Look at Highland Park High School’s football team now.
It owns a 3-3 record, after beating visiting Glenbrook North 26-7 on Sept. 28.
Three weeks ago it had fallen to 0-3 with a 40-7 loss to visiting Hersey.
“People were saying we were a joke,” Giants football coach Joe Horeni said after his crew improved to .500 overall stayed at 1.000 (2-0) in the Central Suburban League North. “I’m really proud of our kids; it says a lot about them, what they’ve been able to do lately.”
HP scored in a variety of ways against the Spartans (3-3, 0-2), finding the end zone via the run (twice), the pass and on an interception return. The pick-six — from No. 7, junior linebacker Noa Morgenstern, late in the second quarter — covered 55 yards and rivaled the home crowd’s excitement level that junior running back Tom Motzko had generated with his 82-yard touchdown run at 6:51 of the fourth quarter.
With the score tied at 7-7, Spartans senior quarterback Burke Morley (7-for-16-2, 108 yards) threw a dart toward an intended receiver in the middle of the field. Morgenstern read it perfectly, grabbed pigskin and exploded untouched for the score.
The Giants’ lead grew to 20-7 just before halftime, thanks to senior quarterback John Sakos’ deft, 27-yard TD strike to senior Noah Spitz with 14 seconds left in the second quarter. Sakos (6-for-15-1, 128), three plays after connecting with Motzko for a 31-yard gain, lofted a well-placed pass to a sprinting Spitz in the middle of the end zone. Spitz — bracketed by a pair defensive backs — out-jumped the Spartans to cap a 62-yard drive.
Spartans senior running back Jimmy Karfis (13 rushes, 60 yards) had answered Giants junior back Jared Bloom’s 1-yard TD run in the first quarter with a 22-yard TD reception.
Junior Andrew Pollina’s extra point made it a 7-7 game.
Bloom carried the ball 20 times for 111 yards, giving him two 100-yard rushing games in as many weeks. Motzko, also a tenacious linebacker, finished with 98 yards rushing (on only four carries) and 58 yards receiving.
Giants senior linebacker Nick Heilizer intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
“Nick is a football player, with great football awareness,” Horeni said. “Has a tremendous sense of where he needs to be.
“We’re lucky to have him.”
Among Highland Park’s other defensive highlights: senior lineman Marcus Shaw’s fumble recovery on the visitors’ first possession; senior defensive back Luke Baldwin’s fumble recovery; senior lineman Will Hansen’s sack and quarterback pressure — the latter preceded Heilizer’s pick at 7:48 in the fourth quarter.
Glenbrook North junior DB Ben Kieffer came down with an interception midway through the third quarter. Spartans junior lineman Nick Mantas recorded a sack, and senior teammate Landon Abboud dropped a Giant for a one-yard loss after a reception.
Colin Paul paced North in receiving yards (33, on one grab). Senior running back Chris Heywood rushed eight times for 38 yards for the Spartans, who defeated HP 42-28 last fall.