Football Preview: Highland Park

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2012 record: 3-6, 3-2 CSL North

Last playoff appearance: 2010

Head coach: Hal Chiodo, entering fifth season

Game to watch: Highland Park vs. Deerfield, 7 p.m., Sept. 27. The rivalry is one of the area’s biggest, and this year, the game serves a rubber match of sorts for Chiodo. He’s 2-2 against the Warriors and coming off of a 24-17 loss in 2012.

Who made the most of the offseason?

Coach Hal Chiodo mentioned senior quarterback Tommy Sutker, senior wide receiver Grant Paley and senior middle linebacker Jason Goldsmith, but it’s hard to ignore senior Josh Pollack, a fairly unknown kicker who went down to an Arizona summer camp and walked away with a scholarship. “He’s really, really improved, obviously,” Chiodo said. “He’s going to be a full-ride, Division I kicker at the University of Arizona, and there aren’t many full-ride kickers.”

What adjustments did the program make in the offseason?

The Giants are switching to a 4-3 defense this season, but the biggest adjustment might be something a little less concrete. “The biggest change is kind of our mentality,” Paley said. “The last couple years have been a downward trend, and coaches are really trying to stop that. You’ll notice that in practices and the way that we work out, there’s a new intensity to it.”

Who took the best trip this offseason?

Junior receiver Luke Norcia moonlights as Highland Park’s starting point guard in the winter and wound up having a fairly successful summer on the court. “He plays basketball so he went to nationals for AAU,” Paley said. Norcia and the Rising Stars finished fifth in the D11 tourney.

Who will be a difference maker this season?

Paley is not a big guy at only 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, but the versatile wisp will have a huge workload in 2013. “He has done so much as a receiver, defensive back and kick returner for us,” Chiodo said. “He’s very quick and he plays hard every single play. He’s got his hands on the ball for us a lot during the game, so that’s kind of the guy to watch for our team.”

— Erik Schmidt

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