The Lutheran North Crusaders started off the 2018 high school football season 0-3. That record may not look good on paper; however, the three losses were to three formidable foes. The first was a 20-6 loss to Nazareth Academy (IL), who won the Illinois Class 6A State Championship in 2014 and 2015, and also made it to state and lost last year. Nazareth is also currently 7-1. The second loss was to Homewood-Flossmoor (IL). The Crusaders were tied with the Vikings 14-14 at half, but the Vikings would pull away in the second half winning the game 34-14. Homewood-Flossmoor is in Illinois’ highest class, class 8A. They too are currently 7-1. Lutheran North’s third and final loss right after these two was a 13-12 loss to La Salle (OH), who won the Ohio Division II state championships in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
After their 0-3 start this season, Lutheran North has now won six straight games, outscoring opponents 280-57 in that stretch. They also won the Metro League Conference Title outright for the second year in a row. Before the 2017 season, Lutheran North had not won the conference outright since 2002. The Crusaders earned the number one seed in the Class 2 District 2 and will square off against Grandview High School this Friday at Lutheran North. Here are some highlights of Lutheran North’s dominate 40-0 win over Class 5 Chaminade last Friday:
As recent history shows, a bad start to the season for Lutheran North does not mean much, rather it propels the team. During the 2015 season, head coach Carl Reed’s first season at Lutheran North, the Crusaders started off the season 0-3 and then eventually 1-4, but would win nine games in a row, winning the district championship and making it to the state quarterfinals. Just two years prior to that in 2013, the Crusaders started off the season 0-4, and were outscored 177-70 in that span. But North would again fire off nine straight wins, including a marquee playoff road victory over 10-0 Brentwood. The Crusaders would win the district championship and made it to the state semifinals for the first time since 1999.
One of the key contributors of Lutheran North’s squad this year is senior RB/LB Isaiah Azubuike. He has rushed for 1,158 yards this season along with 17 touchdowns. He even threw a touchdown pass this past Friday against Chaminade on a 48-yard toss to Aubrey Parker en route to a 40-0 win. Azubuike can do it all, as he is also fourth on the team in tackles with 61 total (42 solo). Azubuike racked up Division I offers as soon as his freshman year from schools such as Kansas State University and Iowa State University. The class of 2019 stud would commit to Arkansas State University back in July though, where Lutheran North c/o 2018 running back Donovan Marshall is also currently at.
Lutheran North is rolling right along into the playoffs once again. The 0-3 start and losses in close games may have looked rough at the time, but Crusaders also won a tough game on the road against the MICDS Rams earlier this season, 21-20. They were also tied 20-20 at the half against the Class 4 Farmington Knights a few weeks ago before blowing the score open in the second half. Those close games against premier competition could certainly pay off for the Crusaders in the end.
They got a taste of being in close games against great football teams, something that they did not have much of in last year’s semifinal run. The Crusaders went 12-1, and only had two games that were decided by single digits. One was the 48-46 district championship win over the Trinity Titans and then the 7-6 semifinal loss to the Lamar Tigers. This year, Lutheran North scheduled better football teams and found themselves battling in close games, losing some and winning some. But gaining that experience in close games is a major key to make a deep playoff run, and potentially win a state championship. Lutheran North is one of the most exciting high school football teams in the state to watch and boast an incredibly well-rounded team. They have all of the talent and potential to make a big playoff run again here in 2018. It will be a fun ride to watch.