Glenbard West ready to line up against Mt. Carmel
After playing football for more than 90 years each, the numbers are staggering for Glenbard West and Mt. Carmel.
They've combined for 58 playoff appearances, with the Caravan winning 12 state titles and Glenbard West winning twice. Through all that history, though, the programs never have met in the postseason.
That changes on Saturday when the perennial powers meet in a Class 7A second-round game at Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn.
"It's a big deal for us, I know that," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "It's a Round 2 game, so it is what it is. But I think it's historic in the fact that we've never played each other before."
In most recent seasons Mt. Carmel's been in Class 8A while Glenbard West's been in 7A. Last year the Hilltoppers were in 8A and Mt. Carmel in 7A.
The closest they've come to playing each other was in 2013 when both teams made the 7A semifinals. The Caravan went on to win the state title, but Glenbard West fell to Lake Zurich.
The best part about Saturday's showdown between the top-seeded Hilltoppers (10-0) and No. 16 Mt. Carmel (8-2) is the setting. Duchon Field, built in the 1920s, is the perfect spot for a game like this.
After playing last week's opening-round game at Glenbard South to preserve the grass field, Duchon's surface should be in good shape.
"Glenbard West, Mt. Carmel, a sunny day at Duchon," Hetlet said. "If I'm a high school football fan, I'm here on Saturday."
In Saturday's Class 7A game between St. Charles North and Benet, the North Stars' vaunted passing game was clearly adversely affected by the continual downpour of rain at Lisle's Benedictine University.
Benet (8-2), however, also struggled to get its offense going in the soggy conditions. The Redwings relied on their power ground game with Alec McEachern carrying the ball 37 times and gaining 195 of the team's 254 rushing yards.
Quarterback Jack Sznajder, who's thrown for 1,784 yards and 14 touchdowns, attempted only 8 passes.
"I saw Jack was really having trouble gripping the ball and throwing it," said Benet coach Pat New. "I told our coaches, 'New game plan -- we're pounding the ball.'"
St. Charles North stuck with its pass attack, throwing the ball 25 times, but wound up with 4 interceptions. Three were snared by Benet defensive back Danny O'Malley.
Benet's ability to lean on the run proved to be the difference in a 21-14 victory for the 12th-seeded Redwings. That being said, they'll need the pass and the run to beat No. 5 Cary-Grove (9-1) in Saturday's second-round road game.
"Saturday's rain really took a lot away from our offense," New said. "When it's dry we're able to do so much more with Jack and our run game."
The choice is Joyce:
The power of Naperville Central's offense -- and it's definitely powerful -- is its ability to take what defenses give it.
In last Friday's 14-7 first-round Class 8A win over Bolingbrook, the Raiders gave Naperville Central (9-1) the quarterback draw with Conor Joyce.
In the second half he carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards, including four times on the game-tying third-quarter touchdown drive and four times on the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown drive that Joyce scored on a 2-yard run.
"We've been pretty good with in-game adjustments, and that was a key one for us," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Whatever we think is going to give us the best chance to win, that's what we're going to do."
With Bolingbrook having to focus so much defensive attention on receivers Emmanuel Rugamba and Matt Lehmann on the perimeter, that opened up the middle for Joyce to run between the tackles. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Joyce's physical play was the perfect counter to Bolingbrook's stingy defense.
"He's got a linebacker's mentality so he's not afraid to try to run over a defender," Stine said. "The key for all of our personnel is getting them in a position to make plays, and that's what we were able to do with Conor."
Advancement tops rivalry:
Neuqua Valley owns a 13-5 advantage in its football series against District 204 rival Waubonsie Valley, including wins in four of the last five meetings.
This means little to either No. 30 seed Waubonsie and No. 19 Neuqua as they enter Saturday's Class 8A second-round game at Neuqua Valley.
"For us it isn't about playing Waubonsie Valley as much as it is about getting to the quarterfinals," said Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus, who did so in 2012 and 2013.
His counterpart agrees.
"It's the playoffs," said Waubonsie coach Paul Murphy, whose Warriors have reached the second round five times in the last six seasons. "I don't think you look at it as a district rivalry."
The duo's one prior playoff meeting came in a 2012 8A quarterfinal. No. 1 seed Neuqua (7-3) beat No. 4 Waubonsie 23-20 on Ryan Mulhern's 19-yard field goal in the waning seconds.
After a 500-mile round trip to topple No. 3 seed Edwardsville, Waubonsie Valley (6-4) faces a sister school less than 6 miles away.
"I would say it's respectful," Murphy said of the rivalry. "Our kids know their kids, their kids know our kids."
Quote of the week:
In Neuqua Valley's 29-26 first-round win over No. 14 Hinsdale Central the game-winning touchdown came after running back Greg McClellan dropped a pitch, then kicked the football while attempting to pick it up. The ball bounded through a Hinsdale Central player's arms before McClellan regained control then dove into the end zone.
"We put that play in on Friday," joked Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus.
No. 1 and done:
A No. 1 seed proved to be a favorable first-round Class 5A foe for No. 16 Glenbard South (6-4).
The Raiders' defense held Westinghouse to minus-5 yards of offense in a 42-0 victory.
"That was a nice little thing to see on Twitter on the way home. It definitely was a morale booster for the kids," said Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey, who earned his first playoff victory.
Crissey liked Westinghouse's athletes but said his staff "scouted the heck out of them." The homework paid off when players Crissey hoped would play key roles did just that, including linebackers Johnny LaPonte, Ryan Willis and the ever-present Dillon Valdez, plus nose tackle Talha Ayman.
"The type of victory we had was definitely what the kids needed to keep their energy levels up, to keep the morale high and provide us with momentum heading into Round 2," Crissey said.
Waiting is No. 8 seed Tinley Park, which has lost only to 9-1 Oak Forest and Lemont.
"This is definitely a step up, absolutely," Crissey said.
Next man up:
Like a fresh Prince (Walker), Montini's Will Smith filled in admirably for his fellow junior running back in the top-seeded Broncos' 35-7 Class 6A opener over No. 16 Wauconda.
"With Prince's hamstring not right, (Smith is) as good as most running backs in the state," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "There's that speed factor with him and he understands the blocking schemes and where the holes are. He's got a burst to get through and he's patient when he needs to be. He's smart."
Smith also was banged up, to the point where Montini (10-0) had Nick Foster, typically a defensive back, practice at tailback before the first-round game.
Like Foster and cornerback Mitch West a member of Montini's 800-meter relay that reached the 2015 Class 2A track finals, Smith felt good enough to blaze Wauconda for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. In Week 9 Smith ran for 103 yards against Marmion in essentially one half.
"You've just got to have people able to step in and play well," Andriano said.
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