After back-to-back losses to end the regular season, Glenbard South reversed its fortunes in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Saturday night with a 49-31 win over Walter Payton College Prep of the Chicago Public League.
Despite Payton Prep employing an unorthodox offense that utilized unbalanced lines and a lot of shifts and motions in a multi-look spread, Glenbard South dominates the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
After Payton managed a field goal on its opening drive, Glenbard South immediately established its running game with an 81-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Jack Crouch.
"It was a really big part of the game plan," Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey said of the running game after the win. "It was really nice to get a rhythm and then to chew time off the clock and to give our lineman some confidence. And it helps on both sides of the ball."
On Glenbard South's next drive it took just three plays before two-way star Nick D'Ambra broke a 54-yard touchdown that made it 14-3. And whether the Raiders were grinding it out between the tackles or breaking big plays, the rushing attack was the focus for Glenbard South all night.
Crouch finished with 204 yards on 15 carries and ran for 5 touchdowns, passing for another. D'Ambra chipped in 119 yards and Adam Haushahn added 94 yards on a night when the Glenbard South rushing attack put up 439 yards. The offensive line, in particular, stood out.
"It just completes our offense when we can run the ball like that," senior offensive lineman Jack Jochums said. "We've practiced so hard all week trying to establish a run game. We worked our tails off play after play and we've all got sore necks, bumps and bruises, but when we came out here the results showed. And I think it gives us an edge going into the next week."
However, Payton Prep continued to respond with offense of its own. They matched the Raiders scoring possession for scoring possession in the first half and appeared to be in position to grab another score going into half to make it a 28-24 game.
On a first-and-goal from the Glenbard South 8-yard line, Payton Prep went back to a pop pass that was good for a 50-yard gain. Graham DiFranco came from the back side of the play to intercept the pass and keep it a 28-17 game going into the half.
"I thought we missed some opportunities," Payton Prep coach George Klupchak said. "I don't think anybody came in here intimidated by their size or the fact that they've got a lot of kids.
"If a couple plays go differently in the first half, we're going into halftime even."
In the second half Glenbard South continued its offensive onslaught and made just enough of an adjustment to slow Payton Prep down. After giving up 230 passing yards in the first half, they allowed just 34 yards passing in the final two quarters.
They also added two more interceptions by Noah Gibson and Rod Rivera on back-to-back defensive possessions to help seal the game.
"I was a lot happier in the second half," Crissey said. "We played a lot more disciplined, much more fundamentally sound and that's what it came down to. The kids can identify everything we need them to, but they got flustered. So we just said let's go base defense, run some Cover-4 and keep everyone in front of you."
Payton Prep added a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Eli Geleerd to make it 49-31 and give the Grizzlies some life. Senior quarterback Erik Haneberg also contributed 337 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns, but it wouldn't be enough.
The Raiders will host Marian Central Catholic in a second-round game at 3 p.m. next Saturday.