Glenbard East, Glenbard South ready to renew rivalry in Upstate Eight

 
 
Updated 10/10/2018 3:30 PM
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  • Glenbard East's Patrick Crossland runs the ball during varsity football at Bartlett on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

      Glenbard East's Patrick Crossland runs the ball during varsity football at Bartlett on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Glenbard East and Glenbard South share the same football field again on Friday, this time as members of the Upstate Eight Conference.

DuPage Valley Conference football opponents from 1983-95, in nonconference meetings since then Glenbard East (7-0, 7-0) owns a 3-1 lead over a Raiders team seeking playoff eligibility. Glenbard East won in 1997 and 1998 and again in 2015. Glenbard South (4-3, 4-3) won 28-25 in 2016.

Digging through old yearbooks, Glenbard South athletic director Tim Carlson couldn't find every outcome of the DVC years, but those he did showed a 4-4 split with Glenbard East taking the 1995 finale 14-13.

"I think it's nice when you can get two schools that are that close together that can play, where you get kids, communities and schools to be excited about it," said Glenbard East coach John Walters.

Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey is familiar with Walters and such Rams staffers as associate head coach Joe Cristina, defensive coordinator Jeff Cherry and particularly freshman coach Steve Bair, whose sons, Billy and Charlie, attended Glenbard South and whose daughter, Maggie, is a senior there.

Crissey said his players know Glenbard East's through youth leagues, like the Glen Ellyn Golden Eagles vs. Lombard Falcons.

"It's very exciting," Crissey said. "The kids are really looking forward to the opportunity to play a really good team, a really dynamic team. At this point the kids have kind of been looking forward to this game all season."

Now all they need is a traveling trophy and a title.

"Call it the 'Battle of Butterfield,' I don't know," Walters said.

On the playoff prowl:

Welcome back, Tigers.

With Wheaton Warrenville South's 24-9 victory over Lake Park last week, the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 DuKane Conference) clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2014. While that wasn't too long ago, it was still before any player on the team was in high school.

Like so many other things, getting used to the idea of a Week 10 is a new experience for this Tigers team.

"It's something new for the kids, and we've had to talk to them a lot about the experience," said Tigers coach Ron Muhitch. "There was a re-education to some degree. We're trying to make the kids understand what it means."

What it means is the Tigers -- known as a state power for the last 30 years -- won't take this journey for granted. Even a program with seven state titles can appreciate simply qualifying.

Since reaching the playoffs for the first time in 1988, the Tigers never missed the postseason in consecutive years until enduring three straight 2-7 seasons from 2015 to 2017.

Now that they're officially in the field of 256 playoff teams, the Tigers' goal is to improve their seeding in the last two weeks of the regular season. Victories over Glenbard North and St. Charles North would accomplish that.

"We're excited, and we're going to try and hype it up a little big more," Muhitch said. "We want to add a little grandeur to the experience."

Big-game experience:

Several seniors at IC Catholic Prep have varsity experience all four seasons in high school -- running back-defensive back Steven Crady, receiver-defensive back Jacob Lytton, linemen Ryan Kenneally and Ricky Mysliwiec, lineman-linebacker Kemon Reese and twin brothers Khali and Khalil Saunders, a receiver-linebacker and quarterback-defensive back, respectively.

This senior class has a varsity record of 46-3, losing to St. Laurence in Week 2 last season and to Bishop McNamara in the 2015 season opener and in the 2015 Class 3A semifinals. IC Catholic (7-0, 4-0 Metro Suburban Blue) has won the last two Class 3A titles by a total score of 78-0 and has been bumped up to 4A by the "success adjustment."

"That's pretty incredible to say that's your high school career," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.

Other seniors such as Sean Hipskind, Michael Johnson, Ryan Malek and David Vargas first saw action in 2016. Barring injury, linemen Kevin Akins and Koby Reed -- who played in 12 and 14 varsity games as freshmen, respectively -- and receiver Evan Gibbons and quarterback Tommy Ryan are current juniors on track to play in at least one varsity game all four years.

"Right now I don't worry about losses, wins, records, I don't care about any of it," said Krefft, preparing for St. Francis on Friday. "We're getting ready for the biggest game of the year because it's our next one."

Dazzling debut:

Naperville North sophomore running back Elijah Jordan made the most of his first varsity start.

Last week he rushed for 133 yards and scoring runs of 4, 25 and 17 yards to account for all the Huskies' touchdowns in a 21-14 victory over Metea Valley. He was pressed into much more action than usual with Ameir Wilbourn out due to injury.

"We found out Wednesday that Ameir wouldn't be able to go, so we knew we'd need a big game from Elijah," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel. "He's been up with us all year, but he hasn't been the guy because we have Ameir."

While Wilbourn rushed for 369 yards in the first six weeks of the season, Jordan rushed for nearly half his 275 yards last week. They're similar runners, allowing Jordan to learn from Wilbourn each week.

With two games to go for the Huskies (2-5), Jordan is surging to a strong finish. Twenty-six times he ran the ball last week, showing he's ready to carry the load.

"We know he's going to be very good and we wanted him to learn from someone like Ameir, who's a great character guy," Drendel said.

Need a rebound:

Wheaton North (3-4, 2-3 DuKane Conference) went 2-2 in its last four games in outcomes decided by a total of 13 points.

Needless to say, the margin is mighty small for the Falcons. Especially after last week's 17-14 loss to previously winless Geneva pushed them to the edge of elimination from playoff contention.

"I still think we have enough talent to have a better record than 3-4," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "It's frustrating. If you're talking about the playoffs, there is no margin anymore."

The defense, powered by junior linebacker Xander Mueller, has been consistently good while allowing 16 points a game. The offense, however, has been just as inconsistent while averaging 12 points. The Falcons haven't scored more than 23 points in a game this season.

Whether it's execution, penalties, injuries, inexperience at key spots ... offensive rhythm has been impossible to achieve.

The Falcons need to find it fast if they hope to qualify for the postseason. They'll need to beat St. Charles East (4-3) and Batavia (7-0) to finish the regular season 5-4 and become playoff eligible.

"We've had some exciting moments but we haven't had that great game this season," Wardynski said. "I'm hoping that great game is still out there for us. We still have it in us to play our best game."

Mentally tough:

Taking a DuPage Valley Conference loss like Neuqua Valley did last week -- on an interception return for touchdown with 13 seconds left -- can be tough.

Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus thinks his players are tougher.

"The kids bounce back faster than the coaches do," he said. "I think the overall demeanor of our football team is rather calm, brotherhood-ish, if you will."

While Neuqua Valley (4-3, 1-1) has five quality team captains -- tight end-defensive end Justin Blazek, linebacker Kyle Borske, running back Will Chevalier, defensive end Matt Quinn and receiver Brandt Stare -- no speeches were needed to prepare for Friday's game against Metea Valley.

Ellinghaus called the team mindset a "one-for-all makeup." Playing off that is a quirky stat from the Wildcats' 21-14 loss to Naperville Central.

Displaying true balance, Chevalier's 72 yards rushing led four Neuqua players who totaled 147 yards rushing. Quarterback Mark Gronowski hit five receivers for a total of 147 yards.

"Yeah, it was a tough loss," Ellinghaus said, "but we came back Tuesday and talked to the kids about it just being part of the story. There are going to be a lot of positives still from this football team."

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