Football: Scouting the Northern Lake
Football coaches sat at a table in a family-like setting at a local restaurant, and no one snarled.
No one picked up a fork and had the urge to jab into their sandwich.
There might have been a "PLEASE pass the roasted garlic mushrooms" accompanied by a smile.
Wauconda's Dave Mills looked down the long table and saw fellow Northern Lake County Conference coaches who he wants to smash like mashed potatoes this fall. Those same guys are gentlemen, old friends, respected teachers.
Mills and Antioch coach Brian Glashagel were on staff together at Wauconda. Jordan Eder was on Glashagel's staff before taking the job at Lakes last year. Eder had been the coach at Round Lake and was replaced by Cristo Garza, who used to coach on the staff of former Lakes coach Luke Mertens. Eder, an Antioch graduate, also coached at Grant. Mills started a friendship with Grayslake North coach Sam Baker while Baker was coaching in Minnesota. Mills and Grayslake Central's Jason Schaal have coached against each other in both football and softball.
"We've all got a history with each other from somewhere," Mills said. "It's a nice mix. It's not a 'I hate you' type of thing."
It's a mix that includes Mills, a "grandpa five times" he notes proudly, and new daddy Eder. Eder's wife, Jennie, gave birth to the couple's first child, Grayson, this summer.
"It's been awesome," Eder said of being a first-time dad. "But it's crazy, crazy busy. Luckily, I got a supportive wife that understands the routine and the situation. She's been great."
Lake County football coaches got together this month at Buffalo Wild Wings in Round Lake Beach, as WRLR radio hosted a show to kick off the season. Now, the coaches are salivating to start that season.
Two-time defending NLCC champ Antioch, which has gone undefeated in regular-season play the last two years, starts Friday night against a new Opening Night opponent, Lake Forest, which has made the playoffs eight straight years.
Antioch graduated a large senior class that included quarterback Branden Gallimore, running back Hunter Price and all-state defensive back Andrew Hare, but the Sequoits remain deep. The off-season netted a trio of transfers in sophomore QB Athan Kaliakmanis (5 Division I offers), sophomore wide receiver Dino Kaliakmanis and running back/linebacker Nick Wiley. The Kaliakmanis brothers played varsity for Carmel Catholic last fall. Wiley was a varsity starter at Hersey the last two years.
"Antioch is going to be unbelievable, whether they had (Athan) Kaliakmanis or not," said Baker, whose Grayslake North team went 7-4 in his first season last year.
Baker has a talented quarterback himself in Austin Martineau, who's started the last two seasons and begins his senior year with offers from Butler and Valparaiso. Two-time All-NLCC linebacker Zach Carter also returns along with running back Jordan Curtis, who's coming off ACL surgery.
Lakes graduated all-state running back Ethan Greenfield, but the Eagles have explosive wide receiver D'Lo Hardy and a group that Eder calls fast and athletic. The Eagles were undefeated last year until a heartbreaking, 34-31 loss to visiting Antioch in Week 7.
"We've been on the back burner, and I love it," said Eder, whose 2017 Eagles finished 9-2. "We're just going to do our thing."
North Chicago started last season with 3 shutouts in a row, but the Warhawks dropped four of their next six games and failed to earn an at-large playoff berth with a 5-4 record.
Grayslake Central returns QB Ben Vogeler and playmaking wide receiver Nick Paul after the Rams' 3 wins last season were their most since 2013. Wauconda, which started 0-7 last year and failed to make the postseason for a third straight season, boasts lineman Chris Carlson (6-3, 270), who has offers from Benet and Augustana.
Grant's Chris Robinson and Round Lake's Garza, both of whom coach football at their high school alma mater, enter the season with a new quarterback. Tyler Elfering, a junior who played wide receiver on varsity last year, takes over behind center for Grant. Sophomore Isaiah Nixon will quarterback Round Lake in his debut varsity season.