The Knights crew were dressed in red, white and blue, which was perfect for the opening ceremonies to honor local heroes who served in the Armed Forces. The visitors were dressed for a white out and banged white 5-gallon drums to cheer on their team.
It was also senior night and the parents of the football team, marching band, cheerleaders and poms paraded out onto the field to the raucous adulation of the fans prior to the varsity game.
The visiting Rams struck early and shocked the Knights on the third play from scrimmage when Natori Galmore galloped 74 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. Then Grayslake Central again surprised Grayslake North with an onside kick that was recovered by the Rams on the Knight 41 yard line.
Forced to punt, the Rams defense couldn’t stop Knights' quarterback A.J. Fish on the ground or the air. Fish finally hit Anthony Diggs for a 19-yard touchdown strike with 1:42 left in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
The game was chippy and hard hitting, but penalties kept the Rams from sustaining any further drives. Fish hit a wide-open Vince Smith for a 46-yard touchdown. Coach Ben Ault of Central said, "We shot ourselves in the foot with several penalties and couldn’t finish our drives."
The Knights were driving again when a fumble turned the ball over to Central on North’s 11-yard line. Central was forced to punt and Fish drove his team down the field before scoring on a 6 yard run.
Central’s Coach Ault said, "Fish is the premier quarterback in our conference and probably the county. North is an outstanding team and they are having a great season."
North’s Titus Booker crossed the goal line with a 3-yard run and his team took a 21-7 lead into the half.
Fish drove the Knights down the field on the opening kickoff and scored on a 12-yard scamper. Anthony Anzelmo intercepted a Rams pass at the Knights 45 and Fish found Vince Smith again for a 43 yard score.
Defensively, Coach Wood liked the play of his line and outside linebackers. "Our 'Lance' and 'Rover' Jake Smith and Spencer Davis played really well. Our D-Line did a really great job. Noe Perez at the nose tackle, Vinnie Meixelsperger at end and Brandon Jones at the other end. All 5 of the guys on the D-Line kept us in the game early. In the second half, our stacks played really well."
Central drove down the field but the defense of North stepped up and forced a punt. Five plays later, Fish eluded several Central defenders and scored on a 44 yard run filled with his famous cutbacks and speed to put his team up 42-7 at the end of the third quarter.
"We have a great group of kids who work hard," said North Coach Steve Wood. "The kids are having fun and the coaching staff is having fun. It’s a good time to be where we are with the stands packed and in the hallways. It’s our first time in this position. We’ve had a lot of frustrations over the past years, but this is really exciting."
Coach Ben Ault said, "One of the positives of next week is that it’s senior night. They will be up for that. One of the things we preach to the juniors is that each game is building towards the next season. We want to finish out the season strong. Our kids have played hard throughout the game in each and every contest."
Looking ahead to the playoffs, Coach Wood of Grayslake North said, "We need to be more consistent on defense. We need to get our offense on the field to win. Physical teams are going to hold the ball, wait 25 seconds to run a play and then snap it."
The North Sophomore team pounded the Central squad 51-6 with the visitors averting a shutout by scoring just before the final buzzer.
NEXT UP: The Knights travel to Woodstock North on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:15 p.m.
The Rams host the Gators of Crystal Lake South on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:15 p.m.
These are the final games of the season before the IHSA playoffs begin for both schools.