2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 10/9/2013 9:41 PM

Speno, Grayslake North proud to think pink

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Pink socks won't make Cegan Speno think about his Mom more than usual on Friday night.

"I already think about her all the time anyway," Speno said.

But, if football players in pink socks get others to become more aware of breast cancer, Speno, a junior defensive lineman at Grayslake North, would wear pink socks every Friday night if he could.

Candace Speno, his mom, died of multiple cancers, including breast cancer, last year.

As part of October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Speno and the Knights are participating in a "Pink Out" during this week's rivalry game against sister school Grayslake Central, a game that always brings out one of the biggest crowds of the school year at North.

District officials figured that such a well-attended event would be the perfect time to tie in a fundraiser for a cause that affects millions, and probably many of the people who will be in the stands that night.

"The schools are coming together, united for this "Pink Out" game," said Grayslake North coach Steve Wood. "We're going to have a ceremony between the sophomore and varsity games, we'll have special guests and we'll recognize people who have raised a lot of money for the cause."

Meanwhile, fans on both sides are encouraged to wear pink, a tradition that has become popular at athletic contests all over the country during October.

"It's going to be a pretty neat atmosphere," Wood said. "Between the 'Pink Out' and the fact that this is a rivalry game, it's going to be a little bit of a circus. We're going to have a huge crowd."

Candace Speno, who battled cancer for 12 years and was first diagnosed when Cegan was just 4 years old, used to be a part of those big rivalry crowds. She loved football.

"She never liked people knowing she was sick, so she made sure she was at every game, even when she wasn't feeling good," Cegan Speno said. "I don't think she missed a game. She was so tough."

Speno's mom died just weeks before last football season. When Grayslake North hosted a "Pink Out" during its game against Woodstock, Speno struggled. Losing his Mom was still so fresh.

"It was pretty emotional," said Speno, who has been wearing a special necklace that reminds him of his mother every day since her death. "I didn't go into that game (last year against Woodstock) with a very good head."

Speno was on the sophomore team last year. This season, the 5-foot-10, 135-pound junior is a regular in the Knights' rotation on the defensive line. He's an end who uses his quickness to compensate for his smaller frame.

"Cegan is in there quite a bit," Wood said. "The other coaches and I have already been talking with him about the game and what it's going to mean to him. It's probably going to be emotional. We just told him, whatever he needs to do that night, if he needs to come out for a little bit, just let us know."

Speno says he's just glad the rest of his family will be there.

"As long as I have them there supporting me, I'll be OK," Speno said. "I think I've grown since last year and I'll be able to handle it better.

"But it's still going to be tough. When I'm out there, I just try to think about playing hard for my Mom."

The series:

So far, Grayslake Central has the bragging rights in the crosstown rivalry with Grayslake North.

But Grayslake North has the "jug." For now, anyway.

Every year, Grayslake Central and Grayslake North play for a trophy that sits in the winning team's trophy case until the series resumes the following season.

Grayslake North captured the trophy last year with a 49-7 victory over Central, which is still up 5-2 in the series.

"Actually, the trophy really kind of looks like some kind of jug," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. "It gets engraved each year. We were excited to win it last year."

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