Rainey, Grant have Lakes' number
Kyle Rainey explained a loss.
Somewhere buried in the Grant senior inside linebacker's house is a white No. 17 football jersey. He thinks, anyway.
"I lost it," Rainey said of his varsity jersey. "I've been looking at least a week for it."
For the first time in years, the discussion about Grant football, Rainey's jersey aside, isn't about losing. With Rainey (wearing No. 46) racking up 4 sacks, including a fourth-quarter strip/sack, the Bulldogs beat host Lakes 25-7 in a battle of once-beaten clubs Friday night.
More than just improving to 5-1 and 3-1 in the Northern Lake County Conference by besting a Lakes team that had won four games in a row, Grant became playoff-eligible for the first time since 2012, when the Bulldogs last went to the state playoffs. They had not beaten the Eagles since Week 9 of the 2010 season.
"This is a big statement," said Rainey, a three-year varsity player, adding he might want to keep his No. 46 jersey after his impressive defensive performance.
Grant also got sacks from Alex Gomez, Luke Bedrosian and Dylan Hernandez, who was the offensive star with 3 rushing touchdowns.
"Our defense has played phenomenally all season," said coach Chris Robinson, whose Bulldogs surrendered an early touchdown before scoring 25 unanswered points. "That's all Coach (Josh) Christian (defensive coordinator), Coach (Mark) Barczak, Coach (Tom) Evans and the guys on defense."
The loss was especially painful for Lakes (4-2, 3-1), which lost quarterback Chris Selig to an left-ankle injury late in the third quarter. Selig (5-of-10 passing, 19 yards) did not return to the game.
Grant spotted the hosts a 7-0 lead when sophomore running back Mark Hunter (12 carries, 113 yards) busted off a 57-yard touchdown run on the game's second play from scrimmage.
Grant answered late in the opening quarter when Hernandez scored from 11 yards out after quarterback Tyler Elfering (18 carries, 92 yards) raced for a 27-yard gain. The Bulldogs took their first lead when Elfering fired a 36-yard strike down the right sideline to speedy John Bolton with 35 seconds left before halftime.
Hernandez (13 carries, 121 yards) got his second TD on the first series of the second, bursting untouched up the middle from 57 yards out. Rainey's strip/sack set up Hernandez's final touchdown, from 21 yards away, in the fourth quarter.
Grant's previous four wins were against teams with losing records. The Bulldogs viewed the Eagles as just another opponent, however.
"It's just a team we go it," Hernandez said. "We still play the same. It was still just us. It doesn't matter who the team is, we're still going to play how we play. It just turns out that we're good."
The one-game-at-a-time focus has served Grant well. The Bulldogs have remaining games against North Chicago, Grayslake North and Wauconda, and need to win just once to head to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
"We don't disrespect anybody," Robinson said. "We just play Grant football. We found out if we put too much focus on whoever we're playing week to week, it doesn't matter what their record is, we lose focus on our game."