Glenbard West players earn championship of their own

  • Glenbard West's Sam Brodner carries the ball for a touchdown against Libertyville during the Class 7A football championship game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb Saturday.

    Glenbard West's Sam Brodner carries the ball for a touchdown against Libertyville during the Class 7A football championship game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/29/2015 12:02 AM

When Glenbard West's football program won its last state title in 2012, Sam Brodner and the bulk of his teammates were freshmen.

Their own mission became crystal clear.

 

"My brother (Jake) was on that team," said the Vanderbilt-bound running back. "I wouldn't hear the end of it if we didn't win this game. It definitely motivated us to get it done."

Brodner and the 2015 Hilltoppers earned their own slice of Hitters history with Saturday's 34-28 victory over Libertyville in the Class 7A championship game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Denied in the semifinals the last two seasons, Glenbard West (14-0) got over the hump to claim the program's third state title behind Brodner's 7A final record 264 rushing yards on 28 carries. His 4 touchdown runs tied a 7A final record.

"This is as good a team that's ever played at Glenbard West," said Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet. "I don't think it's possible to match them."

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Brodner scored on a 5-yard run with 5 seconds left in the first half to pull Glenbard West within 21-20 after the Wildcats' Ben Kimpler blocked the extra point. The Hilltoppers then came out of the half with a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of the third quarter.

Quarterback Brian Cochrane's 9-yard scoring pass to Isaiah Skinner put the Hilltoppers ahead to stay at 27-21 and then a Kobe Easley interception of Libertyville quarterback Riley Lees, committed to Northwestern, set up Brodner's 56-yard touchdown run.

Libertyville (13-1) suddenly found itself trailing 34-21 with 10 minutes left in its season.

"That drive in the third quarter, it wasn't necessarily getting people to the ball," Kimpler said. "It's how those people approached (Brodner) as he was running the ball. We stressed so much, once we got to him to take away the strength that he showed."

Down two touchdowns, Lees quickly marched the Wildcats downfield and hit Henry Schmidt for a 2-yard touchdown pass that narrowed the gap to 34-28 with 6:33 left. Lees, normally a run-dominant quarterback, completed 19 of 28 passes for 232 yards and 4 touchdowns against 2 interceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"All of us have been playing together since second grade," said Lees, who ran the ball 12 times for 47 yards. "That's the hardest part, that this is our last game together."

After Libertyville's touchdown made it a one-score game, Glenbard West never let the Wildcats get the ball back. Despite committing four penalties and Libertyville using all its timeouts, the Hilltoppers still drained the clock with three first downs.

The title-sealing play came on a fourth-and-1 at Libertyville's 26. Brodner burst through the line for an 8-yard gain, and the Hilltoppers' celebration was on after two kneels by Cochrane.

"This is the best feeling," Skinner said. "It's what you work the whole year for. It's great to get this for the team, the community, everybody that supports you. That's what's important."

Libertyville eased to a touchdown on its opening possession when Lees found Schmidt for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Brodner responded on Glenbard West's first drive with a 17-yard scoring run.

Brodner's 19-yard touchdown run was countered by Libertyville after Glenbard West's fumbled punt return resulted in a game-tying 8-yard touchdown pass from Lees to Tim Calamari. Lees put the Wildcats ahead 21-14 minutes later with a 55-yard scoring strike to Cam Shaffer.

A goal-line interception by Justice Bradley prevented Libertyville's lead from growing. Seven plays later -- including a huge 38-yard pass from Cochrane to Skinner on fourth-and-4 -- Brodner made it a 1-point halftime deficit.

"We just had to come out and execute," said Hilltoppers linebacker Nico Gagliano. "We watched the film. We did everything we needed to do to prepare for this game. We came out and made it happen."

Libertyville, which also lost in last year's semifinals, returned to the title game for the first time since winning the 7A crown in 2004.

"Our guys just continued to play hard until time ran out," said Libertyville coach Mike Jones. "The frustrating part was in the third quarter. Their first drive we had ample opportunity to get off the field and we just didn't. End of the first half, start of the first quarter, those were two turning points in the game that made the difference in the game."

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