Priceless reward for Antioch-Lakes winner Saturday: quarterfinal berth
Right now, it's a simple $8 plaque.
But the head football coaches at both Antioch and Lakes agree that their annual rivalry game each year is worth a better, more creative, reward for the champion.
After all, the Antioch-Lakes football game is one of the most intriguing rivalry games in Lake County each season. The two high schools are in the same district and are constantly battling each other for conference championships.
And rivalry games of that magnitude deserve some added attention.
For instance, some of the best rivalries in college football come with some of the best spoils for the victors. We're talking sacred trophies derived from such things as: screwdrivers, oil cans, canoes, oars, barrels, jugs, axes, skillets, cannons, bronze boots, bells, wagon wheels, milk cans, buckets, belts and even everyone's favorite, spittoons, which are metal or earthenware pots typically having a funnel-shaped top, used for spitting into.
The highly coveted spittoon, by the way, is awarded each year to the winner of the Indiana-Michigan State game.
"Ya, we need a better trophy," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said with a laugh. "It's kind of a joke, this $8 thing we have. We joke with the Lakes coaches that maybe the loser should have to take the plaque home.
"That needs to be our offseason project. Our coaches need to get together with the Lakes coaches and work on that, we need something better to play for."
Possibly better than any trophy, plaque or even spittoon that Antioch and Lakes could play for each regular season is what they are playing for this week: a spot in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
For the first time ever, Antioch and Lakes, which have combined to win eight straight conference championships between the Northern Lake County Conference and the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division (five straight for Lakes and the last three for Antioch), will face off in the IHSA state playoffs. And the winner of the game, which will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Antioch, will get a shot at the winner of Saturday's second-round game between Notre Dame and Crystal Lake South in the quarterfinals.
"I don't know if you can get any better than this," Lakes coach Jordan Eder said. "You've got two well-run programs with kids who play hard that are always fighting for the conference championships. We always get big crowds at our games, even people who don't have any kids on the teams, because the games are always really close and really competitive.
"The game just gets everyone around here excited. It turns into a big energy wave all week at school and in the community. On Monday, right away, that's all everyone was talking about at school. Everyone was already fired up for our game on Saturday against Antioch."
The familiarity between the two schools serves as the biggest point of interest. Not only are Antioch and Lake Villa neighboring towns, many of the kids in each school grow up going to grade schools and middle schools together and they play in many of the same youth sports organizations.
And of course, the two high schools used to be one.
In 2004, Lakes High School was founded to split up an Antioch High School district that had gotten too big.
Lakes played its first football game in 2005 with all juniors.
Ironically, Eder was a senior offensive lineman at Antioch that year, and the Sequoits defeated Lakes 42-7. It is one of the few lopsided games in the all-time series between the two schools.
"That game was later in the season and I think Lakes had won only 1 game at that point, and they had all juniors that season, and pretty much everyone expected us to win that game, but it was still a huge deal, it was Antioch-Lakes and all the guys on each team knew each other because we were all teammates the year before, everyone from school was there. It was so cool," said Eder, a 2006 Antioch graduate. "We won big, but it was the environment and the energy and all the hype that surrounded that game. That has always stayed with me, and I think every game since then has pretty much had that feel."
This year, the Sequoits and Eagles played a strange game in that Lakes boasted a 24-7 lead in the second quarter, but Antioch came back to not only bridge the gap but win going away, 43-24.
But the previous three meetings between the two rivals were nail-biters.
In 2015, Lakes was clinging to a 14-10 lead and in the final moments, Antioch recovered an onside kick and had a first-and-goal situation. But Lakes held on all four downs to escape with the win.
In 2016, Lakes had a 14-7 lead late in the game, and Antioch intercepted a pass to pave the way to a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Last year, was just sheer craziness.
There were three scores within the last five minutes between the two teams and Antioch scored with 30 seconds left to win 34-31.
"Last year against Lakes was one of the greatest games I've ever been a part of," Glashagel said. "The fourth quarter is something that every fan should watch. If they weren't at the game, they wouldn't believe it. There were just things that happened where you would say, 'There's no way that just happened.' We scored on fourth down, they scored on fourth-and-25. We scored with 1:25 left to take the lead back, then they drove and drove but we ended up holding. It was a great game.
"One thing that you never have to worry about as a coach for this game is the emotion from your kids. You don't worry about energy or emotion in this game. Everyone is up for it."
Glashagel and Eder are convinced that everyone will be up for this rendition of Antioch vs. Lakes (or Lakes vs. Antioch) as well.
Not just because it's the playoffs, but because both teams have a chip on their shoulder after this season's game three weeks ago.
Lakes is irked about giving up a 24-7 lead. And Antioch is irked that it got out to a 24-7 deficit to begin with. Both teams believe they could have played much, much better, and are out to redeem themselves while also trying to keep themselves alive for another week in the playoffs.
"We've used that Antioch game as a motivation every week since then, about playing four full quarters of football," Eder said. "But it's definitely also a blessing that we get another shot at them. At this point in the playoffs, emotions are high no matter who the opponent is, but this is a matchup that just means so much more for our kids. They want another shot at Antioch. The kids are excited about it."
Ditto for the players at Antioch. They want another shot at Lakes, too.
"People probably say that Lakes has a chip on their shoulder because they lost, but I say that it's the opposite. We're the team with the chip as well. We were not happy with how we played, even though we got the victory," Glashagel said. "Credit Lakes, they are a very good team, but we didn't play well and we know it. That was an embarrassing performance for us and we have to play a lot better this time if we want to beat them."
Not only is Glashagel working hard to devise a game plan to do that, he's also feverishly answering emails and text messages from friends and colleagues about the game.
"I'm getting emails from everyone and their mothers to get them on the pass list for the game," Glashagel said with a laugh. "This is a hot ticket. When it's a rivalry game, it's already a hot ticket. Now that it's also a playoff game, this is a really hot ticket.
"The excitement here is just building and building. It's what everyone talks about."
Next year, perhaps a creative trophy (spittoon?) for the series will be the big topic of conversation in the community.
• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw