2012 was a record breaking year for the Lake Forest High School football team. Led by standouts Trent Williams, Andrew Clifford, and Tommy Kutschke, the Scouts were the owners of a 6-3 regular season record and the deepest playoff push in program history. The Scouts took 5 out of 6 in the first 6 weeks of the season. A teacher strike that occurred during the week of the Lake Zurich game forced the team to forfeit and accounted for their only loss in that early season stretch.
A lot of the players on the team were upset at the time with their teachers’ actions, but eventually learned to turn that anger into fuel for the fire. Tight end Andrew Freeman said, “I think we were all angry at first, but we tried to channel that into a focus on the rest of the season and what we could accomplish. Going back, I think it’s safe to say most of us wouldn’t change a thing about it.” Clearly, the adversity faced by these Scouts didn’t phase them and it helped propel the team further than they ever would have guessed later on in the season. In the next three weeks, the Scouts would lose a heartbreaker, 22-16 in overtime against a tough Stevenson team. The week after they dropped another close contest to the Warren Blue Devils, 21-18. In the last game of the regular season, the Scouts seemed to return to their original form and laid it on the Mundelein Mustangs 42-7.
Determined and poised, the Scouts went on to the IHSA class 6A playoffs as a 10 seed. In the first round, the Scouts knocked off a gritty Rolling Meadows team 42-24 after trailing 21-7 at halftime. The win set the Scouts up for a rematch against Lakes Community High School. In the third week of the regular season, the Scouts knocked off Lakes 20-13 and handed them their only loss of the regular season. A back and forth battle quickly ensued for the first three quarters of the game. And with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter, Lakes led the Scouts 21-20. Faced with a long fourth down on the Lakes 20 yard line, the Scouts trotted in senior kicker Baylor Broughton. Broughton knocked the kick through the uprights and gave the Scouts a 23-21 lead with about a minute left to play.
The Scouts defense prevailed and they moved on to play Notre Dame College Prep in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs in Niles. Notre Dame was ranked as the 14th seed going into the quarterfinal matchup. The Scouts had more confidence and swagger coming into this one considering they were thought of as the better team in the matchup. Fortunately for the Scouts, their confident composure and execution of the game plan led them to a 31-19 victory over the Dons. In what would end up being the last game of the 2012 season, the Scouts took on a Cary-Grove team known for their disciplined triple option offense. This style of offense was already extremely advanced for a high school school program and Cary-Grove had been notorious for their proficiency in that particular style. The Scouts stuck with the Trojans for a little while and were tied 14-14 at the end of the first quarter. As the game wore on, the Scouts defense became weary as Cary Grove began to pull away. At the end of the game, the scoreboard read 42-21 with the Trojans on top, effectively ending Lake Forest’s storybook season.
The legacy left behind by this team has been cemented in LFHS football history forever. Once again, Andrew Freeman explains it as only a member of that team can.
“It’s kind of something that’s hard to put into words. Football, and this program especially, had meant so much to all us. To be able to put 8,000 people up in those stands was something truly special to experience.”
The season was special not only for the players, but for Lake Forest. The 8,000 students, faculty, community members, and football fans that gathered to watch the game against Cary-Grove was not only a fight for a state championship, but a unifying event of Lake Forest. Parents, siblings, alumni, high schoolers, middle schoolers and so many other people came together to watch the Scouts try to redefine Lake Forest High School history. Andrew’s little brother Will Freeman, a starting strong safety on this year’s Scouts team, was a mere 6th grader in 2012. Remembering each detail, he gave more insight into the impact of his brother’s team by saying, “I was always really excited to go to their games, and I definitely looked up to a lot of the guys as role models. It really prepared me and made me eager for my chance to play high school football.” The landscape and expectations of the high school football program changed after the 2012 team’s unmatched success and the Scouts and head coach Chuck Spagnoli haven’t looked back.
The Lake Forest Football program now trains year-round and the majority of the program has remained extremely focused on the team aspect of football ever since. The 2012 team might not have been the biggest, strongest, fastest or most talented team in the history of the high school, but they very distinctly embodied everything a team should be. Most of the guys on that team just graduated college and are starting their careers in the world. Though they may not all remain close, the common thread of their success and the “brotherhood” element of football at LFHS is something sacred that will never be broken. Freeman emotionally describes a scene from the season which demonstrates those inherent values of the season, “The most telling moment for me was at halftime during our first playoff game against Rolling Meadows. We were down 21-7 and it wasn’t looking great, it likely could have been our final game. In that moment, I realized that I didn’t see the fear in just my fellow seniors eyes, but everyone on the team. None of us wanted it to be over, we couldn’t accept it.”
The rich tradition of brotherhood and legacy have pushed many Lake Forest teams to be better than they ever thought they had the potential to be. To this day, the 2012 football team is one of three football teams in the high school’s history on the Wall of Fame outside of the Competition Gym. Their legacy will never be forgotten. It carries on in the seniors on this year’s team, who took the thrill and excitement from West Campus as middle schoolers and made it their mission to continue the tradition of Scout Pride.