Grayslake North coming home after blowing out Mather
If this was special -- a scoreboard noting its dominance, elevated concrete bleachers, a redbrick school building providing background -- Grayslake North can imagine what next Saturday will be like.
The Knights will play a second-round playoff game at home and will have a chance to make school history.
"It's a nice stadium," said senior outside linebacker Virgil Cannon, admiring Lane Stadium in Chicago after he and his Grayslake North teammates pounded host Mather 42-0 on Saturday in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. "Great atmosphere, too."
Wait until next Saturday.
No. 11 Grayslake North (7-3) will play No. 14 Belvidere North (6-4) at 4 p.m. For the third year in a row, the Knights will try to win a second-round playoff game and earn a state-quarterfinal berth. It's something they have yet to accomplish during their current run of six straight years of postseason ball.
"That's what we've been preaching ever since Day 1 when Coach Baker came in," said quarterback Austin Martineau, alluding to first-year head coach Sam Baker.
Beating No. 6 Mather (7-3) proved extra special for the junior Martineau, whose 3 touchdown passes gave him a school-record 20 this season, one more than A.J. Fish tossed during his junior year of 2011. Martineau got the record breaker on a 2-yard throw to Elliott Hochstein late in the second quarter, extending the Knights' lead to 28-0.
"I didn't realize it until Coach (Baker) informed me when I was running off the field," Martineau said of the single-season TD mark. "He said, 'Congratulations on breaking A.J.'s record.' "
Brett Lila had a pair of touchdown receptions, helping Grayslake North build a 21-0 lead in the opening quarter. Giananthony Ocampo started the scoring with a 25-yard run. Knights defensive back Jeremy Rowder then recovered a Mather fumble on the next play from scrimmage, and the visitors struck immediately. Martineau rolled out on first down from the Rangers 20 and hit Lila in the end zone. Martineau's 8-yard TD pass to Lila on Grayslake North's next possession made it 21-0.
Hochstein recovered another fumble by the Mather defense early in the second quarter.
"They're a big, physical team," said Cannon, whose opening half included a 7-yard tackle for loss and quarterback hit. "We may have overlooked them at the beginning, but you can't overlook them. They made it to the playoffs for a reason. Our mindset all week was just to get done what we needed to get done. It was a business trip."
Grayslake North opened the second half with a 55-yard touchdown run by Frederick Fischer (7 carries, 85 yards). Michael Johnson's interception led to his 8-yard TD catch from backup QB Ethan Patton, commencing a running clock late in the third quarter.
"I was glad our offense showed up," said Baker, whose Knights didn't get an offensive touchdown in their Week-9 loss to Antioch. "It was good to see us move the ball a little bit."
Grayslake North junior running back Jordan Curtis, who injured his knee in Week 8, underwent surgery on Thursday, Baker said. Wide receiver Nick Lovitsch has been out since Week 5, and against Mather the Knights lost defensive end Jimmy Chamberlain and offensive lineman Joshua West to apparent knee injuries.
"We preach 'Next man up' and I really think that has been the reason why we've been so successful," Martineau said. "Lovitsch had a great start to the season, and Jordan Curtis is one of the best backs I've seen. But 'Gianny O' (Ocampo) and Joe Swanson (2 catches for 48 yards against Mather) have filled in nicely."
Grayslake North's JV players preserved the Knights' first shutout of the season when sophomore Nicholas Kozanecki recovered a fumble in the end zone on the game's final play.
"We're just trying to do what the school hasn't done -- make it to the quarterfinals," Cannon said. "We had a great team effort on both sides of the ball and special teams."
The Knights will need another one next Saturday.