Then vs. now: Comparing Highland Park to legendary 1921 team

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HIGHLAND PARK — After Highland Park’s 34-14 win over Niles North on Friday, seniors Daniel Echt and Cole Greenberg grabbed a royal blue Expo marker from the locker room whiteboard.

Together, in front of the rest of the Highland Park football team, Echt and Greenberg inked a “—” on the board. Then they proceeded to scrawl a massive “0” as the other Giants roared in approval. To top off their creation, the duo slowly added a vivid “8,” prompting the team to erupt in frenzied celebration.

The Giants are 8-0, and only once before has Highland Park experienced a comparable level of success. That was 93 years ago, in 1921, when the Deerfield-Shields High School (now Highland Park) football team started 8-0 and finished 8-1 under coach J.L. Rothacker, winning the Chicago Suburban League championship.

“It’s incredible to be a part of something so special and to be a part of Highland Park history,” senior wideout Jack McGuire said. “At the same time, we’re still trying to reach our ultimate goal.”

“It feels awesome, but I would like to be the first 9-0 team ever.” coach Hal Chiodo said. “This is a dream coming true, and we want to keep the dream alive.”

The Giants will look to cap off their undefeated run on Friday night in Northbrook, where they will face off against Glenbrook North (4-4, 3-1 CSL North) in a matchup that will act as the CSL championship game.

Last year, the Highland Park-Glenbrook North game was also played for the conference title, and the Spartans stormed back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to win, 21-17. With 10 seconds left, the Glenbrook North defense stopped Highland Park running back Kelshawn Shields one yard short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal attempt.

The Giants have been waiting since that night to get another shot at the Spartans and claim the conference title.

“This has been marked on our calendar ever since we lost last year,” Greenberg said. “It’s the biggest game of the year for us.”

“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 mouths. The only way we can clean that out is by beating them this week.”

Regardless of the result on Friday, the Giants have already attained the title of one of the best teams in Highland Park history. Here’s a comparison of this year’s squad and Rothacker’s team — the two most successful teams in Highland Park football history (all 1921 statistics courtesy of the 1922 Deerfield-Shields yearbook):

Giants of 1921 vs. Giants of 2014



Riverside (28-0 win)

Waukegan (21-0 win)

Proviso (27-0 win)

New Trier (43-0 win)

Oak Park (40-0 win)

Evanston (34-3 win)

Thornton (46-0 win)

Oak Park (14-0 win, CSL title)

Brockton, Mass. (19-14 loss)


Lake Forest Acad. (41-10 win)

Mundelein (38-21 win)

Evanston (24-7 win)

Waukegan (28-7 win)

Deerfield (17-14 win)

Maine West (42-0 win)

Maine East (63-0 win)

Niles North (34-14 win)

Glenbrook North (TBD)



J.L. Rothacker


Hal Chiodo



22 players


38 players

POINTS SCORED (through 8 games)















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