There were new faces in key spots all over the football field but the same old result for Glenbard West, a victory.
The defending Class 7A champs kicked off the new year Friday night with a tough test at Bolingbrook. The Hilltoppers prevailed 17-7 behind the strong running of D.J. Ficarella and a great effort by the entire defense.
Ficarella had a 2-yard touchdown run as Glenbard West built a 10-0 lead at the half and added a 1-yard dive early in the fourth quarter as the visitors built a 17-0 lead before the Raiders finally got on the board with 8:33 left to play. But the Hilltoppers defense protected the lead from there and led the team to yet another win.
"I thought we played well. They're a very talented team," Glenbard West senior linebacker Mark Mattson said. "Bolingbrook's very good. We had a lot of guys who stepped up."
On the offensive side Ficarella really stepped up, finishing the night with 112 yards on 23 carries. With last year's superstar Sam Brodner having graduated to college football, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ficarella ran hard all night against a big, physical Raiders defense.
"It's crazy. They're huge and their fast," he said of the Bolingbrook defense. "They get to the ball real fast. So you have to kind of cut it up and get what you can.
"That was kind of what I tried to do."
The first half was dominated by two great defenses and the Hilltoppers led just 3-0 until Ficarella's first score, which was set up by an errant punt snap by Bolingbrook that gave Glenbard West great field position. After taking over at the Raiders' 25-yard line after the miscue, Ficarella broke off a 21-yard run and moments later scored from the 2 to make it 10-0 with 6:39 left in the half.
"Our offense did a good job, but we had to find ourselves," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "Sam's gone and we had to find ourselves. But I thought Ficarella did an outstanding job. The O-line did a great job. Our quarterback was amazing tonight. He was very consistent and poised."
New quarterback Cole Brady didn't put up huge numbers through the air, but he ran an offense that didn't turn the ball over and was able to pick up first downs at critical times. Brady was 6 for 13 for 51 yards and Hetlet was thrilled with his play on the road against a tough defense.
"Our quarterback was amazing tonight," he said. "He was very consistent and poised. I'm very proud of the way we came out in this game on the road against one of the better teams in the state no doubt."
Ficarella was all smiles in the rain after the nice start to the new season.
"It's huge. We had a lot of unknowns this year. We had Brodner leaving … we had a lot of talent leaving on the defense, so to set the tone tonight let everyone know what we're about."