For Glenbrook North, having two quarterbacks really does mean having two quarterbacks.
Over the last two weeks, the Spartans have split duties between senior Danny Ahern, the starter for the majority of the season, and junior Nick Karis. The division of the role hasn’t resulted in a controversy; it’s resulted in wins. Glenbrook North beat Niles North 39-29 and Maine West 56-26.
The rotation is fairly loose. Karis relieved Ahern in the fourth quarter of the Niles North game and the two alternated series and even individual snaps against Maine West. The playing quarterback is determined by game situation.
“Nick’s a really explosive runner,” Ahern said. “It’s like having another running back in the backfield. I’m more of a traditional quarterback where I can move when I have to, I can make plays. But I’m primarily a thrower.”
The Spartans (4-4, 3-1) will face undefeated Highland Park (8-0, 4-0) in a Central Suburban North matchup at home Friday night.
The game is a big one. A fifth wins makes Glenbrook North playoff eligible, while Highland Park improve its playoff seeding by finishing 9-0. Also, the conference title is on the line, Giants’ coach Hal Chiodo is retiring at season’s end and memories of last year’s match-up still linger. In 2013, the Spartans came back from 17 points down and beat the Giants on a goal-line stand.
“There are going to be a lot of intangibles in this game that everyone’s going to think about,” Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper said. “For us, we have to win. We’ve been in the playoffs for two weeks already. Going 2-4, we have to win every game, so we’re not going to change the way we approach it. It’s another game we have to win.”
Karis rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns against Maine West, while Ahern threw for 137 yards and a touchdown (and ran for five yards and two scores of his own). The arrangement limited snaps for Ahern, which helped him stay in the game longer after dealing with a sprained left ankle all year. It also gave Karis more experience.
“With Nick being a junior, he’s learning as he’s going,” Pieper said. “He doesn’t have everything on his shoulders.”
The Giants have excelled on defense (they’re allowing only 9.1 points per game), so a tactic like the two-quarterback system might keep them on their toes.
“It forces the defenses that we’re playing to scheme for two different types of quarterbacks,” senior wide receiver David Burnside said. “Danny’s a really good passer and Nick’s a good runner. They each bring their own characteristics that a defense has to prep for.”