Chase Gianacakos a big presence up front for St. Charles North

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Chase Gianacakos certainly has the physical build befitting a Big Ten-bound offensive lineman, but elements of his background are unique in comparison to other top-tier recruits.

Born in St. Charles to parents Rich and Stephanie Gianacakos, Chase spent most of his formative years abroad, living in England, Spain, Amsterdam and China from about age six up until high school as his father followed a career in international business.

The family returned to the United States in time for Chase and his twin brother Carter to enroll at St. Charles North for the ninth grade, setting the stage for Chase’s three-year run in the starting lineup for the school’s varsity football team. This fall the 6-foot-6, 288-pound senior left tackle is anchoring a formidable offensive line that has helped the North Stars rack up over 2,000 yards on the ground.

“It definitely gives me a different view of the world, and I have an appreciation for what we have here in the United States,” Gianacakos said of his upbringing. “It was great to be able to experience that because not everyone gets the chance.”

Gianacakos didn’t eat, sleep and breathe football like so many American kids while growing up since he didn’t have the same level of exposure to the sport living in Europe and Asia. He hadn’t played organized football prior to his arrival at St. Charles North four years ago, but by last spring he had close to a dozen Division I scholarship offers.

Family pedigree undoubtedly helped facilitate Gianacakos’ rapid rise, and in late March he verbally committed to Michigan State.

“My dad played football for the University of Illinois and my mom also played volleyball there, so having two parents that played Division I athletics helped me focus in on what I wanted to do,” Gianacakos said. “I couldn’t have done it without them and my coaches.”

Building size and speed have been important for Gianacakos, but he says his biggest area of improvement has come from focusing on technique.

St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak also points to Gianacakos’ diligence in breaking down film as a key to success and a reason to be optimistic about his standout’s future.

“I know Chase’s aspirations are to play at the next level after college,” Pomazak said. “He has the one thing you can’t teach, and that’s professional size. If he can get better every single year and continue to work as hard as he is now, the sky is the limit for him.”

There are more pressing challenges at hand for Gianacakos and his St. Charles North teammates at the moment. The North Stars own a 4-4 record, meaning they must win Saturday at South Elgin to become playoff eligible for the first time since 2009.

Rest assured St. Charles North will try to pound the ball with its effective running game against the Storm. Right tackle Camden Cotter, right guard Ryan Bagnell, center Stephen Bancroft and left guard Brendan McCarthy join Gianacakos on a beefy offensive line that has helped open gaping holes on a regular basis.

“Obviously it helps to have one of the best running backs in the conference in Evan Kurtz,” Gianacakos said of the line’s success. “We all trust each other, and that’s the biggest thing on the offensive line. You’ve got to trust the guy next to you knows what he’s doing so you can make the blocks and make the calls on the line.”

Adding an interesting twist to this week’s game is the fact that a year ago St. Charles North was 4-4 and desperate for a win going into Week 9 against South Elgin. The North Stars lost that contest 14-6 as their playoff hopes were dashed.

“We’re in the same position we were in last year, so we’re thinking let’s not have the same outcome this time,” Gianacakos said.

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