Coming up is Week 6 of the high school football season. Nevertheless, the Fox Valley Fox Division title basically is on the line this Friday night when Grayslake North visits Crystal Lake Central.
In this same spot a year ago, North won 32-20 en route to winning the division with a 6-0 mark while CL Central went 5-1.
All signs point toward this being a repeat, with the Knights (5-0, 3-0) trying to win their second straight title while the Tigers (4-1, 2-0) are trying to win the outright title for the first time in the eight seasons of division play. Crystal Lake Central shared the title in 2011, 2009 and 2006.
The last Lake County team to have a 9-0 regular season was Stevenson in 2010. Currently, Class 7A state-title contender Lake Zurich is also 5-0 this season.
North comes into the game on a high, having outclassed a good Hampshire team last week. It was 42-0 after three quarters. That came after its only sour note, a scuffling win over Johnsburg.
“I feel a lot better going into the Crystal Lake Central game coming off of this win as opposed to the Johnsburg win,” North coach Steve Wood said. “They’re a very good team. We’re going to have to play just like this to win the game, and I think we’re capable of it.”
A big difference is the return of junior running back Titus Booker, who missed two full games and played sparingly against Johnsburg.
“Last week (against Johnsburg), the kids thought he was going to play,” Wood said. “He went out for a little bit but wasn’t able to maintain. It’s just a big letdown. You have one of the best players on your team who you think is going to play a big part in the game unable to go, and it’s a natural letdown. It’s our job as coaches to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“He wanted to go, but we have to look at the big picture. He feels great, looks great, the offense looked much better tonight (against Hampshire with Booker playing a key role), and the defense played great.”
Booker was deraild by a high ankle sprain in the season-opening win over Lakes.
“I felt good out there just getting back into rhythm,” he said of last Friday’s game. “It was good to be back out there with my teammates.”
He’s also excited about Friday’s big game on CL Central’s Homecoming.
“Crystal Lake Central is one of the top teams in the division every year. They’re a great overall team, and they make you play a complete game. We’re looking forward to playing them,” he said.
Also glad to have Booker back is sophomore quarterback Merrick Gentile, who is an RG3-type of player in his own right.
“It definitely takes a big load off of me, and it just makes us better,” Gentile said of Booker in the backfield. “Having him back makes every part of our game, and just the environment surrounding the team, better.”
Because Grayslake North runs its offense like Oregon does at the collegiate level — fast, faster and fastest — the Knights’ sometimes gets overlooked. But it has been a key all season.
“We love setting the tone with defense. We know our offense can score points, but for the defense to be playing really, really well is awesome,” said senior linebacker Jesse Davis. “Whether it’s to make a statement at the beginning of a game or to get stops and get the ball back for our offense, we need our defense to get where we want to go.”