Grayslake North roars past Wauconda

By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/11/2019 10:57 PM

Trailing host Wauconda 24-21 early in the third quarter on senior night, Grayslake North needed a little spark Friday night in Northern Lake County Conference football action.

And 5-foot-7 junior running back Christian Johnson wound up giving the Knights a second-half explosion as Grayslake North outscored the Bulldogs 27-0 the rest of the way for a 48-24 victory behind a very impressive big-play offense.


Wauconda (2-5, 2-3) contained Johnson in the first half, holding him to 52 yards rushing on 9 carries.

But starting with a 57-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter which gave Grayslake North (3-4, 2-3) the lead for keeps at 27-24, Johnson proceeded to run for 3 more touchdowns in the final 7:05 of the contest to keep the Knights' playoff hopes alive with two weeks left in the regular season.

Johnson ended up with a whopping 285 yards on 20 carries, including game-sealing TD runs of 85, 16, and 59 yards in the fourth quarter to put any chances of a Wauconda comeback out of reach.

"It was kind of close in the first half, and we all just executed well," said Johnson, whose team trailed 17-14 at halftime. "In the first half I was kind of hesitant, but in the second half I was just picking holes and going."

Not only was Johnson fantastic, but senior teammate Joe Swanson also proved to be a game-breaker beginning with a 73-yard TD catch on a halfback option throw from Tony Hines on the Knights' first offensive play. Hines wore No. 7 in honor of injured teammate Nathan Staley.

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Swanson added two 61-yard TD catches from quarterback Nick Fish (6-for-10, 158 yards passing) as the elusive Swanson's third TD gave the Knights a brief 21-17 lead 1:16 into the second half in this wild contest.

"He (Swanson) is the most gifted screen runner I have ever coached high school or college, and he just has a knack of making people miss," said Grayslake North coach Sam Baker, whose team had 530 total yards of offense. "C.J. (Johnson) is gifted, we call him little Tarik Cohen. He's a really good runner, he wears the same No. 29 (as Cohen), and he's just seeing the holes better."

Wauconda's Colin Husko (101 yards on 20 carries) gave the Bulldogs an early 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal before Husko added two 1-yard TD runs for a 17-7 second-quarter lead. Swanson's first 61-yard TD play was followed by Omar Cordova's extra point.

Down 21-17, Wauconda's Javerius McGuinn returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for the score as the Knights missed two tackles near the right sideline in the well-played, competitive game.


But that 24-21 lead would be short-lived for Wauconda as Johnson pretty much took over the game by exploding for a 57-yard TD run to give North the lead for keeps at 27-24.

"They hit us with three first-half touchdowns that were over 60 yards, and it's hard to combat that," said Wauconda coach Dave Mills, whose team was overshadowed despite 335 yards of offense overall. "We had a lot of big plays, but they had more, and give Sam (Baker) credit -- they did a great job. We tried to control the ball, but unfortunately it got away from us."

Husko missed a 28-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 27-27 with 11 minutes to play, Then after the teams traded punts, Johnson bolted down the left sideline for an 85-yard TD run on a first down play to boost the lead to 34-24 with 7:05 to go.

"The offense was great," added Baker. "We knew we were going to start off the game with a trick play, and he (Hines) threw a great pass."

Wauconda quarterback Nick Bulgarelli (13-for-25, 142 yards passing) was solid. But North teammates Jeremy Rowder and Myles Sims both came up with huge fourth-quarter interceptions to help seal the win.

Sophomore Nick R. Bennett added 54 yards on 10 rushes for the Bulldogs while Bulgarelli rushed for 37 yards despite numerous losses due to sacks.

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