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With a punishing ground game and a pummeling defense, Glenbard West's football team displayed a textbook state championship formula last season.
Repeating the feat means repeating the formula.
The defending Class 7A champions, who beat Lincoln-Way East 10-8 in the final, averaged more than 200 rushing yards while allowing 10 points or fewer in 10 of 14 games. The result was a perfect record for the Hilltoppers, who remain the team to beat in 7A.
"We've been in the hunt long enough to know how hard it is to win a title," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "We definitely know it's not going to be easy."
It won't be easy for Glenbard West's opponents, either.
The Hilltoppers' traditional strength is intact with a backfield that's dynamite. Scott Andrews rushed for 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, and he's added strength to his immense speed. Jermon Joyner returns 250 yards and a pair of scores.
Glenbard North transfer Donahvon Vaughn brings additional depth at running back, so much so that Hetlet moved Devante Toney, a third-year varsity member, from fullback to the defensive line.
Drew Vogg, who saw a decent amount of playing time in Glenbard West's blowout victories, is a dual-threat quarterback presenting another running threat. Despite tremendous graduation losses to the offensive line, the Hilltoppers still have North Carolina State-bound Eric Shute.
"I feel real good about the offense," Hetlet said. "We're probably the best we've ever been in the backfield."
Question marks remain for a defense known for dominating. Hetlet loves his secondary anchored by third-year starting safety Hayden Carlson, who holds MAC and Ivy League offers. Grant Greeno and Jordan Hassan return at linebacker, with junior Ben Marcus also ready to step up.
The big change is on the defensive line where the Hilltoppers no longer have a big-time pass rusher like Tommy Schutt or Ruben Dunbar. Toney strengthens the line, as will Connor Schrauth's move from tight end to defensive end.
"I think it's a team that'll get better and better," Hetlet said. "We've still got a lot of work to do to get the level we want to be at."
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Fri, 8/30 Glenbard West at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/7 Morton at Glenbard West 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Glenbard West at Downers North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Glenbard West at Lyons Township 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/28 Hinsdale Central at Glenbard West 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Glenbard West at OPRF 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/12 Proviso West at Glenbard West 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 Glenbard West at Addison Trail 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/26 York at Glenbard West 1 p.m.