Antioch's Cameron White looks on as the Sequoits' defense holds during an overtime victory against Highland Park in the Class 6A playoffs.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
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It must have been quite a scene.
The clock had just struck midnight.
There in the dark, holding hands and standing quietly, the 32 seniors on the Antioch football team had convened on their home field, wanting to capture one last moment in time together.
Just hours before, they had lost at Lemont in the Class 6A state semifinals.
For the leaders of the team, and the oldest of friends, this was their chance to wrap up the best season in school history on their terms, where it began in modesty during the sweltering days of preseason practice in August.
Eventually, some players kissed the ground, others exchanged their favorite stories from their final season.
Sentimentality oozed from everyone.
"No, not really," star senior running back Cameron White said sheepishly. "The whole thing was really cool, but I don't really get into stuff like that."
Well, at least not when he's upset.
White says that he didn't say much of anything down at the field. And this is someone who could write a book - a thick one at that - on all the fond memories he made there.
"I know why Cameron wasn't (more sentimental)," said Antioch coach Brian Glashagel, who guided the Sequoits to their first undefeated regular season since 1983 and their first-ever trip to the semifinals. "He was still really angry about the (Lemont) game. We had guys in the locker room after the game crying because they were sad about the season ending, about their careers ending.
"Cameron wasn't crying. It took him a long time just to get dressed because he was so upset about losing. I don't think he was thinking about (his career). He was just mad about the loss. He kept saying that we should have won the game, that we should have been going downstate."
A trip to Champaign would have been a high-profile ending fitting for White's high-profile season and career.
White was, hands down, the most electric and prolific running back in Lake County this season, scoring 35 touchdowns and rushing for nearly 1,800 yards to end with an all-time school-best 2,962 yards for his career. That he also carried Antioch to exciting new heights was more than enough reason to reward him as the honorary captain of the Daily Herald's 2008 Lake County all-area football team.
"He was as exciting of an offensive weapon as you could have," said Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken, who faced White more than he would have preferred as a North Suburban Conference Prairie Division foe. "He could do it all. He could run, he could throw, he could make people miss, he could make the big play.
"He probably made one of the biggest plays I've ever seen a high school kid make. Against Glenbard South (in the quarterfinals), he turned what was a sure safety into what was almost the most unbelievable touchdown you'd ever want to see. He was one tackle away from breaking that."
With White, who was named all-state last weekend and has been drawing the interest of college coaches all over the country for months, getting tackled was the exception-not at all the rule.
Many times this season, White left would-be tacklers grasping for nothing but air as he juked and jived his way around the field en route to yet another touchdown.
One of the spectacles his teammates like to recall is a touchdown run during the regular season against Round Lake in which he faked out 10 of 11 defenders before reaching the end zone.
Another is the kickoff return White made in the first round of the playoffs against Chicago Harlan in which he sprinted 96 yards to the end zone. Untouched.
Still another is the touchdown pass he threw during the Glenbard South game to quarterback Matt Romani out of the halfback option.
"I was just trying to do as much as I could to help us win," White said.
White says he started preparing himself for that assignment shortly after last season ended. He didn't play basketball - as he is this winter - so he had plenty of time to work out.
"I think I got faster and my agility got better," White said. "I did a lot of dot drills and ladder drills. I even put a ladder in my backyard. I've always had pretty good speed, but I think my football speed improved."
Meanwhile, his vision and sharp instincts have always been there.
White says they may be his biggest assets of all.
"I've played basketball with Cameron and he was feeding me passes while he was cutting down the lane and I didn't even know how he saw me," Glashagel said. "The same thing would happen on the football field. He'd run to a spot and you'd be like, 'How did he see an opening there?' He's just a great athlete like that and I think he's only going to get better. The best is yet to come with Cameron."
So what will that be?
At this point, White is unsure. He's got the stats, the moves, the highlights and the respect of high school coaches everywhere to merit major Division I consideration. And, to a certain extent, he is.
But since he is just 5-foot-9, White may be considered too small - and too much of a risk - by some coaches at that level.
"I'd love to play Division I at a school that runs a spread offense where I can get out to the outside. That's what I like to do. But I don't know what's going to happen because of my size," White said. "I don't think it really has to mean anything because there are smaller guys out there who are doing great, like Noel Devine (5-foot-8) at West Virginia.
"I'm just going to shoot for (Division I). It's the best of the best and I like the excitement of that."