Grayslake North cruises past Round Lake
It was only Week 6 of the football season, but both host Grayslake North and Round Lake needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive Friday night in Northern Lake County Conference action.
And with a very fast start, and a big Homecoming crowd behind them, the host Knights built a 21-12 halftime lead over the Panthers before turning on the jets in the second half en route to an impressive 43-12 victory.
Grayslake North (2-4, 1-3) senior Joe Swanson caught a bomb on the first offensive play of the game flying down the right sideline as junior quarterback Nick Fish (8-for-10, 174 yards passing) hit Swanson in stride for a 68-yard touchdown strike. The first of 5 extra points by Omar Cordova put the Knights ahead 7-0 just 12 seconds into the contest.
Round Lake (1-5, 0-4) did respond very effectively on its ensuing drive as the Panthers marched 82 yards on 8 plays with a 26-yard pass from Cristian Castro to Kevonne Peterson putting the ball on the 1-yard-line. Castro (15-for-26, 168 yards passing) scored on a 1-yard keeper on the next play to cut the lead to 7-6 early on.
The Knights bounced back when an interception by Jeremy Rowder deep in Round Lake territory put the ball on the Panthers' 13-yard-line. Then on the first play of the second quarter, Fish scrambled and found his way to the end zone for a touchdown on a 10-yard keeper to boost the lead back to 14-6.
Then came one of the biggest plays of the game as Grayslake North's Zaire Knight blocked Alexis Larios' punt before recovering the blocked punt himself and running it in 8 yards for the touchdown and a 21-6 advantage.
The Panthers' offense once again answered the call when they marched 80 yards on their next drive. Round Lake hit pay dirt when Isaiah Nixon caught a 14-yard TD pass from Castro to cut the gap to 21-12.
"We had a few defensive breakdowns, but we were in the game at halftime," said Round Lake coach Scott Blecha, whose team had 320 yards of total offense. "He (Grayslake North's Christian Johnson) is a shifty player, and it's kind of hard to replicate something like that in practice."
After being held to only 2 yards rushing on 6 carries in the first half, Johnson (87 yards on 13 carries) was on a roll early in the second half as a 20-yard run, a 5-yard run, and a 45-yard run right out of the gates put the ball on the Round Lake 1. Johnson scored on a 1-yard run on the next play for a 28-12 lead.
A fantastic diving catch by Grayslake North's Tony Hines keyed the Knights' next scoring drive before Johnson's 8-yard TD run boosted the lead to 36-12 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
"The line gave C.J. great holes in the second half, and it was his best game of the season," said Fish. "I'll give all of our touchdowns to the line, and our receivers played great."
Swanson put the finishing touches on the big win as he caught a 37-yard TD pass from Fish despite Round Lake defender Philip Robinson being all over Swanson when he hauled in the pass for a 43-12 lead with 3:49 to play.
"I'm pleased with our kids, it's a much-needed win, and that is a well-coached Round Lake team," said Grayslake North coach Sam Baker, whose team snapped a 4-game losing streak. "We started calling one of our other running plays in the second half, and that opened up everything."
"He (Fish) probably had his best game, he was more accurate with his throws, and he did a good job," added Baker, whose team had 355 yards on offense overall. "We had a punt blocked for a touchdown which was great, and the defense did a great job."
Sophomore Jamariel Brown led the Panthers with 69 yards rushing on 12 attempts while teammate Dominick Tovar added 30 yards on 5 carries. Hines had 33 yards on 5 rushes for the Knights. Swanson had 2 receptions for 105 yards as he scored both times he touched the ball.