'Hill' of a win for North Chicago against Round Lake
Dressed in his navy No. 10 jersey and athletic-wear shorts, injured Round Lake quarterback Isaiah Nixon could only watch and cheer on his football teammates as they played in an unrelenting drizzle in Grayslake.
His return to game action is coming soon and so too is the unveiling of the Panthers' renovated stadium.
For North Chicago first-year coach Wilton Hill, however, his wait is over.
The Warhawks' 27-6 win over Round Lake in a Northern Lake County Conference game at Grayslake Central on Saturday gave Hill, a 2000 North Chicago graduate, his first win as head coach.
North Chicago (1-3, 1-1), which had nearly upset visiting Lakes the previous Friday, got 198 rushing yards on 22 carries from running back Vondarious Gordon and 3 touchdown runs from quarterback Remorrian Gordon (Vondarious' cousin).
"We got to clean up some mistakes," Hill said after his Warhawks were flagged 17 times for 164 yards. "I thought we were going to come out and perform a lot better after last week. Happy, definitely. Got the monkey off our back, but we got to get better."
Round Lake (1-3, 0-2) should get better with the return of Nixon, who hit his head on Grant's turf in the second half of the Panthers' loss the previous week and suffered a concussion. He was medically cleared to play Saturday and should be ready to go Friday, when Round Lake plays its third game this season at Grayslake Central, only this time as the visiting team.
The Panthers are scheduled to play their first game on their new field in Week 8 against Wauconda. They were hoping to debut the facility against North Chicago.
"We need Isaiah back," Panthers running back/linebacker Dominick Tovar said of his fellow junior, team captain and returning starter.
With Nixon out, sophomore Cristian Castro made his first varsity start. He completed a 29-yard pass to Philip Robinson in the fourth quarter, but was tackled behind the line of scrimmage four times for 33 yards.
"It was a tough spot for Castro to be in, being a sophomore and coming into this type of game," Panthers coach Scott Blecha said. "They got big guys on the line and he didn't have a lot of time back there. He finished out the game against Grant strong for us so we have a lot of confidence in him. He gets a lot of snaps in practice, but your first time starting is always a nerve-wracking thing."
As it did against Amundsen in its season opener at Grayslake Central, Round Lake scored on its first possession. Sophomore Jamariel Brown's 42-yard TD run gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead, but the Warhawks responded on their ensuing possession, as Remorrian Gordon raced into the end zone from 30 yards out with 6:50 left in the opening quarter.
North Chicago took a 7-6 advantage into halftime and then went up 14-6 on Round Lake's first play of the second half. A high snap was recovered by North Chicago sophomore linebacker Quardale Maggett, who sprinted 10 yards untouched for the score.
On the Warhawks' next series, Remorrian Gordon capped a seven-play, 46-yard drive with a TD run from 9 yards out. His third touchdown came in the closing seconds of the game.
"They were really good," Tovar, who rushed five times for 22 yards and caught 2 passes for 14 yards, said of the Warhawks. "We lost (the game) in the second half. We had our heads down right away (after the fumble-recovery TD)."
Round Lake got interceptions from Alex Hair and Shawn Rios but, offensively, the Panthers managed just 67 yards (18 rushing).
"Our ground game didn't get going today, so it was hard to get into any kind of rhythm," Blecha said. "Our plan was to extend some drives on offense and keep their offense off the field, and that's what we were unable to do."