Last Friday's rush hour traffic jam epitomized Glenbard West's road grind this football season.
It took the Hilltoppers nearly an hour and a half to trek from Glen Ellyn to face unbeaten Oak Park on its homecoming weekend. A 20-14 West Suburban Silver victory made the trip worthwhile, but it's still not easy playing the role of road warrior.
"It was like the perfect storm," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "The traffic, the homecoming environment, they're really good. It was a challenge for us."
It was the latest of many road challenges for Glenbard West (5-1, 4-0). Arguably the Hilltoppers' four toughest matchups this season -- Wheaton Warrenville South, Downers Grove North, Lyons Twp. and Oak Park -- have been on the road.
After losing the season opener at WW South, Glenbard West has won three straight on the road. The Hilltoppers play Proviso West this weekend in Glen Ellyn before traveling to Addison Trail in Week 8 and playing host to York in Week 9.
If the Hilltoppers keep winning, they're almost certain to host a first-round playoff game.
"To beat Oak Park in that kind of environment was big for us," Hetlet said. "It'll be nice to have two of the last three at home."
Maintaining the tradition:
Mark Kalfas is a 1979 St. Francis graduate, a four-year football player for the Spartans (3-3, 1-3). He and wife Tracy, a Naperville North graduate, moved to El Segundo, Calif., in Los Angeles County. But when it came time for their boys to attend high school there was one consideration.
Younger son James Kalfas is in his third year as a starting lineman for St. Francis. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound senior lines up at left tackle and at defensive tackle.
Older brother Russ, a 2010 graduate who is now a senior at Iowa, was a two-year starting lineman and also a left offensive tackle who played on the Spartans' 2008 Class 5A championship team. The family moved back to Wheaton prior to his freshman year. He was a team captain, like James.
"They're very similar. I think James is taller, he's quicker, and they both hit with a pretty good punch," said St. Francis coach Greg Purnell.
"I think the amazing thing is Mark remembers his experience playing at St. Francis and he wanted his kids to be a part of the St. Francis experience and that's why they brought them back here. And it's more than just a football experience."
Mark Kalfas is member of the St. Francis Father's Club, while Tracy is a "football mom" who handles communications with parents, helps organize meals, homecoming, etc.
"Mark and Tracy Kalfas are some of the most loyal family members that we have in the St. Francis community," Purnell said. "Mark and Tracy bleed blue and both of their sons have been outstanding linemen for us."
Every DuPage Valley Conference team faces it at some point in the season. Now it's Glenbard North's turn to go through the gauntlet.
The Panthers (5-1, 4-0), defending DVC champions, are the last remaining unbeaten team in the conference. The next three weeks, however, they face Naperville Central, WW South and Wheaton North -- teams with just a loss apiece.
"It's really no different than the first six weeks," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens. "The preparation's the same."
The preparation may be the same, but the situation's much different. Every team the Panthers face will try to bring them back to the pack and create chaos atop the standings.
Glenbard North won its last three games by a combined margin of 30 points, which allowed the Panthers to sit many of their top players late in the games. Standout running back Justin Jackson, who's rushed for 1,442 yards and 21 touchdowns, didn't play at all in the fourth quarter of the last three games.
With the DVC's heavy hitters coming up, expect to see much more of Jackson and others on both sides of the ball as the Panthers vie for a second straight outright title.
"We know what's ahead of us," Wilkens said. "It's something we've been through before. We know it won't be easy but we'll be ready."
Blasts from the past:
Before the first football game played between Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley in 1999, Neuqua quarterback Eric Ilich, now an assistant with Bartlett, uttered these words that set the stage for every Indian Prairie District 204 rivalry game to follow.
"This one is going to be the biggest deal as far as emotions go and as far as backing up what's been said, because it's been going on for four years," Ilich said.
Then only in their second season of varsity football, Neuqua (5-1, 3-0) went on to win the 1999 game 14-6. Since then the Wildcats have won 11 of 15 contests against the Warriors, including both regular-season and playoff meetings last season, a pair of games separated by 4 total points.
Here's another old quote that still holds water, from Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy before the Warriors (5-1, 3-0) won the Week 4 meeting in 2007, 10-6.
"Friday night should be a good game," Murphy said then. "I know (the Wildcats will) play their best game of the year."
Set himself apart:
Friday morning, Hinsdale Central senior offensive lineman Brian Allen officially will accept his invitation to the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
The ceremony takes place at 7:30 a.m. at Hinsdale Central and will feature Allen's jersey presentation. Allen, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound tackle, is committed to Michigan State.
Nearly 41,000 fans attended last season's game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. This season's game takes place at noon Jan. 4 and will be televised live on NBC.
One of the best things Wheaton Academy (3-3, 2-2) got out of last week's game, once the outcome was settled by halftime in a 55-14 win over Guerin, was trotting out player after player.
Fourteen Warriors were credited with rushing yardage. That doesn't include a 15th, starting offensive guard David Westfallen, who had his first-down carry nullified by penalty.
Counting Nate Lopez running the wildcat, three quarterbacks made rushing stats, along with starter David Thrasher and backup Steven Sellers. After serving as a blocking back the prior week, another offensive guard, Theo Selvaggio, gained 4 yards on his chance.
"It was a blast to get guys on the field. A lot of different guys took some looks and reps that don't normally get in," said Warriors coach Brad Thornton.
"You saw those linemen getting carries. We made a deal with them if they had a certain amount of yards rushing or something like that we'd let them get a carry. That was fun."
Most coaches will say when their team scores 28 points, they expect to win. But not when allowing 65, as Metea Valley (3-3, 3-1) did in last week's Upstate Eight Valley game at Neuqua Valley.
"We thought it was going to be a lot closer," said Metea's Nick Dodson, who caught 2 of Mustangs quarterback Blaise Bell's 3 touchdown passes.
Like many teams, the Mustangs now essentially have a three-game season to attempt to qualify for the playoffs, for the first time in their four-year history. It'll be tough, with good Geneva and Waubonsie Valley squads closing Metea's schedule after this week's East Aurora game.
On the Neuqua Valley field after Friday night's loss, Metea coach Ben Kleinhans was undaunted.
"We're not going to have any hangover affect from this come next week," he said. "We're going to learn from it, see what we've got to do to win games. Come Monday it's full speed ahead, one game at a time. We've got to get two out of three. I think we can."