His name may have been the least known on the list of all-DuPage Valley Conference football players, but every coach in the league appreciates the play of Glenbard North fullback Dillon Warnecke.
No one appreciates the 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior more than Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens.
"He just gets in there and thuds," Wilkens said. "He does a real nice job for us."
With DVC offensive player of the year Justin Jackson putting up crazy rushing numbers -- 2,888 yards and 36 touchdowns while averaging 31 carries a game -- it's no surprise Glenbard North placed two offensive linemen on the all-DVC team. Chris Edwards was named the league's lineman of the year while Eric Graham also made the team.
The DVC coaches paid even more respect to Glenbard North's ground game by naming Warnecke, Jackson's lead blocker, to the all-DVC team. He'll again be counted on to help plow holes for Jackson in Saturday's second-round Class 8A playoff game against Stevenson in Carol Stream.
"I think people in the league think pretty highly of him," Wilkens said. "He was just grinning from ear to ear when he found out he was all-conference."
Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch has a pretty sharp football memory, especially when it concerns the playoffs.
It doesn't take much prodding for him to remember the Tigers' 8-7 home loss to Downers Grove North in 2008. It's WW South's only first-round playoff defeat since 2000 and just the third in 24 appearances.
"That was a tough loss for the kids and the program," Muhitch said.
Downers North rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the final two minutes, scoring a touchdown and then converting a 2-point play. The Trojans then recovered a squib kick to seal the upset of a one-loss WW South team.
No doubt Muhitch will remind his players of that game, just as he reminded the team last week of the Tigers' playoff history with Dunbar. WW South, which beat Dunbar 48-16, edged the Mightymen in the 1996 playoffs on a late hook-and-ladder play.
For good or bad, there's history everywhere you turn when you've been in the playoffs as many times as WW South. If the Tigers win they'll face the winner of the St. Rita-Mt. Carmel game -- teams they've faced a combined six times in the playoffs.
WW South and Downers North met one other time in the playoffs, a 38-6 Tigers win in the 1998 semifinals en route to the Class 6A state title.
"That 2008 game had such a sour taste," Muhitch said. "It's tough to forget a loss like that."
Glenbard South didn't win its first 10 games by accident. It's taken a special effort from every player on the team.
That includes all three phases of the game, something that was all too clear in Saturday's 47-28 first-round Class 5A playoff win over St. Francis.
The Raiders had plenty of offense -- 450 total yards, including nearly 300 passing yards from quarterback Alex Jeske -- but they also received scoring from the defense and special teams units.
Jack Curtis snared the first of his 3 interceptions and returned it for a third-quarter touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter Connor Willis scooped up an onside kickoff attempt by the Spartans and returned it for a touchdown.
As Glenbard South stares down a tough second-round game against Lincoln-Way West (9-1), Raiders coach Jeremy Cordell knows the team needs to keep getting contributions from everyone in every phase.
"We're getting it done in all three phases and that's what you need to see in the playoffs," Cordell said. "We have a lot of playmakers out there."
Back to normal:
The return of Neuqua Valley junior fullback T.J. Scruggs puts the Wildcats' offensive balance back where coach Bill Ellinghaus likes it to be.
Scruggs got injured in the first half of Neuqua's 40-25 win Week 7 over Waubonsie Valley. He played the rest of that game but missed the next two against West Chicago and Bartlett.
Scruggs rejoined tailback Nolan Dean for Neuqua's 38-7 victory over O'Fallon in the Wildcats' Class 8A playoff opener. The duo combined for 3 touchdowns as Scruggs ran for 100 yards, Dean for 75.
"He's been full speed all week this week, so far, so good," Ellinghaus said of Scruggs. "He's one of the tougher kids on the team. The kids love him, they play hard around him. They know he's a tough kid and they know he practices hard. He's one of those kids that's very hard-nosed all the time, every time."
The coach called him a fullback with tailback speed. Scruggs blocked for graduated star tailback Joey Rhattigan last season, adding 433 yards and 8 touchdowns. In the Wildcats' Pro-I set or as a single back this season Scruggs has 822 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns and has helped Dean gain 886 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"He gives us the blocking back that I think every good offense has," Ellinghaus said. "If you run an offense with two backs you have to have one back willing to stick his nose in there, and that's T.J."
The Chicago Bears will salute the coaches and players they've tabbed with weekly honors during the regular season during halftime of the Bears-Green Bay Packers game Dec. 29 at Soldier Field. Willowbrook quarterback Brian Johnson and Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson will be there among the Bears' "High School All-Stars."
The Bears also recognize coaches and some players from each of the eight state champions, to be determined Nov. 29-30 at Northern Illinois University. Last season both Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet and Montini coach Chris Andriano walked down the tunnel and emerged through the big inflatable Bears helmet for midfield recognition.
"I think it's a great experience for the kids," Hetlet said. "It's just kind of like you're reliving the state championship game, then you're honored in front of all those people. It's a big deal."
Hetlet said the Hilltoppers have been acknowledged at Soldier Field three times over the past three years -- last year, and as a Bears' high school team of the week both in 2011 and this season. On Oct. 10 during the Bears' 27-21 win over the New York Giants, Hetlet and team captains Devonte Toney, Drew Vogg, Hayden Carlson, Jordan Hassan, Ted Clauss and Grant Greeno watched from the sidelines.
"The Bears are first class in everything they do," Hetlet said. "They make you feel like you're kings when you're there."
Andriano, whose family has had Bears season tickets since the 1950s, found his time on the field to be a larger-than-life experience.
"It was pretty neat when we got a chance to get down on the field and got a chance to see the stadium from ground level," he said. "I remember when I was a kid and went to see the Bears play at Wrigley Field. It's completely different."
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