Grayslake North football team's having winning season so far
The growth of the Grayslake North High football program into a consistent winner has continued this season.
The Knights program, which won one game in its first three years of existence, from 2006-08, clinched its fifth-straight winning season by marching out to a 7-1 start this year, including a 4-1 start in the Northern Lake County Conference.
Steve Wood, who has been the program's only head coach through its 11 seasons, told the Lake County Gazette that consistency has been key to its growth.
“Most of our coaches have been together since we started,” Wood said.
As the years have gone on, and the school grew from brand-new to established in those 11 years, more seniors went through to provide leadership, also.
“It just took time,” Wood said. “Our district has not traditionally been a powerhouse in football. There just hasn't been a lot of success. It just took a while for us to be able to implement the work ethic and things we needed in order for us to be successful, and thankfully, we've been able to do that.”
Wood said a turning point for the program came in its sixth season, one year after the program had its first winning season. The team changed the offense to a spread formation to take advantage of the players' talents. That season, the team went 4-5, but the team laid the foundation for a high-powered attack the next season, when the Knights went 8-2 and made the playoffs for the first time and haven't missed them since. Grayslake North still uses that offense.
The Knights still can score, as their per-game average of 31.6 points in the first seven games suggests. However, this season, the defense has been a big part of the team's success. Grayslake North gave up an average of 13.7 points per game, and allowed the second-fewest points of any team in conference play.
Wood said the overall team speed is strong this year, and that's apparent on defense. He also credited his defensive players for being fighters.
“There's a lot of kids that like to get after it – not afraid, willing to stick their nose in, very disciplined, you know,” Wood said. “We haven't given up a lot of big plays because our corners aren't doing what they're supposed to do. They stay back.”
The only time this season the defense didn't play up to its potential was the Knights' 31-14 loss to Lakes on Sept. 9, but Wood said the team has used that loss as an example when it doesn't play the way it's capable of playing.
“You always hate to lose a game, but if you got to lose a game, you know, at least be able to learn from it, and we, at least to this point, have shown that we have,” Wood said.
Wood also cited the Knights' special teams as coming up big this year, particularly kicker Danny Perez, who has made all of his field-goal and extra-point attempts and has put kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks about 75 percent of the time.