Grayslake North quarterback AJ Fish, here competing against Grayslake Central last fall, is helping the Knights' no-huddle offense reach new heights this season.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
At Grayslake North football practice, coaches aren't the only ones who coach.
Cheerleaders do, too.
When the cheerleaders came to head football coach Steve Wood recently with a request to wear his players' opposite game jerseys to cheer in (road jerseys for home games, home jerseys for road games), his initial answer was a polite "no thanks."
Then, Wood got to thinking.
He had wanted to start a tradition with his players this season of having them sing the school fight song to their fans after games.
Problem was, most of the players didn't know the fight song. At least not by heart.
Enter the cheerleaders.
"I knew the cheerleaders know the fight song," Wood said. "So I thought, I'll make a deal with them. If they want to wear our guys' game jerseys to cheer in, then I'd like to get something out of it. I asked them if they would teach our guys the fight song."
Since practices started last month, the cheerleaders came in every Saturday to coach up Wood's players.
"We are practicing it like we practice everything else. We made a real commitment to it," Wood said with a laugh. "And it's nice because it's one less thing I have to worry about. The cheerleaders made sure the guys really know it."
Hurry up: Dare you blink at a Grayslake North game and you might miss a play. Or two, or three or four.
The Knights spent the entire summer overhauling their offense and are now running and gunning out of the no-huddle. It's a move they say takes a vast commitment to discipline and training, but so far is proving worthwhile.
Grayslake North scored 41 points on Round Lake last week with five minutes still remaining in the second quarter.
"The no-huddle is the reason we were able to score so many points so quickly," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "We run a play approximately every 12 seconds.
"It's fast and you've really go to know what you're doing and you've got to be organized, but we like it. We thought it was a system the players we have could run and do well in."
With his athleticism and on-the-fly decision-making skills, starting quarterback AJ Fish seems tailor-made for the no huddle. And Jessie Davis and Titus Booker, the next two quarterbacks in line, seem cut from the same cloth.
"We knew we had several quarterbacks coming up through the system who could really thrive in this system, too," Wood said. "So the coaches spent a lot of time at clinics this past summer, looking a different versions of the offense, talking to other coaches, trying to learn everything we could about implementing it correctly."
Bigger brother: Yes, Gable Leppert is related to Wade Leppert.
The last name gives it away, but the body type doesn't.
Gable Leppert, the starting quarterback at Mundelein, looks a lot different from his big brother Wade, who is quite literally bigger. He punished defenses with his physical running as a fullback until he graduated from Mundelein in 2007.
The older Leppert, who is 6-foot, 240 pounds, then went on to play football at Iowa. The younger Leppert is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds.
"Gable is always joking that Wade got all the size," Mundelein coach Bob Stone said. "Wade is really thick and strong. But the good thing about Gable is that he got a lot of speed and quickness. He runs really well, really hard and he's so fast."
Just breathe: Heat and Mike Panico's asthma don't mix.
It was abnormally hot and sticky last week as the Carmel running back began warming up for the Corsairs' game against Nazareth. Suddenly, he had a tough time breathing.
"He was having an asthma attack during pregame," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "When it gets really hot and humid like that, that's when it really hits him and might bring on an attack. He carries an inhaler so we were able to get him settled down. But it really took a lot out of him."
Panico is one of Carmel's leading rushers. He rushed for more than 100 yards and scored 2 touchdowns in the Corsairs' season opener against Joliet Catholic.
A fumble, by George! There will likely be many scoring opportunities for George Gonzalez this season.
But on Saturday in Antioch's 17-7 win over Waukegan, Gonzalez saw a golden one get away. Right out the backside of the end zone.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Gonzalez, a running back for the Sequoits, busted through the line at the Waukegan 47-yard line and saw daylight. He sprinted 46 yards and was just about ready to cross into the end zone when he took a hit from a defender.
The ball popped out of his arm, rolled around and was eventually knocked out of the back of the end zone. The play was ruled a touchback for Waukegan, which went from the near-certainty of falling behind by another touchdown to getting the ball at its own 20-yard line with no points put on the board.
"George definitely wants that one back," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "What happened was that he had the ball on his inside arm, not on the outside. The defender chasing him down came from the middle of the field and that's why the ball popped out when he got hit.
"We talk to the kids about which arm to put the ball in, but I think George figured he was going to out-run everyone to the end zone. That's something you can fix and George will get a lot more opportunities."
The opportunities won't just be on offense for Gonzalez.
He plays safety for the Sequoits on defense and also is the kicker. He had a field goal and 2 extra points against Waukegan.
Ch-ch-change: A new artificial playing surface isn't the only big change at Warren this season.
The Blue Devils have also changed up their offense, for the first time in head coach Dave Mohapp's 15-year tenure at the school.
Warren is now running the spread offense instead of the I-formation it has become known for.
"It's just a change in philosophy that we thought would fit our personnel better," Mohapp said. "This is definitely a change for me and sometimes change isn't very easy. But I'm getting more familiar and comfortable with it and our players are excited about it."
Mohapp got a close look at the spread last year when his team faced Libertyville, which had switched to that offense to take advantage of the abilities of quarterback AJ Schurr.
"Libertyville generated a lot of points last year out of the spread," Mohapp said. "We're still working to get to that point, but you can see the potential in it."