Brodner, Glenbard West plow past Cary-Grove
Football players like Sam Brodner were made for days like Saturday.
Glenbard West's Vanderbilt-bound running back dominated in a snowstorm as the Hilltoppers claimed a 21-6 victory over Cary-Grove in a Class 7A semifinal played at Glenbard South in Glen Ellyn.
The victory sends the top-seeded Hilltoppers (13-0) to their third state title game in seven years to face No. 3 Libertyville (13-0), a 22-17 winner over Bradley-Bourbonnais. Glenbard West, which won it all in 2012, vies for the program's third state title.
With playing conditions beyond brutal on a snow-covered field, the Hilltoppers leaned heavily on Brodner and their defense. Brodner carried the ball a stunning 50 times for 292 yards and a pair of touchdowns to give him 43 on the season.
"We break teams' will, that's what we always do," Brodner said. "Definitely in the fourth quarter, we shine when we need to shine. There was definitely pressure on us to do what we needed to do, and we got it done."
Glenbard West took a 7-6 lead to the fourth quarter after both teams scored midway through the first quarter. On fourth-and-16 at Cary-Grove's 18-yard line early in the fourth, Hilltoppers quarterback Brian Cochrane completed a touchdown pass to Chrystian Maciorowski to put Glenbard West ahead 14-6 following Parker Esposito's extra point.
Cochrane threw only five passes in the conditions, completing two for 48 yards, while Cary-Grove counterpart John Sullivan completed his one attempt for 5 yards.
"It was tough but you've got to get through it," Cochrane said. "On the touchdown I dropped back to pass, Sam wasn't open, I saw Chrystian late and put it in the spot. It was a great catch by him."
After the Hilltoppers extended the lead to 14-6, their defense -- spectacular again -- held the No. 5 Trojans (11-2) on downs when linebacker Jackson Goleash stuffed a fourth-and-4 run. On the next play from scrimmage, Brodner went 38 yards for his second touchdown of the game to boost Glenbard West's advantage to 21-6.
"This is an experience we'll remember forever," said Glenbard West linebacker Ross Andreasik. "This doesn't come around very often, a game like this in the snow in the semifinals. The heart and determination we showed was incredible."
Glenbard West's defense limited Cary-Grove's vaunted triple option to 130 total yards, including 18 carries for 93 yards by standout junior Tyler Pennington. The Hilltoppers had 20 first downs compared to 5 for the Trojans, 3 coming on their first possession of the game.
"They really just played very well," Pennington said. "They had a great scheme and they had a great game plan, and they executed it perfectly. They really stifled what we wanted to do."
Cary-Grove scored on its opening possession when Pennington broke through on a fullback dive for a 42-yard touchdown run. Glenbard West answered immediately when Brodner went 58 yards for a touchdown.
"Our style of running is a little different from theirs," said Trojans coach Brad Seaburg. "They went to their horse, and they were effective with what they did. That fourth-down touchdown was just a killer but, yeah, the conditions definitely played a huge part in the game."
Glenbard West ran 34 second-half plays -- including 24 Brodner runs -- compared to 14 for Cary-Grove.
The Trojans came up with three red zone stops. The most important was at the end of the first half when the Hilltoppers ran out of time at the 1-yard line.
"This is what the kids have been doing all year, and the conditions didn't bother them at all," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "Defense was great, got our offense back on the field and Sam was just awesome again."
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