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Just 42 yards stood between Oak Park and Friday-night football glory when it took possession of the football with 4:18 to play on its home turf trailing by 6 points.
But 42 yards is a long way to go against the Glenbard West defense.
On a fourth-and-14 play at the Hilltoppers' 23-yard line, defensive back Hayden Carlson knocked away a pass to the end zone intended for Oak Park running back Mike Hayden with 42.1 seconds to go to preserve a 20-14 Glenbard West victory.
"At the end they had one last punch and we just kept fighting to the very end," said Glenbard West senior linebacker Eric Farley, who had 2 sacks, one of them on second down with 55.3 seconds to play. "We were not going to lose."
It was the kind of response a coach loves to see but is so hard to live through.
"But that's fun," Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet said of the nerve-wracking final stand. "It's not fun at the time, but it's fun afterward. You want to see how your kids respond. You can never simulate that kind of situation and if you're going to be a championship-caliber team you have to make plays down the stretch when your back is against the wall, and we had to make one more play than the other team, and we did that tonight.
"That was awesome."
"It was the fact that they made some defensive adjustments, they had some great players out there and we're trying to find holes in their defense," Huskies coach John Hoerster added. "Against Glenbard West the holes aren't very big. We made some plays, we came up with some plays down the stretch, we were a couple of plays away and we just ran out of downs, we ran out of time."
Oak Park opened the scoring with quarterback Lloyd Yates' 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Hilltoppers bounced back in the second quarter when Jermon Kindle Joyner caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Drew Vogg and then added a 1-yard TD run to give Glenbard West a 14-7 halftime lead.
That lead went to 20-7 with 9:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when running back Scott Andrews, seemingly stopped at the 8-yard line, somehow broke free along the sideline and dove into the end zone for another touchdown. Andrews finished with 105 yards rushing.
Oak Park answered with a 41-yard TD pass to Xavier Rowe with 6:45 to go, and a three-and-out set up Oak Park's final but ultimately fruitless drive.
"We just played a very fast, physical, confident, well-coached football team in a tough environment with major injuries (to Devonte Toney and Donahvon Vaughn) and we came through all right," Hetlet said, "so I feel very happy with our kids' effort and performance and digging in in this situation."
The victory over Oak Park (5-1, 3-1) puts Glenbard West (5-1, 4-0) in good shape to win the West Suburban Silver championship.
"This was the game that we had to win in order to have a chance in the conference," Farley said. "We're looking good from here on out.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz