Considering there were two fast, swarming defenses on the field, Friday's Carmel-Glenbard North clash didn't figure to include so many fireworks.
On the second play of the game, Carmel wingback Tim Serio swept right for a 70-yard touchdown run, but the host Corsairs finished the first half with just 3 first downs.
Glenbard North's workhorse tailback, junior Justin Jackson, was tackled for a safety, and was stopped for negative gains five times before halftime. He would eventually finish with 162 rushing yards on 26 carries.
The Panthers' defense made the biggest plays. A 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior Mario Rodriguez changed the momentum in the second quarter and Glenbard North went on to win 31-16.
"Last week, we didn't like the style of play we had," Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens said, referring to a 42-41 loss to Batavia. "That's what we preached all week: 'You know your assignments. Execute with aggression.' Our defense did a very good job of that tonight."
Carmel (0-2) was coming off a 31-6 loss at Lincoln Way East and seemed to be out for redemption. After Serio's long run, a punt pinned North at the 1-yard line and Jackson was swarmed for a safety that made it 8-0. On the ensuing free kick, Carmel's Sean Brennan chased down a ball that went over his head, then returned it inside the Panthers' 20-yard line. But a holding penalty nullified the return and Glenbard North's defense started to flex its muscles.
The Rodriguez pick-six tied the score with 7:20 left in the first half. On the first play after the kickoff, the Panthers knocked the ball loose and Robert Collier recovered the fumble at Carmel's 25. Jackson ran it in from 2 yards out to make it 14-8 at halftime.
"That play probably changed the game around," Rodriguez said of his interception. "After that pick, the tempo went up on our side of the field. I think from there on, we had the momentum."
Glenbard North (1-1) opened the third quarter with a 15-play drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal from Hector Ortiz. On the first play after the kickoff, the Panthers grabbed their third turnover, a fumble recovery by Sam Kreise at the 4-yard line. Jackson scored on the next snap to make it 24-8 with 4:45 left in the third.
"Our defense played great," Corsairs coach Andy Bitto said. "Two weeks in a row, they played awesome. We gave 17 points away last week, probably 20, and we gave away 21 today. We can't play with good teams like that. We've got to address our turnovers."
Glenbard North's offense couldn't have been much more basic. Jackson and quarterback Brian Murphy were pretty much the only two players to touch the ball until the game got out of hand. The Panthers' offensive line started to take over late, with Jackson ripping off a 47-yard run and scoring his third touchdown with 8:21 left.
Carmel responded with its best drive of the night, moving 80 yards in 10 plays, despite losing Serio (12 carries, 114 yards) to an ankle injury. Jake Kane finished the scoring with a 43-yard run.
"He (Serio) hurt it in camp and it's just been nagging him. He wasn't 100 percent to begin with," Bitto said. "What (the late drive) does tell you is we've got to go back and run the option. That's the way we move the ball. I think there's a great team here, I really do."