After his Highland Park High School football team defeated Deerfield for the first time since any of the seniors became Giants, Coach Hal Chiodo sat at a computer trying to answer a writer’s question.
The question was simple. How long has it been since Highland Park began a season with a 4-1 record? The answer took some research. It was 1968 and the Giants finished with a 6-1-1 mark. There was no post season then and Highland Park played in the Suburban League, which no longer exists.
Times have changed since Highland Park got off to this good a start and it has a lot to do with innovation from both the coaches and the players. A pair of Giants got creative and a touchdown was the result. The coaching staff put a game plan in place to slow Deerfield’s attack.
“We took away what they do best,” Chiodo said. “Davey (Lindquist) and Mike (Harrison) did a great job.” They are Highland Park’s defensive coaches. “(Deerfield) had success early with the option pitch but we forced two bad pitches so I think they ended up going away from it and running up the middle."
Deerfield ran wide several times on its opening drive including one for 29 yards and a touchdown by Sam Modro. After that, the Giant defense kept the Warriors off the scoreboard the rest of the night.
An initial turning point came right after Modro’s touchdown when Highland Park’s Tommy Rudman blocked the extra point attempt. “They started out controlling the intensity and it was a bad feeling,” Rudman said. “Then we got to a good place and we controlled the intensity.”
Rudman was a key component of the defense along with Jason Shulruff and Teddy Sutker, according to Chiodo.
Player innovation came midway through the fourth quarter when Tommy Sutker, Teddy’s brother, threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Grant Paley. “That was not in our playbook but we’ve practiced it”, Sutker said of the throw. “He (Paley) ran a slant and was way ahead (of the defenders).”
Highland Park is now 4-1 and undefeated at 1-0 in the Central Suburban League North Division and Chiodo has confidence in his athletes. “They know how to act so things go our way,” he said.