Glenbrook South becomes playoff-eligible
Like all football teams, Glenbrook South looks to win one game at a time.
The Titans have maximized that philosophy, going 5-0 the first five weeks of the season after a 42-14 homecoming victory over Niles West on Sept. 24 at John Davis Stadium. It's Glenbrook South's first 5-0 start since going 6-0 in 2008.
Tough Maine South will test this run on Friday, but with the win over Niles West, Glenbrook South (5-0, 1-0 Central Suburban League South) became playoff-eligible for the first time since 2017.
"To me the playoffs are a long way off," said coach Dave Schoenwetter, who led the Titans to the postseason last in 2017 and played quarterback on the Titans' 1992 and 1993 playoff teams.
"Right now I really want to focus on how much better we can get by next week and see how we can do in the CSL," he said. "Two years ago we were second place in the CSL, last year we were second from last in the CSL and so we're looking just to make a run at being toward the top."
Run is the effective word. Against Niles West Will Collins ran the football 14 times for 114 yards and touchdowns of 17, 4 and 1 yards. Matt Burda pounded it 18 times for 105 yards and scores of 24 and 2 yards.
"Me and Will have been pretty consistent all season and running the ball very well for this team. We're just going to keep going, carry that into Maine South," Burda said.
A returning cast of offensive linemen continued to pay dividends: Ryan Cunningham, Drew Duffy, Danny Leibrandt, Johnny Rolfes and Chris Fish, plus tight end Jack DiSano. Nick Brattleaf, David Palkovic and Trey De Lio came in for solid reps as well against Niles West (2-3, 0-1).
Burda and Collins gave the Wolves the one-two and so did Glenbrook South as a whole with two early touchdowns in five plays.
The Titans scored on the game's first possession, Burda following motion man Chuck Gottfried's block and spinning off a defender on a 24-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the game.
Niles West's Jadden Miller returned the resulting kickoff 34 yards, but Glenbrook South linebacker Trent Spaete intercepted a pass on the Wolves' first play from scrimmage and returned it 37 yards to Niles West's 19-yard line. Two plays later Titans quarterback Nic Swanson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Gottfried, wide open.
"That was one of the best feelings in the world, to come out here right away, get that pick on the first play of the game pretty much, from a defensive standpoint," Spaete said. "I knew that if I made my reads the right way I'd be in the right position to make some plays, so all the credit to the coaches on that one. But I'm just happy I was able to help my team out."
Franco Fernandez-Enjo -- 6-for-6 on extra points and 5 touchbacks on kickoffs -- gave Glenbrook South a 14-0 lead at 7:56 of the first quarter.
Niles West, which ran a no-huddle offense all game, pulled within 14-7 after one quarter on a 35-yard touchdown pass from good-looking quarterback Jack Leons to Sam Burns, before Glenbrook South scored 21 straight second-quarter points.
Between Burda and Collins, plus Hank Leahy in for breathers, the Titans covered 83 yards in 11 rushing plays and went up 21-7 on Collins' 17-yard run.
Helped by Fernandez-Enjo's deep kickoffs and two punts Niles West would have liked to have back, Glenbrook South embedded itself in the Wolves' red zone. Touchdowns by Burda and Collins gave Glenbrook South a 35-7 halftime lead.
Niles West started its season 2-0 then lost twice on COVID-19 forfeits. Wolves first-year coach Nick Torresso said only one player had the virus during those forfeits, but 32 were in quarantine.
The Wolves have athletes -- Burns, Leons, Max Nauman and Andrew Mikos all are strong players -- but Glenbrook South prevented them from putting it all together. Torresso made no excuses.
"We knew going into the week that field position was going to be huge. So turning the ball over on our side of the 50 against a well-coached, disciplined team that kind of eats away at the yardage, and then (two bad punts), they're bound to score just naturally by what they run," Torresso said.
Collins and Niles West's Enrique Ramirez-Antunez traded second-half touchdowns as Glenbrook South earned the critical fifth win with an eye on more 1-0 weeks ahead.
"Obviously a major accomplishment but we're not done yet. We've got a lot of stuff to get better on, and I'm really excited to see where we can go," Spaete said.