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It was the exact game everyone expected between Lake Zurich and Glenbard West in Saturday's Class 7A semifinal football game in Glen Ellyn.
The only question was who'd be headed to DeKalb next weekend.
The Bears answered loud and proud, riding their brilliant defense and timely offense to a 16-7 victory over Glenbard West. In four playoff meetings the last five years, the rivals are now even at two wins apiece.
Lake Zurich (12-1) advances to play Mt. Carmel (12-1), a winner over Edwardsville, in the 7A title game at 4 p.m. next Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The Bears will make their fourth appearance in the final in search of their second state title.
"Our motivation comes from our family, our community, just our whole team and coaches," said Bears defensive lineman Chris Lehtinen. "We just rallied together and came out and played four quarters of football. It's an unreal feeling right now."
Lake Zurich scored the game's final 16 points after falling behind 7-0 late in the first quarter on a 27-yard touchdown run by Glenbard West fullback Devonte Toney. That turned out to be the longest play from scrimmage by the Hilltoppers (11-2), who turned the ball over five times and in the second half managed only 3 first downs and 23 yards until the final drive piled up 48 passing yards.
"We're the same kind of teams, great defense every year, run the ball down your throat," said Hilltoppers defensive back Hayden Carlson. "Unfortunately, we turned the ball over too many times and didn't get enough turnovers on defense. They got the best of us. You've got to give them all the credit in the world. They deserve it."
An expected grind-it-out game quickly came to fruition as both sides struggled to move the ball. Lake Zurich, which turned the ball over three times, finally got its offense going in the second quarter when a 78-yard drive culminated in a 19-yard field goal by A.J. Trittschuh that narrowed the gap to 7-3.
Lake Zurich got the ball back at midfield with two minutes left in the half and quickly moved the chains. Noah Allgood's 6-yard touchdown pass to Ben Klett gave the Bears a ton of momentum and a 10-7 advantage at the break.
"We struggled a bit in the first quarter, but we got it rolling after that," Allgood said. "Our offense is our defense, like coach (Dave) Proffitt likes to say. As long as we keep their offense off the field, we've got a better chance of winning the game."
Lake Zurich controlled field position throughout the second half and didn't allow Glenbard West past midfield until its final drive, trailing by 9 points. After getting the ball on Trevor Staley's interception at Glenbard West's 15-yard line, four plays later Allgood dove in from 2 yards out to put the Bears safely ahead 16-7 with less than two minutes to play.
"They outplayed us," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet, whose program won last year's 7A title and lost for only the seventh time since 2007. "They outhit us, they were more physical. They played better defense than we did. There's no way anybody in the state or in the country is going to beat Lake Zurich when you turn over the ball that many times."
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