense had started at its own 46 but eight plays later came up short on fourth-and-5 from the 9.
Antioch didn't score until Price sped up the middle from 28 yards out on the first play of the second quarter. The TD capped a five-play, 37-yard drive after Nico Chiappetta's 8-yard tackle for loss helped pin the Panthers at their own 10.
Round Lake's defense later came up with a fumble but couldn't capitalize.
A 10-play drive by Antioch late in the first half stalled at the Round Lake 18, and the Sequoits missed a 35-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.
Round Lake stayed in the game in the first half despite losing workhorse running back Anthony Tellez to a knee injury, which he originally suffered two weeks ago against Grayslake Central. Tellez limped off the field with assistance after a 5-yard gain late in the first quarter and did not return.
Round Lake also played without defensive tackle Kelvin Cruz (shoulder), and quarterback Alex Larson was sick, Garza said.
"They're a lot better team than they were the past two years," Price said of the Panthers.
Branden Gallimore's 9-yard TD pass to Steven Baum capped a 13-play, 68-yard drive on Antioch's opening possession of the second half. Price's 15-yard run with five seconds left in the third made it 21-0, and Price scored again, from 3 yards out, in the fourth.
"We had every excuse to just show up on a Thursday night and say, 'Go get it, Antioch,' " Garza said. "We didn't."
Antioch was happy to survive a spirited Round Lake team and a Thursday night game.
"Now it's about contending for a conference championship and hopefully trying to win out and get a high playoff (seed)," Glashagel said. "I think we have a good postseason team. We do a lot of things well."