Week 9 in Lake County will have interesting storylines
With one week to go in the high school football regular season, the playoff picture in Lake County is starting to come into much better focus.
Here's the latest:
Wauconda (8-0), Warren (7-1), Vernon Hills (6-2) and Grayslake Central (6-2) have guaranteed playoff positions.
Libertyville, Antioch and Lakes are playoff eligible at 5-3. A win in Week 9 would give those teams 6 wins and an automatic playoff spot.
Lake Zurich is 4-4 and must win against Waukegan Friday to become playoff eligible.
Carmel (2-6), Stevenson (3-5), Mundelein (3-5), Grant (2-6), Grayslake North (2-6) and Round Lake (2-6) have been eliminated.
Now for the interesting stuff. The Antioch-Lakes Week 9 matchup will see the winner earn a guaranteed spot while the other must hope it has enough playoff points to get in at 5-4. Antioch should be fine based on having three undefeated teams on its schedule and sitting at 37 points heading into Week 8 (playoff points are the total number of wins of your nine opponents). Lakes only had 30 heading into Week 8. The Eagles' fate, if sitting at 5-4, would be a storyline to keep an eye on.
The other big game in Lake County in Week 9 is the battle for the North Suburban Conference title where Lake Forest will battle Warren. Both teams are 7-1 and 6-0 in NSC play. The winner walks away from Gurnee with a conference title and an even higher playoff seed.
Grant 39, North Chicago 6:
In the Bulldogs' Northern Lake County win over North Chicago, Grant's Daymian Longtin was involved in quite the interesting touchdown play.
"He scored for us, but in a very unconventional way," Grant coach Chris Robinson said.
Robinson explained that North Chicago picked off a pass in Grant's end zone and as its defender took it out of the end zone, he fumbled it. The ball landed in the end zone where Longtin was there to recover it for the touchdown.
"That play highlights how Daymian has been playing for us all year," Robinson said. "He's in on almost every big play on offense for us, mostly by making a key block or being ready on the pitch. His hustle proves his commitment just like the old adage, a player's commitment to the team is how close he is to the ball when the play is over. It's easy to forget he's only a sophomore because of the consistent energy he brings to every play."
Robinson added that touchdown put Grant up by 10 in the fourth quarter. "It was exactly what we needed to keep our momentum toward the end of the game," he said.
Grant (2-6) will look to make it two in a row to close out the season Friday against Grayslake North (2-6) in Grayslake.
"If we want to go out winning, we need to focus on our responsibilities and win every play," Robinson said.
Vernon Hills 28, Highland Park 6:
Vernon Hills became playoff eligible with this Central Suburban North win. The Cougars moved to 6-2 overall.
"We are getting healthy and gelling at the right time," Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo said.
Bellecomo said the Vernon Hills' secondary has played a significant part in the team's surge forward. "Our secondary has led the way for an improved defense since the Deerfield game," he said. "We had a meeting with the kids after that game and they responded."
Kam Martin, Alex Gil, Luke Lutgens and Jake Pieper lead the way in the secondary. "They are playing lights out right now and they are two-way starters," Bellecomo said.
Bellecomo also lauded the efforts of Nate Lee on both sides of the ball.
"Nate Lee has been a gladiator on offense and defense," he said. "He has been carrying the load offensively and is fun to watch."
Bellecomo said Vernon Hills also has benefitted from depth at the skill positions this season.
"We have six skill players on offense who can take it for six on any play," he said. "If an opponent takes one guy away, we have five others who can beat them. It's a coordinator's dream. We got a lot of guys touches against Highland Park. It's also challenging to get a balanced number of touches for all our skill guys. However, once we do, we will be even more difficult to stop."
Vernon Hills will shoot to virtually guarantee a home playoff game when it heads to Park Ridge to face winless Maine East.
Other Lake County Friday scores:
Marist 51, Carmel 28
Lake Forest 29, Mundelein 13