Johnny Cowhey’s campaign pays off with Glenbrook South homecoming win

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GLENVIEW — Other than a minor knee sprain that forced him to limp over to the bleachers to sing the fight song, Johnny Cowhey’s Friday night could not have been much better.

The Glenbrook South senior safety helped lead the Titans (5-2 overall, 1-2 CSL South) to a 42-14 win over rival New Trier, and he did so in the school’s first Friday night homecoming game. The crowd and atmosphere were everything Cowhey had anticipated when he advocated last spring for the game to be moved from its traditional Saturday spot.

Cowhey also had all six of his siblings, four older and two younger, in the crowd watching. Tommy Cowhey had flown back from the Naval Academy to see his brother play, while Lake Park freshman coach Bobby Cowhey had been excused from his school’s varsity game in order to attend.

To top it off, the victory was followed by a fireworks show.

“I was sitting there with the fireworks going on and all the students had stayed to watch and there were people there from the community, and I was just glad I got to experience this with everyone,” Johnny Cowhey said. “It all boils down to just being a great experience.”

It was the kind of Friday night experience Johnny Cowhey first had as a varsity regular last season, but had been dreaming about since he was in elementary school watching his oldest brother Bobby Cowhey play for the Titans.

In fact, Johnny Cowhey has been so familiar with Glenbrook South football over the years that current teammates kid him about it.

“The guys like to make fun of me because for any (Glenbrook South) team in the last nine years, I can tell you their record, who the quarterback and top running back were and who their best players were,” Johnny Cowhey said. “I’ve gone to every game as long as I can remember.”

As coach Mike Noll said: “Johnny is one of our captains and vocal leaders. He’s been a spokesman for the team since about fifth grade.”

Having been so close to the program, Johnny Cowhey realized the school was missing an opportunity by playing its homecoming game on Saturday afternoon.

While it may have been convenient for those coming back from college, current students would traditionally skip the game in order to get ready for that night’s dance. It was usually the lowest-attended game of the season.

In 2012, Glenbrook South had gone to New Trier for that school’s homecoming, and Trevians players admitted the excitement of the evening helped propel them to victory.

With the Trevians scheduled to visit for Glenbrook South’s 2013 homecoming, Johnny Cowhey and a few teammates approached Noll last spring wondering how they could exact change.

Johnny Cowhey said Noll admitted he’d tried unsuccessfully to get the game changed in the past. But the coach told the players they might have more luck if the movement were led by students.

Johnny Cowhey helped set up a meeting with school administrators, Principal Brian Wegley, athletic director Steve Rockrohr and student activities director Jim Shellard.

Johnny Cowhey recruited 15 student leaders from various clubs and the student body president to attend the meeting.

The administrators decided the matter should go to a Student Council vote.

When that day came, Johnny Cowhey presented his case.

“I had a handout that listed all the schools in the surrounding areas who have Friday night homecoming games or who have switched lately,” Johnny Cowhey said. “I talked about the New Trier homecoming game last year and how it had been an advantage for them.

“But I also tried to make it more about the student body and not just the football team. I spoke about how many people in the student body think football games are their favorite times in high school, and this is one less game they get to attend.”

The Student Council voted 22-1 in favor of the change.

Johnny Cowhey’s victory gave him a timely subject for his college application essays.

“I based my essay around the lessons I learned breaking tradition and how traditions are meant to be broken,” he said. “That was a big thing I took away from this.”

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