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The fine line between Glenbard West and Wheaton North was as indistinguishable as the mud-caked numbers on the uniforms.
With neither football team able to do much of anything in the muck of Duchon Field caused by pregame downpours, a lone Hayden Lekacz second-quarter field goal proved to be the difference as Glenbard West advanced to the Class 7A semifinals for the third time in five years with Saturday's 3-0 victory over Wheaton North.
The top-seeded Hilltoppers (12-0) will play at home in the semifinals in a rematch against No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-2). The Bears knocked out Glenbard West 10-3 in the second round last year, handing the Hilltoppers' senior class its only high school loss.
"Revenge ... revenge," said Glenbard West senior receiver Nathan Marcus. "We have to take care of business."
On a day when moving the ball was already tough, both teams saw miscues ruin chances at touchdowns. Quarterback Johnny Peltz marched the fifth-seeded Falcons (10-2) down the field midway through the fourth quarter, creating a first-and-10 opportunity at Glenbard West's 25-yard line. The drive, however, ended with an interception by the Hilltoppers' Joe Marconi.
Wheaton North's defense twice stopped Glenbard West, but both ensuing drives stalled for the Falcons. A third-and-7 at midfield turned into a third-and-17 after a pair of penalties, and Glenbard West's third interception of the game — this one by Charlie Sweeney — sealed the win for the Hilltoppers.
"Emotions are all over the place right now," said Falcons defensive back Jaylen Howze. "We did hold them to 3 points. The offense tried to put some drives together, but their defense is good. All in all we played a good game. I'm proud of the seniors, I'm a senior myself. We put our hearts and soul into this sport."
A 42-yard drive set up the 32-yard field goal by Lekacz, but that came after Glenbard West squandered a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Penalties and runs for losses kept pushing back the Hilltoppers.
Late in the second quarter, after Wheaton North's defense held on fourth down at Glenbard West's 40, the Falcons used seven straight runs to work to the Hilltoppers' 13-yard line. An attempt at a game-tying field goal, however, went wide right to keep the halftime score at 3-0.
"It's a field position game when you get on a field like this, and we had opportunities," said Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski. "We played a great game defensively and held a really good offense in check. We had some drives at the end, but they ended in turnovers, unfortunately."
The first six possessions of the second half ended in punts. Glenbard West either punted or turned over the ball on downs on every second-half possession except the one ending the game.
Wheaton North outgained the Hilltoppers 204-184 in total yards as Peltz threw for 106 yards and rushed for 56. Glenbard West's Devante Toney, Joe Zito and Scott Andrews, who missed most of the second half with an ankle injury, combined for 178 rushing yards.
"It was a little difficult, but one of our mottos is, the muddier it is the better we like it," said Glenbard West offensive lineman Jake Brodner. "We just had to dig in a little deeper. It took a lot of effort, but we just had to keep going at it."
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