Bolt of old energy sparks Grant's offense

  • Grant's John Bolton makes a touchdown catch against Lakes last season.

      Grant's John Bolton makes a touchdown catch against Lakes last season. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comCarmel's Syone Usma-Harper (26) rushed for 308 yards last Friday in a loss to Libertyville.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comCarmel's Syone Usma-Harper (26) rushed for 308 yards last Friday in a loss to Libertyville.

 
 
Updated 9/4/2019 6:41 PM

Before he rushed for 4 touchdowns in Grant's season-opening win, junior John Bolton had a good feeling about his team's offense.

Looking to get back to the days when they were most successful, the Bulldogs have changed their offense this season, going back to triple-option football.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's the stuff I ran when I was 5 or 6 years old," Bolton, the Bulldogs' versatile offensive weapon, said at a recent practice. "We changed it when I was probably in seventh or eighth grade, but now it's back to what I did the first 6-7 years of (Grant Junior Bulldogs) football.

"I liked it," Bolton added. "That's when we were at our best. In middle school, elementary school, we were really good. It's gone downhill, but I really think it's going to come back soon."

Bolton played mainly running back and wide receiver on varsity last season. He started at quarterback on Friday night and scored on runs of 51, 75, 13 and 20 yards, as Grant defeated visiting Woodstock 45-7. Grant did not attempt a pass the entire game.

It was the Bulldogs' first opening-night win since 2012, which was the last time they earned a state-playoff berth, and the most points they scored in a game since Week 4 of 2014, when they beat North Chicago 63-24. Bolton rushed 9 times for 164 yards.

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Grant plays Stagg in Palos Hills on Friday night.

Carmel vs. Libertyville worth the wait: Despite the schools being only walking distance from each other, Carmel Catholic and Libertyville had not played each other since 2010.

Their season-opening game last Friday night was played in front of a standing-room-only crowd, with Libertyville prevailing 35-34 on the final play of the game.

Libertyville coach Mike Jones didn't think it was in his team's best interest to play Carmel in previous years.

"Our conference (North Suburban) is hard enough," Jones said. "Why add another hard team?

Carmel and Libertyville will play each other again next year.

Two is greater than one: Libertyville went 4 for 4 on two-point conversions against Carmel. The final one, on quarterback Blake Ellingson's run with no time on the clock, gave the Wildcats the win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Going for two -- and the win -- was an easy choice for the Wildcats.

"We were struggling defensively," said Jones, whose team was up 24-10 at halftime. "I didn't want to go into overtime with that."

No doubts: After wide receiver Sam Paden made what Ellingson called a "great play" on a 20-yard, over-the-head reception in the end zone with no time left in the fourth quarter, Libertyville trailed 34-33.

On the ensuing PAT, Ellingson rolled right and wove into the end zone, sending Libertyville's fans seated in the south end zone spilling onto the field.

"I knew I'd be able to run it in," Ellingson said. "We practice that all the time. ... It was supposed to be a pass, run option. I just cut it back."

Three-hundred game: Overshadowed by Libertyville's last-second win was the performance of Carmel's Syone Usma-Harper. The junior running back (an all-conference player last season) rushed for 308 yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries.

And he wasn't satisfied.

"I think I could have done better," Usma-Harper said. "There were way more other times where I could have broken it out and scored a touchdown."

That never-satisfied attitude helps explain why Usma-Harper figures to keep getting better.

"That might be one of the things that makes him so good is he's very critical of himself, in a positive way," Corsairs coach Blake Annen said. "He always wants to try to push to get better."

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