High school football: Wheeling knocks off Round Lake in season opener

Thursday night football has arrived in the suburbs. And it might be here to stay.

There were two games in the area this Thursday: Wheeling at Round Lake and Waukegan at North Chicago

There aren’t enough officials to go around on Fridays and Saturdays, forcing several conferences to schedule some Thursday night games.

“Every school in the [Northern Lake] conference will have two home games on Thursdays,” Round Lake athletic director Ethan Karolczak explained.

The Southwest Prairie and a handful of other conferences will play on some Thursdays as well. Weeknight football has been around in the Public League for decades, but that is due to a shortage of football stadiums.

Wheeling knocked off Round Lake 58-7 in the opener for both teams. There was a running clock in the second half, but the Round Lake student section stuck around for the entire game.

Warriors running back Simon Micula scored five touchdowns. The day of the game didn’t matter to him at all.

“Thursday night, Monday night, we will play anywhere at any time,” Micula said. “We wanted to come out and show our identity. We are going to run the ball. We’ve been focusing on that since January.”

Micula had 13 carries for 90 yards, all in the first half.

“It was kind of old school football,” Wheeling coach Peter Panagakis said. “These kids have been together for four years and are pretty good. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Wheeling was 1-8 last season. The Warriors beat Round Lake in the opener last year as well but went on to lose the next eight games. This team has higher expectations with 12 starters back, including Micula and quarterback AJ Marchetti.

Marchetti ran for a 22-yard touchdown and threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Justin Ghibea.

Round Lake scored on a 46-yard touchdown run by Isaac Jackson in the third quarter.

Both schools brought out nice crowds despite the uncommon nature of playing on a Thursday.

“This game was originally supposed to be played on Saturday but this is what we have to do now to deal with the shortage of refs,” Panagakis said. “But under the lights on Thursday isn’t a bad way to start the season.”

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