Glenbard East quarterback Joe Kotch admitted that he had the butterflies before Friday's season opener against Willowbrook.
While it was the junior's second career varsity start, it did not take long for Kotch to settle into the role of leading his team as the signalcaller.
Kotch passed for 247 yards and a touchdown to provide some offensive spark to go along with a strong running game and staunch defensive play. This all added up to a 35-14 victory for the Rams over the visiting Warriors in Lombard. This also marked the first win for new Glenbard East coach John Walters. Walters was the team's defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
Tailback Javonte Burnett scored 3 touchdowns for the Rams while running for 99 yards on 10 carries. Running back Teddy Bostert also punched in a score and wide receiver Mike Fahey had a 54-yard touchdown catch.
The game was tied at 14 at halftime, but Glenbard East (1-0) scored 21 unanswered points to put it away.
"At halftime we said the team with more heart was going to come out of this game," Kotch said. "I think that's what happened. Hats off to our offensive line and the defense."
Willowbrook (0-1) drew first blood when quarterback Steve Ferguson connected with running back Dom Battaglia with a long scoring play. Battaglia took the dump pass, broke a couple of tackles and then raced 70 yards for the score. Battaglia also scored from 5 yards out late in the second quarter.
"He is our horse in a lot of different spots," said Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth. "We want to get the ball in his hands. We executed early."
Burnett answered Battaglia's first score with touchdown runs of 63 and 1 yards to give the Rams a 14-7 lead.
In the second half Glenbard East defense clamped down. Players such as defensive linemen Nate Kolar and Angelo Walker and linebacker Brian Sanborn were frequently in the Warriors' backfield, and Ferguson was running for his dear life.
"We were able to win the battles upfront and get our linebackers where they needed to go," Walters said. "When you make a team one-dimensional and not allow them to run the ball, it makes it a little easier on defense. We were able to take away their running game and make them into a passing team."
With the defense taking over, Kotch marched the Rams down with the field for a number of long passes to Fahey, wideout Mike Ploke and tight end Brandon Havenga. Fahey had 4 catches for 85 yards. Defensive back Roy Williams, who also plays wide receiver, had an interception that led to a score by Bostert four plays later. Glenbard East piled up 449 yards of total offense.
"We think we have a three-headed monster," Walters said of backs Burnett, Bostert and Malysha Flanders. "We will go with the hot hand and mix things up. We get our passing team rolling and we will be a tough team to defend."