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By Kevin Schmit
Class 7A semifinal
No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-2)
vs. No. 1 Glenbard West (12-0)
Game time: 1 p.m. Saturday, Glenbard South High School.
Road to the semifinals: Lake Zurich beat No. 11 Crystal Lake South 49-0, No. 3 Hononegah 17-6, and No. 2 Boylan 21-6; Glenbard West beat No. 16 Elk Grove 49-21, No. 9 Libertyville 38-10, and No. 5 Wheaton North 3-0.
Outlook: It's almost like these teams have running reservations in the state semifinals. This is Glenbard West's third appearance in the last five years and Lake Zurich's sixth in the last seven years. It's a rematch of the Hilltoppers 21-17 semifinal win in 2009 and last year's 10-3 second-round win by Lake Zurich. Last year's game stands as the only high school loss for Glenbard West's seniors, so motivation won't be a problem with the Hilltoppers. The teams aren't exactly mirror images, but they're pretty similar philosophically on both sides of the ball, starting with stifling defense and a three-man front. Glenbard West's push comes from lineman Ruben Dunbar, but this will be a game for run-stoppers such as linebackers Tyler Dayton and Joe Marconi. Lake Zurich's shifted its offensive focus from a year ago, relying on a run-heavy Wing T set that keeps defenses off-balance with play-action passes from Noah Allgood. The junior quarterback threw 2 touchdown passes on only 5 attempts last week, but stopping the Bears means stopping the run attack of Connor Schrader and Sean Lynch. They each rushed for more than 100 yards against Boylan. Glenbard West also leans on the run and play-action passing from Henry Haeffner, whose top target continues to be 6-foot-5 Vanderbilt recruit Nathan Marcus. Scott Andrews leads the Hilltoppers ground game with 1,184 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, but he tweaked an ankle last week. Joe Zito and bruising fullback Devante Toney also carry the load behind a powerful line anchored by Nick Garland and Jake Brodner. As a team Glenbard West's rushed for 2,700 yards and thrown for 1,600 yards. Lake Zurich's six shutouts speak volumes, however. It's no secret the Bears traditionally lean on their defense, and Glenbard West can attest to their strength based on last year's result. Linebackers Colton Moskal and Robert Rossdeutcher are two of the many lightning quick players epitomizing the entire defensive unit.
Intangibles: The obvious intangible is the switching of game sites. Last week's Glenbard West-Wheaton North game really damaged Duchon Field in the wake of pregame downpours. The move to Glenbard South's artificial surface field keeps the game in Glen Ellyn, but the Hitters' seniors may be extra motivated after having their final home game moved. Poor field conditions are known to be an equalizer between teams of differing talent levels, but a game like this doesn't need equalizers. The impact will be the same for both sides: better footing for all. Blockers will be able to push off the ball, runners will be able to cut and sprint outside, defenders will pursue without slipping. Don't discount the motivation of last year's game. Lake Zurich handed Glenbard West's senior class its only loss in three-plus years. That class of Hilltoppers stands at 40-1. If the end comes down to special teams, Glenbard West kicker Hayden Lekacz is mighty capable.
Next week: The winner advances to the 7A championship game to face the winner between No. 2 Benet (11-1) and No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (12-0).