Was Glenbard North's football team going to qualify for the playoffs with five wins?
The Panthers made that question irrelevant Saturday afternoon by beating Naperville North 34-10 in a DuPage Valley Conference game that was postponed on Friday because of problems with Glenbard North's lighting system.
A sixth win automatically earns Glenbard North (6-3, 4-3) a ninth straight playoff berth. The Panthers, after losing their previous three games, entered Saturday's game with a must-win attitude, and it showed against Naperville North (5-4, 4-3).
With junior quarterback Brian Murphy hobbled by ankle injuries, Glenbard North leaned on the backfield tandem of Phil Jackson and his sophomore brother, Justin. Phil Jackson finished with 172 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 carries, while Justin had 12 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown.
As a team the Panthers ran the ball 49 times for 294 yards while passing for 0 yards on only 2 pass attempts. Leading 21-10 at halftime Glenbard North rested Murphy in the second half, playing junior quarterback Greg Traficanti. The Panthers ran the ball on all 30 of its second-half plays.
"We actually played up to our potential today," Phil Jackson said. "It was a must-win, 100 percent. No doubt about it, we had to win this game to get in the playoffs."
Naperville North, which pretty much knew it would qualify with five wins, played without injured starting quarterback Tyler Gehr. Junior Johnny Brown started the game by guiding the Huskies on a 14-play drive to a first-and-goal at the 7, but the drive ended with only 3 points on Ron Coluzzi's 21-yard field goal.
The missed early opportunity for a touchdown set the tone for the game.
"We came out sharp," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel. "We were unable to punch it in and I think the game turned right there."
Phil Jackson's 59-yard touchdown gave the Panthers a 7-3 first-quarter lead and, following Nicholas Maxwell's interception, Murphy ran in from 11 yards out to make it 14-3. The lead grew to 21-3 on Jackson's 6-yard touchdown run but the Huskies narrowed the halftime gap to 21-10 after Brown's 37-yard pass to Tony Leon set up a 2-yard scoring run by Dan Puknaitis, who had 21 carries for 98 yards.
Jackson started the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run, capping a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes. A 12-play, 80-yard drive followed, lasting more than six minutes, that culminated in Justin Jackson's 3-yard scoring run and a 34-10 lead.
The Panthers controlled the ball for 17 minutes, 13 seconds in the second half behind 31 run plays on three drives.
"We came out and ran the ball effectively, and then we got it going," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens. "We just stayed with it and our defense played well."