Highland Park football has a lot of returners from its 4-5, no-playoffs season a year ago.
Niles North handed the Giants one of those five losses and did so in Highland Park — not that you needed to remind them.
“Being our first conference game, we really wanted to go 1-0 in conference,” Giants coach Anthony Kopp said. “The kids all on their won were talking about last year. We didn’t have to bring it up.”
The motivation manifested itself in a no-doubt performance Friday, Sept. 23, when Highland Park bested the Vikings 29-6 on the road in Skokie.
The Giants were coming off two consecutive losses (Buffalo Grove, Hersey) in which they gave up at least 45 points. Seeking redemption, Highland Park’s defense forced numerous turnovers, including interceptions from Nick Blumer and Johnny Walker, and kept the Vikings out of the end zone.
“It was huge,” Kopp said of the defensive showing. “That’s something we talked about. We had our previous two games not go how we wanted on D and we have to step up and take advantage of this opportunity in front of us.”
Senior pass rusher DJ Robinson followed the advice, consistently beating his blockers to get in the backfield and make plays.
Robinson finished with six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He said he’s glad the Giants played a team like Hersey (5-0) to prepare them for the rest of the season.
“We were all hyped (for this game),” Robinson said. “The energy was up, everyone was coming in and ready to get revenge (for last year’s 30-7 loss). … We came out here and everyone did their jobs, knew what to do and flew to the ball.”
Highland Park got on top with two first-half touchdowns — quarterback David Finfer scored on a run and he hit Blumer for a 75-yard TD reception — to take a 16-3 lead into halftime. Junior tailback Nikko Rosenbloom did a lot of damage in the first half, rushing for 71 yards en route to 139 total yards on the night.
Early in the second half, the Giants parlayed Blumer’s interception into another score, when Finfer found Blumer for a 29-yard catch and run to make it 22-3. Blumer finished with 11 catches for 180 yards and two scores.
Highland Park’s defense kept Niles North away from the end zone, and the offense finished off the scoring in the fourth quarter when linebacker Tyler Glezer, making a rare offensive appearance, rushed the ball to pay dirt to make it 29-6.
“We just put that in — a little trick play for him,” Kopp said with a smile.
The Giants are now back over .500 at 3-2 with four games remaining the Central Suburban North, including a rivalry tilt against Deerfield (2-3) on Friday, Sept. 30, in Deerfield.
Outside of Highland Park, every team in the CSL North has at least three losses. But Kopp and the Giants, who have a conference title on their minds, know the league still goes through defending champ Deerfield.
“We feel amazing right now, but we’re focused on the next school,” Robinson said. “Now we’re looking at Deerfield. We’re all feeling good and have to have a good week of practice. We’re a good team, just have to stick together, keep our heads up and play football.”
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