Highland Park, Sports

Highland Park can’t match Conant’s second-half barrage and falls to 2-2

History doesn’t always repeat itself, but Highland Park football wishes it did.

Like in Week 3, the Giants’ opponent scored in bunches in Week 4 Thursday night. Unlike Week 3, however, Highland Park could not keep up in a 64-34 loss to Conant Sept. 14 in Hoffman Estates.

“We need to work on some things and play harder with conference coming up,” Giants coach Anthony Kopp said. “Last week, we were great. We played great football. Tonight wasn’t our night so we have to learn from it, move on and get ready for conference.”

Highland Park receiver Johnny Walker gains yards after the catch on Thursday.

It appeared this one was headed for a dramatic second half. Highland Park responded to a 12-0 deficit with a 21-point third quarter and held a 21-20 advantage just before halftime.

But the Cougars scored in the final play of the half and that seemed to turn everything on its head. Conant went on to score every time it touched the football the rest of the way, including with two return touchdowns (one on a kickoff, and one on an interception).

The Giants could not keep up and lost some key players to injury along the way, having to play much of the game without starting middle linebacker Tyler Gleyzer and wide receiver and safety Nick Blumer.

According to Kopp, Conant’s physicality was a factor and Highland Park needs to be ready for more of that with conference play beginning next week.

“It’s a lot of mental stuff and just making sure we are prepared to play a physical football game,” he said. “And that’s all of us. That is everyone who was on our sidelines has to be ready for a physical football game every week. That’s what we want to do. I just think it wasn’t our night.”

The Giants attempted to hang in. Conant stopped Highland Park’s first two second-half possessions and score to take a three-score lead. But the Giants began to answer.

Giants coach Anthony Kopp addresses his team after the Week 4 loss.

Twice Highland Park brought it back to within two scores — once on a 50-yard pass from David Finfer to running back Nikko Rosenbloom and the other time on a 5-yards rush from Finfer. The Cougars would not let up, though, answering each time and then some.

Cougars running back Cooper Hanson gashed the Giants defense all night, finishing with 290 yards (12.1 yards per carry), four touchdowns and three two-point conversions.

Finfer again led Highland Park, tossing for 232 yards and three TDs and rushing for 75 yards and two more scores. Rosenbloom caught two touchdowns as he totaled 108 yards receiving. Andrew Cortes (44 yards receiving) caught the other touchdown pass for the Giants. Cortes also had seven tackles, one for loss.

“We have our ups and downs and at the end of the day we just didn’t come out to play,” said Rosenbloom, also a defensive back. “We have conference coming up and our team is really going to come together. I really think we have something here and we’re going to pull through.”

Highland Park (2-2) opens Central Suburban North play against reigning league champ Maine West (4-0) on Friday, Sept. 22, in Highland Park. Then, the Giants host Niles North (2-2) and Niles West (3-1) — a new CSL North foe — the following two weeks before visiting Maine East (1-3) and Vernon Hills (1-3) to finish the season.

The Giants are attempting to return to the postseason for the first time in six years and need to get to five wins to qualify. But first and foremost, Kopp said, Highland Park wants to contend for a conference title.

“Tomorrow, get a real good workout in, watch this film, learn from it — plenty to learn from,” he said. “Then, ready to go from there. Start breaking down Maine West, coming up with a plan.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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