HIGHLAND PARK — Perfection is just one win away for Highland Park football.
After a 34-14 win over Niles North in a Central Suburban North game on Friday, the Giants are 8-0 for the second time in school history and for the first time since 1921.
“It’s incredible,” senior wideout Jack McGuire said. “I know that all of the hard work we’ve put in since last year has paid off.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better senior year,” running back Cole Greenberg said. “We’re just going to keep winning games.”
The Giants notched their eighth straight win by virtue of a dominant second half. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but the final two quarters played to a markedly different tune. The Highland Park defense pitched a second-half shutout, holding down Niles North’s potent rushing attack led by dual-threat quarterback Tony Granato and explosive junior running back Barrington Wade.
Granato rushed for a mere six yards on the night, and Wade found just 40 yards in the second half, failing to break out any long runs.
“In all of the film I saw of [Granato] this year, he was squirting out and improvising all the time,” Highland Park head coach Hal Chiodo said. “He made a lot of long runs this year, but I don’t think he got away one time tonight.
“And Barrington Wade is probably a Division I running back at some point. He got his yards, but he never got a big one on us.”
On the flip side, Greenberg rushed for 202 yards and four touchdowns (one receiving) on 35 carries after scoring six times last week against Maine East. His two fourth-quarter scores helped seal the Highland Park victory over Niles North (4-4, 2-2).
“We came in at halftime and said that we weren’t playing our best,” Greenberg said. “They couldn’t stay with us in the late part of the game, and we just kept grinding.”
Next week, the Giants will face off against Glenbrook North (4-4, 3-1) in a game that will act as a de facto conference championship. Last year, the Highland Park-Glenbrook North matchup was also for the conference title, and the Spartans came back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 21-17 after their defense stopped Highland Park running back Kelshawn Shields one yard short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal attempt with 10 seconds left.
The Giants are itching for another shot at a conference title—and to cap off the regular season with an unblemished record.
“We’re very geared up,” senior defensive lineman Arrie Mitchell said. “We have a motto right now: one yard. One yard kept us from winning a conference championship last year.”
“More important than 8-0 is that we get to play GBN for the conference championship,” Chiodo said. “With as much success as we’ve had and all of the great stuff that has happened, we still haven’t won the conference — and that’s goal 1A. After the way we lost to them last year, that’s still a sour taste in our mouth. The only way we can clean that out is by beating them this week.”