Antioch's comeback kids didn't need another fourth-quarter rally to keep their undefeated football season intact Friday night.
They settled for scoring the go-ahead score late in the third quarter. And that was enough to allow Antioch to pull out a 14-7 win over host Grayslake North and clinch the Northern Lake County Conference championship outright for the second year in a row. The win also gave the Sequoits (9-0, 7-0) their second-straight undefeated regular season and third in Brian Glashagel's 11 seasons as head coach.
"It's fantastic," said junior running back Ben Nauman, whose touchdown catch was the difference. "Being a part of this team two years in a row is a dream come true."
Antioch senior running back Hunter Price rushed 29 times for 131 yards, a touchdown and conversion run. But the Sequoits committed 10 penalties, including 8 false starts and a delay of game.
"We did not show up offensively," said Glashagel, whose team has three fourth-quarter comebacks this season. "Too many penalties offensively. It wasn't that we couldn't move the ball."
Fortunately for the visitors, their defense showed up.
Antioch limited Grayslake North (6-3, 5-2) to just 84 yards of total offense, including 17 on the ground. Knights quarterback Austin Martineau completed 8 of 21 passes for 67 yards and was picked off twice.
Antioch senior linebacker Nico Chiappetta had his first interception of the season. Stopping the Knights' passing game was critical.
"They're definitely a big passing team," Chiappetta said. "We trained our corners and deep safeties to be ready for their quick passes and short stuff."
Already minus wide receiver Nick Lovitsch (20 receptions, 4 TDs), who was lost for the season with a broken left wrist suffered against Round Lake in Week 5, Grayslake North was down another offensive weapon. Leading rusher Jordan Curtis (548 yards, 4 TDs) tore his left ACL and meniscus against Grayslake Central last week.
"(Being at full strength) definitely would have helped take the stress off Austin," Grayslake North coach Sam Baker said. "We just couldn't execute on the big plays. Credit to (Antioch)."
Grayslake North's offense got a pick-me-up from its defense to open the scoring. The Knights flushed Antioch quarterback Branden Gallimore from the pocket. Linebacker Zach Carter intercepted a scrambling Gallimore and raced 75 yards for the touchdown with 1:13 left in the opening quarter.
Antioch responded on its ensuing possession. Price carried the ball eight times on a nine-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Price's 14th touchdown of the season from 4 yards out. A low snap on the PAT kick, however, allowed Grayslake North to maintain its lead, as Carter blocked the kick.
The Knights' offense threatened late in the first half, but Andrew Hare came up with his sixth interception of the season, leaping to pick off Martineau in the end zone.
Grayslake North held the lead until Antioch manufactured a 10-play drive that started at its own 24. On fourth-and-12 from the Grayslake North 32, following a timeout, Gallimore hit Nauman on a wheel route. Nauman raced down the right sideline and into the end zone with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Price ran in the PAT.
"I had been out that drive because we had been rotating another one of our running backs (Dylan Lampert) to get him in," Nauman said. "They called my number. Our receiver (Javen London) took the corner and the safety with him, making me open on his post route. I ran my wheel and did what I needed to do. I found the end zone."
Grayslake North, which would have earned a share of the NLCC title with the win, had its five-game winning streak. The Knights are ready for the playoffs, however.
"We're a much different team than the one that lost to Willowbrook 42-0 (to start the season) and lost to Lakes 31-0 (in Week 3)," Baker said. "We're right there ... Our defense is just playing lights out."