A vastly improved Glenbard East Rams stripped a win from the Willowbrook Warriors 28-21 on Saturday in Lombard.
The Rams are coming off a disappointing 1-8 season in 2012, but they set the stage for its final season in the DuPage Valley Conference with the win in their season opener. Next season Glenbard East will join the Upstate Eight Conference.
The game was rescheduled from Friday due to severe weather conditions. Rams junior quarterback Drake Pusateri was angry that the game wasn't played last night because he wanted to play the Warriors on the Rams' home field under the lights. Next year's game is to be played in Willowbrook.
"I believe in my team," Pusateri said. "Our defense played at their level and that's how they played all summer and they are going to continue to play that way throughout the season."
The Rams have 10 new starters this year and are looking to get back into the playoff picture.
"Anytime you win a high school football game and you work as hard as our guys have, it's awesome," said Rams coach John Walters. "We're not looking toward the past, we're looking more towards the future. We were able to control the ball and keep their high-powered offense off the field. We were able to mix the run and the pass. I think that really helped us."
The Warriors broke open the scoring with quarterback Brian Johnson tossing a 4-yard pass to Devin Childress. The Rams countered with a 1-yard run by Dominica Wilberton just as the first quarter ended.
Johnson came back in the second quarter with a 31-yard air-mail delivery to Childress, who cut through the Rams defense to make the catch on the goal line to give the Warriors the lead, 14-7. But the Rams came back to scored on a Pusateri 1-yard sneak to tie the score just as the half ended.
"We really beat ourselves," Johnson said, "with all the mistakes and giving the ball up and all the penalties. If we went out there right and played again, I guarantee it would be a different result. This wasn't us tonight and we got to fix that."
The seesaw battle continued in the third quarter as Pusateri scored his second touchdown of the game. Pusateri sealed the win with a 20-yard strike to Jack Ciszewski to open the fourth quarter.
With the Rams leading 28-21, Johnson drove his team down field late in the game. But Jeremy Barnes was stripped of the ball by Mickey Farnham 2:18 left in the game to end the drive and the game.
"That's the thing about Week 1, you never know what you are going to get," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "Defensively a bunch of third downs, missed assignments and lack of execution and that's what happens. Offensively, we didn't finish drives, we turned the ball over late and you can't win when you're doing that."