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Lake Forest Defense Takes on 'Sharks' Mentality; Short Prep Week for Warren

Lake Forest proved it is no fluke in Friday's win over Stevenson. Schedule only gets tougher the rest of the way.

It was an excited yet restrained locker room just after football team had blown out Highland Park, 41-8, on Sept. 2.

Safety Phil Sheridan was being interviewed when he raised his right arm, opened his hand, sticking his thumb on his forehead.

The Sharks were born.

When you are as good as the Scouts have been on defense -- allowing just 70 points in six games -- you must be able to block and tackle first. While strong fundamentals are essential, chemistry is also a necessary component. Part of chemistry is taking on a personality, a collective sense of purpose which guides a unit's mission.  

Watching an all-access episode on the Oklahoma football team, Sheridan got the idea of the "Shark" persona. It caught on with his teammates in the secondary, who liked the idea of feeding off their opponent's weaknesses, much like the characteristics of one of the world's largest fish. 

"It gives us energy. It gives us a unit identity," said Sheridan. 

was as cold-blooded as it gets: 39 yards rushing allowed, five sacks, while consistently putting the Patriots in second-and-long situations. 

"(Stevenson) was representative of us playing team defense, everyone doing their job," said senior corner back Ben Warren. "Not just the sharks; it's everybody."

Said senior safety Nick Keefe: "We can be the sharks as long as we can back it up."

If Friday's game was a predictor of what's to come, Warren, Sheridan, Keefe and the rest of the Scouts defense will be hunting down offenses the rest of the season. 

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Asked if he was worried about facing a desperate Warren team Thursday night, Scouts head coach Chuck Spagnoli offered up a "what about us" reply.

"It's do or die for us, too," said Spagnoli, sitting in his crowded office inside Lake Forest's West Campus. "We can't worry about what Warren's trying to do. We have to worry about what we have to do."

What the Blue Devils are trying to do is make the playoffs. After losing their first four games, which included defeats to top-ranked Maine South, Lake Zurich and Stevenson, Warren must sweep its remaining five opponents to have a chance to qualify. They have won their last two handily, piling up 103 points against North Suburban Conference patsy Mundelein and Zion-Benton

Warren will be the most versatile team the Scouts have faced on offense, featuring quarterback Adam Reuss and running back Devonte Wilson. Reuess has thrown for 434 yards combined in their two victories while Wilson has rushed for 219 yards.

"Reuss has ability," said Spagnoli. "If you let him in the open he will kill you; he will beat you."

Last week, the Scouts were successful in stopping the Patriots on first down, forcing them into passing situations. This week, part of the game plan is to force incompletions by the Blue Devils, who possess skill position players that can run.

"If they are on the edge and they throw and catch it, it can go for six at any point," said Spagnoli. "We have to play the best team game we can."

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For the first time in several years, the Scouts are on the verge of cracking the Top 20 in several polls. ESPN Preps, Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have them listed as one of their "best of the rest" teams. A win over Warren will almost certainly catapult them into the polls. 

Teams talk all the time about dealing with adversity. What about handling success?

"It can be a lot harder especially when it's new born success," said Spagnoli. "They aren't used to this and it's easy to get your head swelled."

The ripple effect of the win over Stevenson is being felt by the players well outside locker room. Around town and around school, people are starting to notice the blue and gold. 

"They (teachers) know we've lost a lot to Stevenson," said Sheridan. "They were asking, 'how did you do it?'. Even in town, when we wear our football shirts."

The recognition is part of why you play high school football. The payoff can be immense when you win. This Scouts team has more goals in mind this season than beating one team. So although everyone else might be, don't expect them to be all that impressed. 

"With every win, it only makes the next one more important," said Spagnoli.

Said Warren: "That one (Stevenson) sparked us and will push us forward the rest of the season."

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Because of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, the Warren game will be Thursday night instead of Friday. Kickoff at Varsity Field is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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