It didn't take long for Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet to acquaint himself with the football facilities at Libertyville High School on Saturday.
Technically, it was more of a re-acquaintance.
His first job out of college was teaching and coaching at Libertyville. He was a defensive line coach in 1994, the year former Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski took over the program.
"I also played here at Libertyville growing up," Hetlet said. "I played high school football at Zion-Benton."
As Hetlet settled into familiar surroundings, his players quickly made themselves at home, too. In the end zone.
The Hilltoppers came up with some big defensive plays, including an interception, and subsequently reeled off two scores within the first seven minutes of their Class 7A second-round tilt against Libertyville. That set the tone for what ultimately went down in the books as a 38-10 victory for Glenbard West, which stays unbeaten at 11-0 and advances to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five years.
Next up is Wheaton North (10-1), a 14-7 second-round winner over Prospect.
"Starting fast is what we do. It's a goal we set for our team this year," said 6-foot-5 senior tight end Nathan Marcus, who caught 7 passes for 102 yards and also blocked a Libertyville punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. "We're one of the best at starting fast and once we get rolling, you can't stop us."
But Libertyville, which closes out the season with an 8-3 record, did manage to slow Glenbard West temporarily.
After falling behind 14-0 on touchdowns by Glenbard West running back Devante Toney, the Wildcats got back on track. They recovered a Glenbard West fumble and then turned that into points on the scoreboard. With four minutes left in the first half, Austin Williams nailed a 33-yard field goal.
Then the Libertyville defense came up big on two straight possessions. The Wildcats forced a Glenbard West punt and then they held inside the 20-yard line and forced the Hilltoppers to settle for a field goal. Glenbard West kicker Hayden Lekacz kicked a 33-yard field goal of his own just before the halftime break to extend the lead to 17-3.
Libertyville then made things real interesting by scoring the next touchdown, a 41-yard pass from quarterback Jack Deichl to Justin Guarnaccio (5 catches for 97 yards). That cut the Glenbard West lead to 17-10 with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
"We had some momentum going," said Deichl, who completed 12-of-23 passes for 152 yards, despite being sacked eight times. "We really thought we were still in it at that point."
Then, the Hilltoppers reacquainted themselves with the end zone.
Glenbard West scored three unanswered fourth-quarter touchdowns to slam the door on any hopes the Wildcats had of a comeback.
Quarterback Henry Haeffner (12-for-18, 175 yards) got the ball rolling when he connected with Hayden Carlson for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Then the versatile Marcus, who also plays special teams, blocked a Libertyville punt deep in Libertyville territory and then recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. That put Glenbard West up 31-10 with 10:32 left in the fourth quarter.
"Nathan is a special player," Hetlet said. "We use him everywhere -- offense, defense, special teams. He's done it all year. He's our big-time player and he comes to play every week."
Scott Andrews closed out the scoring for the Hilltoppers when he steamed 41 yards for a touchdown with 7:35 left in the game. He finished with 102 rushing yards on 13 carries.
"We played a great third quarter. We were right where we wanted to be," first-year Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. "But then in the fourth quarter, the wheels came off.
"But we've had fun the last few weeks as things started to come together for us. These kids have set the bar for years to come."