Football team has never-say-die spirit that’s prevalent throughout Grant athletics
By Bryan Bonato For Sun-Times Media October 3, 2013 9:30PM
Jeremy Bredwood of Grant (left) celebrates his kick return for a TD last week with teammate Kemar Miller. More big plays like this will be needed Friday if Grant is to upset Lakes. | JOHN KONSTANTARAS~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
GRANT’S DRIVE FOR FIVE (WINS)
Grant opened the season with Crystal Lake Central and Lake Forest, quality 6A teams that are a combined 8-2, and that is arguably the difference between 1-4 and 3-2.
The win over North Chicago last weekend extends Grant’s winning streak over the Warhawks to seven games, and Glen Kozlowski is 0-12 against Grant as a head coach with Wauconda and North Chicago.
To keep the playoff dream alive another week, the Bulldogs must now upset Lakes on the Eagles’ Homecoming. The Eagles are averaging 41.2 points per game and have outscored each of their last four opponents by four touchdowns or more. They’ve also handled Grant in their last three meetings (38-14 and 38-7 in 2011, and 42-14 in 2012).
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:15AM
Never has a school’s nickname better-represented the type of student-athletes at the school.
Grant High School’s kids really are Bulldogs: relentless, determined and possessing a never-give-up mentality.
That makeup has served the Bulldogs well even though they’re often battling uphill in sports in the North Suburban Conference.
■ This past spring, Grant’s softball team beat Zion-Benton in the North Suburban Conference Championship Game, and its boys track team won its second straight NSC title.
■ In 2012, Grant’s baseball team brought home a third-place trophy from the 4A state baseball tournament. That year, the Bulldogs’ boys basketball team defeated a young Stevenson squad that would finish runner-up in 4A a year later.
■ Even the cheerleading team is two-time defending champion in the state’s toughest conference while competing against two powers in the sport — Stevenson and Lake Zurich.
To be sure, Grant is the second-largest school in the NSC Prairie Division behind Round Lake, and it’s 420 students larger than the division’s third-largest school, Lakes.
That makes a difference, but in most sports, the Bulldogs take a significant step up in competition when they enter conference-wide or IHSA competition, and they rise to the challenge.
Going out and competing in situations where many might be tempted to write them off has become a part of Grant’s sports culture.
It’s wasn’t surprising then that, after dropping their first four games and losing quarterback Jake Bychowski to an ankle injury in a Week 3 loss to Libertyville, the Bulldogs’ football found a way to gut out a victory over North Chicago when other teams would have already checked out.
Statewide, just 15 of the 77 teams that started 0-4 and played last weekend got off the schneid, and only Grant and downstate DuQuoin posted victories over teams with winning records.
Sitting on 1-4, Grant still must run the table to make the playoffs, and that includes beating area powerhouse Lakes on the road Friday night.
But, at least the Bulldogs are now part of the playoff discussion. If they can beat Lakes, they will have a real shot in each of their final three games.
Everyone involved in the program is fully aware of the math and the odds:
“It’s one win at a time. Obviously the kids know,” said Grant coach Kurt Rous of the must-win situatiion. “They’re not stupid, but it’s not something we stress. We just needed A win.
“Now, we need TWO wins. The coming week will be a lot like last week. Nobody will think we can beat Lakes, which is fine. We’re not in position to worry about those things.”
Grant beat North Chicago with a halfback-option pass for a touchdown in the final minutes.
“I can’t take credit for that call. That was Coach (Jim) Cramer up in the box. I just make sure we block. That was a great call,” Rous said. “We ran the toss, and Marshall (Clark) was getting some yards. I’m sure they thought it was coming again, so we threw it. Bredwood was open. It wasn’t a great throw, but he made a great catch.”
Cramer is the Grant throwing coach for Grant’s highly regarded track program and played high school football back in the day for Providence Catholic.
Clark actually was the FOURTH Grant player to throw a pass in the North Chicago game, which tells you that the team has struggled at that position since starter Jake Bychowski went down with an ankle injury in Week 3.
“Amazing. The game was on the line, and we had to score,” said Clark of his throw. “As I dropped back, I saw (Jeremy Bredwood) wide open. I knew I just had to get it off in time. I’m just happy we got the win. We have to win five in a row. This is No. 1.”
Bredwood scored both Grant TDs in the win, and he knows how hard these wins against quality opponents are to come by, give the team’s laundry list of injuries
“It’s definitely hard on the offense, but we have people getting reps every day stepping up. When there are injuries, we have guys who are capable of doing the job, Bredwood said. “Coach tell us 1-11, which means for us to go as a team, we all have to do our jobs.
“If your assignment is blocking, block. If the ball is thrown to you, catch it. Make sure you get out of bounds when you need to. Everybody doing their job is how you win football games.”
Friday, against Lakes, everybody in a Grant uniform will have to do his job extremely well.
“I give our kids credit,” said Rous. “We haven’t been walking around feeling sorry for ourselves .... The last two weeks, I think we’ve had our best two weeks of practice. It’s obviously good to get a win. It would be nice if it came several weeks back, but we’ll take it.”