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As Glenbard West's football team hurried off the field at Glenbard South High School, the mission of the day was not yet accomplished.
The Hilltoppers secured their 19-13 victory over Lake Zurich, but they still needed to rush back home to ring that victory bell.
Saturday's Class 7A semifinal game was technically a home game for Glenbard West, but poor field conditions at Duchon Field forced the game to be moved elsewhere in Glen Ellyn to Glenbard South. Traditions aside, the top-seeded Hilltoppers (13-0) made themselves right at home while avenging last year's second-round loss to No. 6 Lake Zurich (10-3).
Glenbard West advances to its fourth state title game, its first since a runner-up finish 2009, in search of its second championship. The Hilltoppers will play fellow top seed Lincoln-Way East (13-0), a 37-13 winner over Benet, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
"I had brothers who couldn't do this," said Hilltoppers junior Jordan Hassan. "This is awesome. I'm speechless."
Glenbard West used a little bit of everything — but especially stifling defense — to build a 19-0 lead by halftime. It took only two plays for the Hilltoppers to take a 6-0 lead when quarterback Henry Haeffner, who completed 9 of 15 passes for 154 yards, hit Nate Hokenson in stride for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Devante Toney, who plowed his way to 68 rushing yards, scored on a 1-yard dive on the Hilltoppers' next possession. Then just before halftime Nathan Marcus went up high for a 22-yard touchdown catch from Haeffner and a 19-0 lead at the break.
The Hilltoppers had a red-zone fumble and a missed field goal or else the margin would have been bigger. Glenbard West outgained Lake Zurich 242-22 in the first half while limiting the Bears to 1 first down.
"Our thing is we had to take care of business, worry about us and not last year's team," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "It's great for us to be able to play that way and, honestly, I thought we could have put some more in on them."
Thanks to Lake Zurich's defense, things become much more interesting in the third quarter. The Hilltoppers recovered a fumble at Lake Zurich's 17-yard line and worked to a first-and-goal at the 7.
On the next play from scrimmage, however, Bears senior Grant Soucy picked up a fumble and dodged traffic for a 94-yard return for a touchdown.
"My teammates did a great job of punching it out," Soucy said. "I picked it up and there was a big caravan of white jerseys that I just followed all the way to the end zone."
Glenbard West fumbled on its next possession as well, and Lake Zurich used its only drive of the game — a 49-yarder — to narrow the gap to 19-13. Connor Schrader fumbled at the 2-yard line, but teammate Noah Allgood picked it up and ran the final 2 yards for a touchdown.
Momentum surged in Lake Zurich's favor entering the fourth quarter.
"When we came back in the second half we kind of started out slow," Toney said. "But I knew the defense was going to do its job and we were going to do our job."
Glenbard West was glad to put the game in the hands of its defense, which held Lake Zurich to 110 total yards while forcing 4 turnovers.
The Bears had two more possessions but never again reached Glenbard West territory. The first possession ended with a punt, and then Glenbard West sealed the win on Tyler Dayton's interception with two minutes left.
"In all honesty they were the better team today," said Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt. "We played our tails off."
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