Grayslake North continues revenge tour, ties for NLCC title
Grayslake North senior defensive back Michael Jefferson said he didn't forget the 62 points Wauconda scored on them a year ago. He added the team started working on their "revenge tour" the moment the 2021 season ended.
North, and its defense, got its revenge Friday, handing Wauconda its first regular-season loss since April 2021, and taking home a share of the Northern Lake County Conference championship. It wasn't until the final minute when Wauconda scored its second touchdown of the night in a 31-13 loss.
The Knights finished 3-6 a year ago, but a new coach made a big difference.
"He brings a family atmosphere," Jefferson said of head coach Brian Johnson. "He is really the one that has led us on this revenge tour."
Both teams end the regular season at 8-1 and 6-1 in conference play, sharing the conference title. Antioch also earned a share with a 6-1 record.
So far this season, Wauconda has scored at least 16 points in every game and hasn't allowed more than 21 points.
It was a new face that made the highlight plays for the defense as sophomore Mitchell Hughes intercepted two passes, and almost had a third on a fourth-down play, which actually was more beneficial for his team for him to let it hit the turf.
"They just kept throwing it to the guy I was covering," said Hughes, who had only one interception going into the game. "I was just in the right coverage, and it just all happened at once."
With Wauconda driving down the field in the final seconds of the second quarter, Hughes kept them off the scoreboard by cutting in front of a receiver and intercepting a pass.
"He's a player," Johnson said of Hughes. "There is no doubt about it. He's got really quick hips and he's definitely one of those unsung heroes for us."
Special teams got into the action as well with Zion Hodges picking up an onside kick off a bounce and running it back 43 yards for the final score of the game.
Jefferson played in all three phases of the game and led the run game with 17 carries for 118 yards and touchdown. The Knights, who have been a pass heavy team all year, ran the ball 26 times compared to 15 passes.
Quarterback Jake Donahue put points on the board with a combination of his feet and arm. On his two touchdowns, he scrambled in the backfield to keep the play alive before finding an open receiver in the end zone. The first scoring pass went to Cameron Bates for 32 yards. Charles Pritchard caught the second from 11 yards away.
There was little pressure for the offense as the defense stifled the Wauconda offense. Cole Porten managed to score the Bulldogs' first touchdown in the second quarter on a 3-yard run. Wauconda didn't find the end zone again until Logan Olsen hooked up with Clayton Glasby with less 30 seconds left in the game.
The defense will look to continue its strong play with the postseason starting next week.
"They've gotten better each week," Johnson said. "One of the things we tried to instill over the summer is we want to build a team for November. The most important thing is to get better every week."