Glenbard North may not have had its best showing against Naperville North, but when all was said and done, the Panthers called themselves the outright DuPage Valley Conference champions.
A 21-14 road victory over the Huskies clinched for Glenard North (8-1, 7-0) the outright title, the program's first in 21 years. Still, coach Ryan Wilkens knows that his team will have to play better heading into its first-round playoff matchup.
"We just weren't effective on offense, especially in the second half," Wilkens said of his team's performance. "Too many dropped passes, missed receivers and jumping offsides. I just didn't like our rhythm on offense.
"Nevertheless, we were coming off a championship effort these last two games, and we could have easily come in here and overlooked a quality Naperville North team."
The Panthers got on the board on their first possession, going 89 yards in 13 plays, ending with an 11-yard scoring run by Justin Jackson. Jackson's touchdown with 59 seconds to go in the first quarter put his team up 7-0, ending a drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock.
Two minutes into the second quarter, the Glenbard North defense forced the first of two Naperville North (5-4, 4-3) turnovers. Defensive lineman Andrew Mulshine sacked Huskies quarterback Johnny Brown, forcing the ball loose. Linebacker Mario Rodriguez then recovered it at the Naperville North 23-yard line.
Seven plays later, Jackson scored his second of all three Panthers touchdowns with a 1-yard run up the middle and a 14-0 lead.
Naperville North running back Chris Junior cut the deficit in half with 3:49 to go in the second quarter, scampering 51 yards into the end zone.
Naperville North's second costly turnover came just before halftime when defensive back Sam Kriese recovered a fumble at the Huskies' 3-yard line, setting up Jackson's 3-yard scoring run and a 21-7 halftime lead.
"You can't turn the ball over as many times as we did and you can't have as many penalties as we did against a good team," Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. "Glenbard North makes you pay for it."
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Brown to DeSean Brown with 5:33 to go in the third quarter was as close as the Huskies would get the rest of the night.
Jackson broke his biggest run of the night on Glenbard North's final drive, going 22 yards on a second-down draw play with 1:32 left to ultimately seal the victory.
"I told the guys they have until midnight tonight to celebrate their DVC victory, and then at 8 a.m. tomorrow we start getting better," Wilkens said.