NLCC set for Thursday night lights

With the Northern Lake County Conference playing all its Week 8 games Thursday, we'll turn our complete focus there and then come back Friday with a rundown of the rest of the week's Lake County action.

Grayslake North update:

A quick record book note. Senior quarterback Jake Donohue is now the school's all-time leader in passing yards (4,948) and completions (353). He surpassed Austin Martineau's 2016-2018 yardage mark of 4,917 and AJ Fish's 2010-2012 completion benchmark of 350.

North (6-1, 4-1) heads to Round Lake (1-6, 1-4) this week.

“Round Lake is another rivalry game for us,” Grayslake North coach Brian Johnson said. “Playing on a Thursday adds to the excitement this week. They have a nice, varied offense and we need to be able to identify the play and get to the ball carrier. Their defensive backs are really athletic and it will be a challenge to get our passing game going.”

The Knights are in the state playoffs after going 3-6 a year ago.

In last week's win, senior Michael Jefferson returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and rushed for another touchdown. “Michael continues to perform well rushing the football,” Johnson said.

Junior Munoz, a junior, led the team in tackles with seven and also had a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. “Junior is getting more and more time on defense,” Johnson said.

Back to Donahue, he was 4-for-5 for 95 yards passing with 2 touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown. He's thrown for 1,434 yards (100-for-175) and 16 touchdowns this year (6 different receivers have at least 1 touchdown). Six different players scored a touchdown last week for the Knights.

Jefferson has 688 all-purpose yards and has scored 10 touchdowns, while DJ Neely has 638 all-purpose yards and 5 touchdowns.

On the defensive side of things sophomore defensive lineman Juan Marquez and junior outside linebacker Max Bouma (7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks in the last few games) have played well lately. “Juan has been lights out, getting better each week and increasing his time on the field. He is also a monster in the weight room, being one of our strongest players. Max has been a force on the edge for us.”

Johnson added sophomore Dom Pulliam and classmate Tyler McBride fall into the unsung hero category. “Dom has been a great utility player for us,” he said. “He is technically not a starter, but plays more minutes than a lot of other players. He is on all the special teams, backs up at running back and plays defensive back.”

Pulliam had a rushing touchdown, and a fumble recovery and touchdown on kickoff. McBride leads the team in tackles with 41. “Tyler has been playing very well,” Johnson said.

North defeated Round Lake 41-0 last year.

Antioch update:

The Sequoits (4-3, 4-1) head to Grayslake to face Grayslake Central (5-2, 3-2) in a key NLCC battle. Antioch needs a win in its final two weeks to become playoff eligible, while Central needs one win to earn an automatic playoff bid.

“Grayslake Central is led by Mr. Do it All Kaiden Miller,” Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. “He is very dynamic on offense and they move him around quite a bit. Containing him will be key for us. The mood with us is great. We are sitting at 4-3 with a big game on Thursday and the short turnaround. Nothing but juice.”

Caleb Nobiling had 17 tackles in the Week 7 win over Grant. Seth Gomez had 4 sacks. “Our defense played very well,” Glashagel said.

Antioch also received a boost from kicker Carter Webb, who kicked a 32-yard field goal and had several touchbacks on kickoff. “Carter had a great game as well,” Glashagel said. “He pinned Grant deep most of the night.”

In addition to Nobiling's tackle total, Joey Neumann and Seth Gomez each had 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble. “Those are amazing stat lines for defensive players,” Glashagel noted.

Nick Day has rushed for 761 yards on 115 carries and has 13 touchdowns, while Martin Cohen has 27 catches for 443 yards and 9 scores. Nobiling has 72 tackles. “Caleb is a tackle machine,” Glashagel said. “He will be one of the school's all-time leaders.”

Gomez is up to 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks on the season.

The Sequoits also benefit from the presence of Marshall Gehrke and Ethan Kolloff on the field. “Marshall doesn't leave the field, playing wide receiver and defensive back for us,” Glashagel said. “Ethan is another two-way player who never leaves the field on the offensive and defensive line.”

Antioch defeated Grayslake Central 28-14 at home last season.

Grant update:

The Bulldogs (2-5, 1-4) host Lakes (3-4, 2-3) in a must win for the visitors, who need to win both their remaining games to become playoff eligible. Lakes won last year's meeting 42-0 in Lake Villa.

“Lakes runs the ball well and we will need to be physical up front,” Grant coach Tim Norwood said. “If we want to be successful we need to execute for four quarters. We are able to put two good quarters together, but have not been consistent enough to put four good quarters together. The kids are still working hard and trying to improve.”

Grant's offense is led by the likes of quarterback Rylan Art and tailback Pryde Mendoza. “Rylan is one of our studs,” Norwood said. “He is one of our leaders on the offensive side of the ball. Pryde is running well the second half of the season.”

Norwood likes how junior linebacker Ryan Kowalski and senior defensive back Ethan Strutzel have been playing. “Ryan gets our defense set and has done a nice job against the run,” he said. “Ethan does a good job playing both safety and cornerback.”

Strutzel had 3 interceptions against Round Lake.

Others getting after it for the Bulldogs include senior offensive tackle Ivan Hernandez and senior nose guard Cameron Lattimore. “Ivan is a hard worker who has done a nice job blocking for us,” Norwood said. “Cameron does the dirty work on the defensive line with taking on double teams. He does not have the stats that show on paper, but does a nice job for us.”

Grayslake Central update:

The Rams (5-2, 3-2) host Antioch (4-3, 4-1) and can earn a guaranteed playoff spot with a win here.

“Antioch presents several challenges for us,” Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney said. “Their power running game has taken its toll on several opponents. They have a solid stable of backs that looks to punish defenders. Their offensive line has strength. Defensively, they continue to use first-and-second-level movement to disrupt offensive blocking schemes. Antioch finishes aggressively on the ball carrier and will hunt takeaways. For us to succeed we need to match and exceed their physicality. Speed has never been a problem for us, but we must sustain blocks to maximize the impact of our playmakers.

“Our defensive line will have to execute block destruction techniques to create free runners on defense. It will be critical that our linebacker corps stay true to their keys while being aware of the counter and reverse game along with the back of trickery the Sequoits dabble in on critical downs.”

The aforementioned Miller and Matty Jens continue to play well for the Rams.

“Kaiden is often the best athlete on the field and can score in a variety of capacities,” Maloney said. “Matty Jens is one of the best linebackers in the county/state as a junior. He continues to raise his game. His zone coverage technique and reaction to run reads allows him to quickly dissect plays and get himself in position to make a tackle or bat a pass.”

In last week's win over Round Lake, Cole Gillette threw for 3 touchdowns.

As a team, Grayslake Central has rushed for 1,430 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games. “Running the ball in our league is extremely critical for long-term success,” Maloney said. “We have improved our production over the course of the last four years.”

The Rams also have been boosted by the play of defensive back Jordan Cleaves. “Jordan is developing into a great cover corner,” Maloney said. “He trusts his instincts and has shown flashes of excellent ball skills.”

Maloney also liked the way Ethan Rodriguez played in a recent game against Grant.

“Ethan got a spot start at right guard and graded out at 94 percent,” the coach pointed out. “He is a mainstay on the prep teams on both sides of the ball. Against Round Lake, he played the entire second half at inside linebacker and came away the leading tackler in the game. His effort, character and selfless commitment are exactly what our program is all about.”

Jack Kaniok has provided major stability on the Central offensive line.

“Jack starts at either guard or center, depending on the health of the rest of the offensive line,” Maloney said. “Jack is a cerebral player who has refined his technique and improved the amount of violence with which he blocks defenders. He leads on and off the field. His hard work in film study and meetings benefits the entire offense. He quickly identifies defensive fronts and makes appropriate blocking adjustments at the line of scrimmage.”

Lakes update:

The situation for Lakes (3-4, 2-3) is simple. Win the final two games against Grant (2-5, 1-4) on the road and Grayslake Central at home and it becomes playoff eligible with five wins.

Up first, Grant.

“A key will be getting lined up properly on defense,” Lakes coach Jason Ellerman said. “Grant has like a million formations to prepare for. This will be a challenge, especially on a short week. Executing and sustaining drives on offense are the two keys for us to be successful.”

Tyson Dewey now sits second all-time in the Lakes record books for most catches in a season with 45. Jake Balliu is the record-holder with 62.

Ellerman pointed out sophomore Zachk Raffone and senior Nick Abavera are having fine seasons at outside linebacker.

“I would consider them unsung heroes for us,” he said. “They are quiet kids who work very hard and play with good technique. Coach Garrett Youngren has those guys playing well.”

Wauconda update:

The Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0) can clinch no worse than a share of their second NLCC title in a row with a win at home against North Chicago (1-6, 0-5). Wauconda is 17-1 over the last two years. Wauconda won last year's encounter 51-0 at North Chicago.

“The Thursday night game adds an extra challenge this week with one less day of prep,” Wauconda coach Chris Prostka said.

“Our kids have adapted well and are ready to go. It helps that this is our sixth home game this season and we are comfortable with our routine at home. We want to continue to play physical football, be balanced on offense and play sound defense, while limiting big plays.”

Connor Vanselow had 219 yards of total offense last week against Lakes and scored 5 touchdowns. Logan Olsen was 11-for-12 passing with 2 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs have 15 takeaways through seven games.

Speaking of defense, Shan Svoboda and Conlan Rath are a big part of the Bulldogs' success on that side of the ball. Svoboda has 2 picks, while Rath is second in tackles and has 6 tackles for loss.

“Shane is doing a great job in coverage and has been solid coming up to tackle on the run game,” Prostka said. “Conlan quietly does his job, making tackles, pressuring the quarterback and covering against the pass.”

Prostka also gave high grades to Cole Porten and Ryan Frisch.

“Cole has been a player who has been effective for us at a variety of spots,” he said. “He is a good blocker, tackler and runner. He has the second-most rushing yards on the team so far and runs hard. He is a contributor on many of our special teams units as well.

“Ryan is a senior who played tight end and linebacker for us last year. He transitioned to playing defensive line for us this year. He has done a great job in his new role. Ryan does a great job of playing hard, but also keeping the team loose with his personality.”

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