The slogans say it all.
Glenbard West: "Finish the job."
Wheaton Warrenville South: "Better than yesterday."
When both sides came up with the motivational words in the off-season, it's almost like the Class 7A football powers were talking to each other. Now they'll do their talking on the field.
In a rematch of last year's 7A state championship game an epic showdown won by WW South 31-24 in double overtime the DuPage County rivals meet much earlier than they hoped. They'll play in a Saturday quarterfinal at Red Grange Field.
Not coincidentally, the game's at 4 p.m. It's the same time as the 7A title game in two weeks.
"Everyone was hoping we'd play them in the state title game, but here we are," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "But the kids want this matchup, so I think it's good. We'll take our shot at them."
Many of the faces from last year's title game will be different on Saturday, but several are the same. WW South quarterback Reilly O'Toole threw for 129 yards and a touchdown in the final, while Matt Rogers rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown. Glenbard West running back Nick Burrello ran for 72 yards, while linebacker Justin Mesch snared an interception and had 2 sacks.
Glenbard West linemen Tommy Schutt and Jordan Walsh. Hilltoppers safety Mike Laning and WW South counterpart Caleb Bednarz. Tigers linemen Luke Luhrsen and Sparty Chino.
Plenty of key figures on both sides will bring back the memories of last year's thriller. The site may be different, but the hype feels awfully familiar.
"I don't know how you top last year's game but everything's in place to meet those expectations," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch.
Throughout the regular season, WW South (11-0) and Glenbard West (10-1) appeared headed toward unbeaten records and, in turn, probable top seeds on opposite sides of the 32-team Class 7A bracket.
Glenbard West's Week 9 loss to Lyons Twp., however, changed everything. Not only were the Hilltoppers and WW South placed in the same bracket, they were tabbed as the top two seeds in the same eight-team quadrant.
"It's a state championship game in a quadrant," Muhitch said. "It's a special year for 7A and this is a special rematch."
It's also the first of many rematches.
Starting next fall the rivals will renew their season-opening series. They played for years until suspending the series in 2007 and, including last year's title game, the Tigers have won eight of the last 11 meetings.
In terms of bragging rights, though, no one is thinking beyond Saturday.
"It feels a lot bigger than a quarterfinal," Hetlet said. "The thing that's great about games like this is that they bring out the best in everyone. It's a great matchup."