Grayslake North is all about making the grade(s)
Peer pressure gets a bad rap.
It can actually be a good thing sometimes, like when it's a deterrent for extra pushups or mountain climbers or burpees.
Or when it's an incentive for academic performance.
At Grayslake North, the football team is covering both sides by using a gentle form of peer pressure with the consequence of extra physical exercise to keep everyone in check in the classroom.
"We are trying to reach a goal of having a team 3.0 grade-point average or higher," Grayslake North senior quarterback Austin Martineau said. "The football program has never had that (for the entire fall semester), and we're trying to get there."
The 3-4 Knights, who are fighting for their playoff lives this week and believe that excellence in the classroom translates to excellence on the field, get measured each week on their academic progress. For each D or F that a player on the team has during that week, the entire team must do that many extra exercises of the captains' choosing.
"This last time, we did that many extra mountain climbers," Grayslake North senior wide receiver Nick Lovitsch said. "That's what the captains picked. The captains are really trying to enforce this rule so that we can reach our 3.0 goal."
Each week that the Knights reach their 3.0 goal, athletic director Tina Woolard has promised to take the entire team out for breakfast on Wednesday morning. The team has had one breakfast so far this season.
Interestingly, had Woolard offered breakfast each week to any player on the team with a 4.0 grade-point average or better, that's where she really would have broken the bank.
Grayslake North boasts five players with a 4.0 GPA or better, and they are trying to motivate their teammates to keep up.
Linebacker and wide receiver Colton Terry leads the way with a 4.6 GPA, Martineau has a 4.4, running back Jordan Curtis has a 4.2, Lovitsch has a 4.1 and linebacker and wide receiver Josh Shuman has a 4.0.
"I'm in total support of us doing extra work when guys on the team have bad grades," said Curtis, a two-way player who also plays safety and linebacker for the Knights. "I think it's good because it makes people proactive and focused and accountable."
For Curtis, the juggle between school and sports hasn't always been easy. Last year as a junior, he suffered a serious knee injury during the football season and still had to keep up with serious classes. And yet, he's never had a grade lower than a B in any of his classes in high school, or in junior high for that matter.
Curtis is taking AP Physics, AP Literature, AP French, and Honors Calculus among other classes.
"My AP Physics class is definitely the hardest class I've ever taken, but it's also one of my favorites," Curtis said. "I'm more history and literature-minded, so this class totally challenges me and I like that."
Lovitsch also knows challenges well. Both on and off the field.
He has played three sports all through high school while maintaining top-shelf grades and dealing with a couple of major injuries.
A meniscus knee injury slowed Lovitsch early in his career and then a broken wrist kept him out for most of last football season.
But Lovitsch, a senior, has stayed with all of his sports, and is expecting to play basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
"It's tough to go from football straight to basketball, straight to baseball and then have the summer be even busier," said Lovitsch, who is Grayslake North's leading receiver with 6 touchdowns and more than 400 receiving yards. "But I like each sport, and it's a commitment to my teammates. I feel like if I don't go to everything and do everything hard, I'm letting my teammates down. I like to give everything I have to what I do.
"It's like that with my grades, too. I take pride in my grades. I would never want to say that I have bad grades."
Lovitsch is taking AP Environmental Science, AP Statistics and Honors Spanish among other classes this semester. He has never gotten less than a B on any of his report cards, dating back to grade school.
Martineau, who has been lifelong friends with Lovitsch, is in the same boat. Good grades all through school.
It's debatable which numbers are more gaudy though: Martineau's passing stats or his classroom stats.
Already this season, Martineau has passed for 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards. A three-year starter, he is flirting with all kinds of career passing records at Grayslake North.
Somehow, while also juggling basketball and volleyball, Martineau has been able to maintain one of the best grade-point averages in the athletic department.
"You have to be willing to give up a ton of time to do well in sports and school," Martineau said. "But ever since a young age, I've just had this competitive drive in me. I've always wanted to do my best."
Martineau, who got his first B in high school but has never gotten anything lower than that, is taking AP Physics, AP Calculus and Honors Spanish and Honors English this semester.
"It's just so important to stay on top of school," Martineau said. "Time management is huge. Studying is huge. Knowing when you can and can't go out and do (social) stuff is huge.
"I always want to do well in football, but I've tried to put my education first because you don't know how long you'll get to play."
Grayslake North is hoping to keep its season going for at least another three weeks.
Each game is do-or-die for the Knights, who started the season 0-4 but have fought back to win three straight games and are now in the position to possibly qualify for the playoffs on points if they win out in games against Grant and Grayslake Central over the next two weeks.
"What a way to end our senior year," Curtis said of the possibility of a playoff berth for the Knights. "That would be so cool if we could make that kind of a comeback."
It would certainly merit an A-plus for effort.
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw