Spartans finish strong with 28-7 win over Niles West
After tearing the labrum in his left shoulder a couple weeks ago, Glenbrook North senior McCartney Kalmar could have coasted into the awards ceremony, pasta swirl or whatever postseason event Spartans coach Matt Purdy puts together.
"That was never a consideration," Kalmar said after Glenbrook North finished strong to beat Central Suburban League South foe Niles West 28-7 at Mike Basrak Stadium in Skokie on Oct. 21.
"I wanted to play the last two weeks, but the doctor told me I should sit that one out. I knew that nothing was going to make me miss this game," said Kalmar, who ran the ball twice and led the Spartans with 5 receptions.
Memories are made in a non-playoff season, too.
"My message to the team was, just look back on everything we've done this year," said senior center and nose tackle Patrick Mahoney, like Kalmar a co-captain.
"There's so much that goes into (the season), from summer camp to getting pizza at Jake's after every game. Just soak it all in, enjoy it for that last game. Last time we're going to play high school ball all together with a lot of buddies I've been playing with since fourth grade. Just soak it all in," he said.
Sophomore quarterback J.J. Schlenhardt was back, too, for the first time since breaking his left wrist against Rolling Meadows in Week 4.
Purdy was a little concerned about Schlenhardt's willingness to run when pressed, but the sophomore relished it.
"It felt good to be hit, which is weird, but it just felt good to be hit and just playing the game again," he said.
Relieving next-man-up quarterback Jack Philbin, Schlenhardt led Glenbrook North to a 21-0 lead over the host Wolves after three quarters.
He completed his first 6 passes and would have completed eight straight were it not for a catchable drop.
On the Spartans' first series Schlenhardt escaped the rush and threw sidearm to McCartney to get to Niles West's 22-yard line. Philbin, bound for 96 yards rushing, ran those 22 yards for a 6-0 Glenbrook North lead that held till halftime.
Midway through the third quarter Schlenhardt ran behind Mahoney for a 3-yard touchdown -- a deceptive set with big Max Mulvihill and Matt Gasior at left tackle and left guard, respectively.
Quickly, Glenbrook North (3-6, 1-4) won field position again. Schlenhardt passed to Kalmar on a 16-yard screen, then ran it 3 yards for his second touchdown. Senior Adam Yoss added the kick for the 21-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Asked what he missed about the game while his wrist healed, Schlenhardt said: "Everything."
"I wanted to be in the game and make an impact, and I just couldn't. So it feels nice to make an impact again," said Schlenhardt, who also completed a 2-point conversion pass to junior Patrick Schaller.
Niles West (2-7, 0-5) grabbed momentum when Krystian Robinson recovered a muffed Spartans punt return and Joe Pantazis ran 34 yards out of the Wildcat formation for an early fourth-quarter touchdown.
Niles West maintained pressure on Alec Banda's interception. The Wolves had first-and-10 at the Spartans' 22-yard line when Glenbrook North's MacLean Mulvihill leapt at the line to disrupt a point-blank pass. The sophomore somehow held onto the football and returned his interception 73 yards for a touchdown with 3:38 left to play, clinching the win.
"Seeing that, I thought he was just going to block it down and then I saw him return it and then, I mean, my face was lighting up, I was running down the sideline," said Max Mulvihill, MacLean's 265-pound big brother and team co-captain.
Like Glenbrook North, Niles West's season starting promisingly, 2-0. Players like junior running back-linebacker Pantazis, who ran for 100 yards and caused a fumble, give Wolves coach Nick Torresso cause for optimism.
"There are good things going on here, it's going to take us a little bit of time to close that gap," Torresso said. "This year we definitely took a step forward in the right direction. Didn't get it done when we needed to. But we're getting there, though. We're getting there."
Concluding his fourth season as Glenbrook North head coach, Matt Purdy, who is also the Spartans' offensive line coach, felt bittersweet as seniors such as linemen Mahoney, Mulvihill and Laith Salim played their final prep game.
"I talked to the guys today before we came, about legacy," Purdy said. "Everybody talks about what legacy is, but it's the stories that you leave behind. There's a lot of great stories and we had a lot of good laughs in our meeting today. They leave us with a big hole, and me especially."
Especially in a non-playoff season, friendship helps fill that hole.
"There's so many life lessons I learned," Kalmar said. "The values of resilience and determination and friendship, just me and my lifelong buddies here. It was a great four months, and I'm excited to continue the relationships off the field."