The game ball went to the coach.
Bob Pieper became Glenbrook North’s all-time winningest coach (113-65), when his Spartans dismantled host Vernon Hills 49-22 on Oct. 20.
GBN’s player of the game? Now that’s a toss-up.
You could give the honor to Jimmy Karfis. The senior running back had one of his best games ever, gaining 151 yards and scoring three touchdowns, including an eye-popping 49-yarder in the opening quarter.
Chris Heywood also is deserving. The senior all-purpose player capped the season in impressive style. He had a four-touchdown night: 45-yard interception return, 44-yard reception, 16-yard reception and 11-yard run.
Or, how about “picking” Ben Kieffer?
The junior cornerback had a night to remember. He went home with a soccer stat: hat trick.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Kieffer was a pickoff artist. He intercepted Vernon Hills quarterback Derek Jarrell three times.
It was a stunning — and revealing — performance.
“My defensive coaches have been lying to me,” joked Pieper. “They kept telling me that he couldn’t catch.”
Well … that won’t be the case next year.
“He’ll play some offense for us next year,” Pieper said.
Kieffer definitely can cover. He capped the season with five picks.
“I didn’t expect anything like this would happen tonight,” said Kieffer. “I was just trying to help the team in any way possible.
“I’m so happy,” he added. “It’s so nice to do this for the seniors.”
Kieffer’s first INT came early in the second quarter. He not only timed his leap perfectly, but he also did it with force and determination.
He won the play.
“In an earlier game this year, there was a similar play and the receiver [Highland Park’s Giancarlo Volpestesta] ripped it out of my hands,” said Kieffer. “This time, I got the ball.”
His offensive instincts kicked in almost immediately. After twisting his body and making the grab, Kieffer completed the play by taking it back 26 yards. He eventually was knocked out of bounds at the Vernon Hills’ eight-yard line.
“I love catching the ball as much as any receiver would,” said Kieffer.
And, he added: “When you get one, you want more.”
His second interception came at a key juncture in the game: 18 seconds left in the first half.
Vernon Hills, trailing 35-7 at the time, was desperately trying to get something done just before halftime. The Cougars drove to the GBN 16-yard line on 10 plays. Play No. 11 — a pass into the end zone — was intercepted by Kieffer.
His third pick came on the opening series of the second half.
“He’s got good hips. Good size. He’s a good athlete,” said GBN assistant coach Brad Hokin. “He got the rewards for all of the hard work that he’s put in.
“Ben is one of the kids who plays with a quiet confidence,” Hokin added. “He’s knows that it’s not about him. It’s about the team.”
Meanwhile, Pieper’s win total surpasses the all-time mark of Harold Samorian (112-79), who guided the Spartans to a Class 5A state title in 1974.
Pieper, who received the game ball from assistant head coach Matt Purdy in a post-game huddle, took the honor in stride.
“It’s nice,” he said. “But, it’s not about me. It just says that I’ve had a lot of good players and coaches.”
By beating Vernon Hills, the Spartans ended up 5-4 on the season. During his 18 years at the helm, GBN has put together 12 winning seasons.
The downside to this year’s 5-4 record is that the Spartans didn’t have enough points to qualify to the state playoffs.
“It’s been an up and down season,” said Pieper. “The kids responded tonight. We’re not in the playoffs, but the kids are walking off the field with a win.”
GBN’s Game Balls: Jimmy Karfis (RB), Chris Heywood (RB/DB), Ben Kieffer (DB), Skyler Metzger (LB), Quinn Sybert (LB)
Vernon Hills’ Game Balls: Maxwell Lyle (WR), Luke Perlin (WR)
GBN’s Offensive Player of the Game: Karfis
GBN’s Defensive Player of the Game: Kieffer
GBN’s Offensive Stat Leaders:
— Karfis (20 rushes, 151 yards, 3 TD run)
— Heywood (5 rushes, 40 yards, 1 TD run; 3 catches, 67 yards, 2 TD catches)
— Ben Foster (4-9-0 passing, 67 yards)
GBN’s Defensive Stat Leaders:
— Kieffer (2 tackles, 3 interceptions)
— Metzger (5 tackles, 10-yard QB sack, 2-yard tackle for loss)
— Heywood (45-yard interception return for TD, 2-yard tackle for loss)
— Quinn Sybert (7 tackles)
— Landon Abboud (6 tackles)
— Michael Ciss (5 tackles)
— Michael Weingardt (2 tackles, 4-yard QB sack)
— Cam Casey (2 tackles, 2-yard tackle for loss)
Vernon Hills’ Offensive Stat Leaders:
— Lyle (6 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD catch)
— Perlin (2 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD catch)
— Quinn Geren (7 catches, 48 yards),
— Giovanni Zullo (4 catches, 19 yards, 1 TD catch)
— Derek Jarrell (21-35-3, 187 yards, 3 TD passes)
GBN’s Unsung Hero: Weingardt
Notable: Glenbrook North had a successful onside kick in the first quarter. Andrew Pollina did the kicking. Quinn Sybert did the recovering.