Donohue's 4 TD passes spark Grayslake North over Vernon Hills

As Grayslake North senior quarterback Jacob Donohue fielded questions from a journalist after a football season opener Friday night in Vernon Hills, an admirer standing about 10 yards away smiled.

Moments later, while still smiling, he saluted the Knight in football armor.

The gesture of respect was well-deserved.

The 5-foot-11, 162-pound Donohue, surrounded by a small army of reliable weaponry, threw for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns in Grayslake North's 38-26 defeat of Vernon Hills.

“Nice ballplayer; he got us, and he did that with his ability to extend plays,” said VH coach Bill Bellecomo, whose Cougars committed 6 turnovers (3 interceptions, 3 fumbles), trailed 24-6 at halftime and made a game of it by scoring the first 14 points of the second half on their Senior Night.

“We couldn't contain him. But our turnovers hurt us, too. It's impossible to win a game when you turn it over as much as we did tonight.”

VH (0-1) looked sharp on its opening drive in pristine weather conditions, as senior QB Nolan Lazor (19-of-30, 311 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) completed his first 2 passes for a combined 42 yards. Grayslake North junior safety Carter Barenbaum — the lone safety in the Knights' cover-3 defense — then collected the first of his two picks in the first quarter.

The former QB now has 4 career varsity interceptions.

GN senior defensive lineman Gavin Mercier came down with the visitors' third INT at 5:38 of the second quarter, setting up Donohue's 13-yard TD toss to sophomore wideout Cameron Bates (4 receptions, 68 yards).

Donohue had connected with senior wideout Deandre Neely Jr. (4-109) and senior slot Charles Pritchard (12-126) for his first two scoring tosses.

“We could've folded after Vernon Hills got as close as it did (down 24-20 in the first minute of the fourth quarter), but we didn't, and that made me proud,” Knights first-year coach Brian Johnson said. “Our quarterback played well and so did our defense.”

The hosts got on the board via a Lazor-Jack Ratajczyk collaboration with 23 ticks left in the first half. Ratajczyk finished with 5 grabs for 61 yards.

VH then used a safety and a pair of TD runs from Jack Pristas and Ben Choi (17 carries, 81 yards) to make the Knights sweat.

But GN's Mitchell Hughes, Michael Jefferson Jr. and Jimmy Filas each recovered a fumble in the second half.

Vernon Hills' top highlight of the second half occurred when Lazor threw a 72-yard TD pass to Shep Ratnow, narrowing GN's lead to 31-26 at 7:44 of the fourth quarter.

Senior Gavin Congalton booted a 40-yard field goal to give Grayslake North (1-0) a 10-0 advantage in the first quarter.

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