After Saturday's mighty impressive showing against Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard West football coach Chad Hetlet did his best to temper his team's enthusiasm.
"You know, it's one game," he said. "We beat them last year and they went to the state championship game, so we've got to take it week by week."
Still, it's tough to ignore the strength Glenbard West showed in a 28-7 season-opening win over the rival Tigers on a steamy day at Glen Ellyn's Duchon Field.
All three phases contributed for the Hilltoppers. Joe Zito and juniors Scott Andrews and Devante Toney combined for 191 rushing yards, Joe Marconi and third-string linebacker Eric Farley snared interceptions for a defense that produced 6 sacks, and Hayden Carlson's 69-yard third-quarter punt return set up Glenbard West's final touchdown.
"It's just great to see our team prepare so long and to finally come out here and win means a lot," said Vanderbilt-bound Hilltoppers tight end Nathan Marcus.
After going three-and-out on its first possession, Glenbard West seized momentum on Marconi's interception of Tigers junior quarterback Ryan Graham, who completed 11 of 23 passes for 142 yards and rushed for 50 yards. Six plays later -- including two passes from Henry Haeffner to Marcus -- Zito dove in from a yard out.
A 9-play drive on the Hilltoppers' next possession resulted in a 10-yard scoring run by Scott Andrews and a 14-0 advantage after a quarter. The lead grew to 21-0 on their next possession when Toney burst into the end zone on a 7-yard run.
WW South stopped the bleeding just before halftime with an impressive 13-play drive kept alive by 15-yard roughing-the-punter and facemask penalties against the Hilltoppers. Graham's 12-yard touchdown run narrowed the gap to 21-7 heading to the break.
It was one of the few highlights for the Tigers even though they held their own on the stat sheet. Big plays and Glenbard West's powerful ground game dictated the outcome.
"To their credit, they did what they do well," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "Their special teams beat us, their offense beat us, and their defense controlled us. They took away the big pass and we couldn't drive the ball down the field consistently and cash it in without beating ourselves or getting sacked or doing something that caused us to go backwards."
A relatively quiet second half received a jolt early in the third quarter when Carlson's long punt return led to Zito's 1-yard scoring run and a 28-7 lead. Carlson was one of the many players on both sides struggling with leg cramps due to the 90-degree heat.
"We knew it was going to be hot, and I guarantee heat was a factor," said Hilltoppers offensive lineman Jake Brodner. "We had a lot of cramps everywhere, but our mindset was to just push through it and get the job done."
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