Week 4 - Photos from the Hinsdale Central at Glenbard West high school varsity football game Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
Daniel White | Staff Photographer
If Glenbard West's football team needed definitive evidence of quarterback Justice Odom's improved health, it arrived in Monday's practice.
Odom saw his first action in three weeks in last week's regular-season finale. Although he completed 10 of 12 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Hilltoppers' 49-7 win at Downers Grove North, Odom truly showed he's distanced himself from a sprained MCL during early-week sprints.
"He's the fastest guy on the team again," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "We were all kind of surprised. He looks great."
Top-seeded Glenbard West (9-0) opens play in the Class 7A playoffs Saturday at home against No. 16 Prospect (5-4). With key linemen also back in the lineup, the Hilltoppers' offense should be in prime form.
"For the first time in a while we're in pretty good shape," Hetlet said.
Since 2007 Montini has gone 49-11 with 13 playoff wins and the past two Class 5A titles. That has absolutely no bearing on how the coaching staff approaches this playoff run.
"To me it doesn't," said Broncos coach Chris Andriano.
"Maybe for the kids there's a swagger and confidence, but for the coaching staff it just means that the preparation has got to be to get to a state championship game. We think that we have the people to do it, but it has to be proven on the field. Sometimes you can get overconfident."
Two-time defending Class 7A state champion Wheaton Warrenville South (6-3) literally faces a huge challenge in Friday's showdown against Providence (6-3).
"When St. Rita looks small compared to Providence," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch, "you know you're in for a physical football team."
The left side of the offensive line for No. 9 Providence is particularly daunting. Iowa-bound left tackle Ryan Ward is 6-foot-5, 282 pounds, while guard Jesse Long is a whopping 6-6 and 365 pounds.
The rest of the line is 275, 280 and 300 pounds to put the average at 300 pounds a player. Muhitch, though, is accustomed to his defense facing much larger teams.
Most of the DuPage Valley Conference boasts physical offensive lines. So have many of the No. 8 Tigers' playoff opponents in recent years.
Not that it'll be an easy matchup Friday in Wheaton, but at least the Tigers feel they have a strong counter in their defensive scheme.
"We've always been about speed and quickness," he said. "That's who we are, that's what we believe in, that's how we train."
After playing Montini in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, and seven times over the past four years, St. Francis drew a different foe, Burlington Central. The Spartans wouldn't see either Montini or Suburban Christian Conference foe Marian Central until the state championship.
St. Francis coach Greg Purnell didn't seem affected one way or another.
"You've got to play who you've got to play," he said.
He still is uncertain about the IHSA playoff selection process, which produces brackets that can vary in numbers of teams.
"You've got to be able to live with it," he said.
And he is.
"We're just happy to be in, happy to be playing," Purnell said.
"I'm very, very proud of this group going through the regular season at 7-2 with all the injuries we've had, all the young kids playing," he said. "It's really been a nice fall this far, but once you get into the playoffs everybody gets hungry and wants to keep winning. And we're no different."
Worth the pain:
After beating Neuqua Valley in double-overtime only to join the state's 25 teams with 5-4 records not to reach the playoffs, Lake Park coach Chris Roll said his players were "hurting" at school Monday.
He felt proud, though.
"They established a toughness and commitment that will carry over for years to come," said Roll, who ended his first season as head coach at his alma mater.
Back in August Roll said if nothing else his team would be tough. He thinks they bought in and proved their mettle coming back from a 1-4 start.
"We called them all playoff games ... The Neuqua Valley game was a culmination of belief and hard work," he said.
Further back, in January when Roll was tabbed to succeed the retiring Andy Livingston as head coach, he said one of his goals was to foster a greater sense of community. He believed some of that happened last Friday in Roselle.
"They have a memory in their last game that most kids don't an emotional, two-overtime game that was won dramatically and let the student body and community see them as exactly what they are, winners."
One more time:
Among the more interesting first-round Class 8A matchups features Naperville North's Friday trip to Downers Grove South.
The 14th-seeded Huskies (5-4) and No. 3 Downers South (8-1) enter the playoffs on the heels of a Week 9 loss. With neither side getting the seed they wanted, perhaps it was only fitting they wound up facing each other again.
Friday's game marks the seventh time Naperville North and the Mustangs have met in a first-round playoff game, including five times in seven years between 1987 and 1993. They also played in the first round of the 1995 playoffs and in the second round in 1997.
Both teams are riding a streak of 15 straight playoff appearances.
"You play who you play," said Downers South coach John Belskis. "Everybody's good right now, so if it weren't Naperville North it'd be someone else good."
Naperville North coach Sean Drendel has an interesting perspective on the matchup. He played on the Huskies' 1987 and 1989 teams that beat Downers South.
Naperville North, in fact, won the first four meetings, while the Mustangs have won two of the last three.
"When you're in the playoffs as many times as the two of us, you're bound to run into each other," Drendel said. "Coach Belskis does such a great job, and we've had some success. For some reason we've just caught each other a lot in the playoffs."