Grant tops Round Lake for 2-game win streak
Playoff teams use Week 9 to try to get some positive momentum heading into the postseason.
Non-playoff teams are trying to get that same kind of momentum to carry them through the long offseason and into next year.
The Grant football team is convinced it did just that on Friday night.
The Bulldogs haven't had the easiest of seasons, winless through the first seven weeks of the season.
But two straight wins to close the season, including a 28-18 season finale victory over visiting Round Lake, have put the Bulldogs in a pretty good mood and have them thinking positively about next year.
Grant finishes the season at 2-7 overall and 2-5 in the Northern Lake County Conference.
"It feels really nice for us to get another win, we've worked so hard and we're going to carry this into the offseason," said Grant sophomore running back Noah Lautner, who rushed for 133 yards on 14 carries and caught 2 passes for 53 yards. He scored on a 71-yard touchdown run two minutes into the second half to put the Bulldogs up 14-10 and give them the lead for good. Six minutes later, quarterback Matt McGraw (6-of-14, 109 yards) scored on a 1-yard run to put Grant up 21-10.
"We're going to come out strong next year and get some wins. We're not going to lose," Lautner said. "We've just got to carry this into next season. We have to."
The seniors, who were celebrating Senior Night, are certain that their younger teammates will do that.
"The win on Senior Night is really important," said Grant senior defensive back Evan Viscioni, who had 2 interceptions on the night to raise his season total to six interceptions. "But what's more important is that we laid a foundation for the program. I'm going to care about this program for the rest of my life and I think this program has great things to come."
So does Viscioni, by the way.
His Dad promised him $50 for every interception he got this season and he now owes Viscioni $100 for the Round Lake game alone, and $300 on the season.
"I was glad I went out that way," Viscioni said with a chuckle. "My dad has paid me a little bit here and there, but he still has more to pay up. I'm happy about the $300 this season."
Grant senior kicker Andrew Ryczek would love to get $50 per field goal. He would have come away with $100 from the Round Lake game as well. He booted 2 field goals (both from 36 yards) and accounted for all of Grant's first-half points.
"It's fun when they (field goals) go in," Ryczek said. "It's good to end on a good note. It's good for us. We had a brotherhood this season. We weren't going to give up and put our heads down this season."
Round Lake coach Cristo Garza says his players did the same this season. The Panthers got off to a great start, opening at 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
But Round Lake (2-7, 0-7 NLCC) had to show some character and grit as it closed the season with seven straight losses.
"Congrats to Grant to end the season like that. That's a memory that will never be taken from them," Garza said. "For us, right now it's going to hurt. But we have a lot to look back on and reflect on and know that we did everything we could this season. It's tough, but we had a lot of positives this season. Our seniors, we have 23 of them, have done everything I've asked of them and I couldn't be prouder."
Brandon Kisiel was a workhorse for Round Lake. He rushed for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries.
Round Lake also got a 38-yard field goal from Manny Toscano.
Kisiel's second touchdown, a 4-yard run, cut Grant's lead to 21-18 with 11:46 remaining in the game.
But Grant pulled away again with a little razzle dazzle. Jimmy Taylor turned a fake punt into a dramatic 77-yard touchdown run for the Bulldogs' final touchdown.