Glenbard North gets momentum on its side against Wheaton North
Go for it on fourth down?
Sure, why not?
Making it can equate to momentum, which was the case for Glenbard North on Saturday morning in a 21-7 DuKane Conference football win over Wheaton North.
Early in the second quarter, with the ball on the Wheaton North 19-yard line, Panthers coach Ryan Wilken faced a fourth-and-2. Glenbard North has an effective kicker in junior Fabian Martinez, but Wilken decided to go for it.
Good decision. He put the ball in the hands of stout junior back Denhim Betney, who bulled his way for a big 5 yards and a first down.
Wilken then pivoted to Angelo Cusumano out of the backfield, and three runs later by the senior, he was in the end zone. Glenbard North suddenly had the 7-0 lead after Martinez's extra point, but more importantly, the momentum.
"No doubt," Wilken said of his decision-making process in that situation. "Our bigs are coming around. We've played some high-quality teams these first few weeks, and our chemistry is building, and the bigs are beginning to take over a little bit."
No doubt. That's how Betney felt about getting the ball on short yardage.
"In my head I was just thinking first down -- I have to get it," he said.
Wheaton North didn't have the same luck on the ensuing drive. The Falcons put together a 13-play drive that took the ball all the way down to the Glenbard North 22-yard line. But the Panthers ended the drive with quarterback sacks on third and fourth downs.
"I think when a team like that, they are running the ball predominantly, and the clock goes fast, it's not like it's two teams that are airing the ball out all over the place," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. "So when the clock is moving fast and the possessions are limited, sometimes you kind of feel like you need to maybe take a chance on fourth down, because you may not get the ball back very many times."
While Cusumano did damage on offense in the first half, he did the same on defense in the second. Wheaton North ran four plays to start the third quarter, and Cusumano intercepted a Falcons pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. Martinez's extra point made it 14-0 Glenbard North.
Turns out that's all the Panthers needed.
"We were working on that all week in practice," Cusumano said of that pick-6. "Watch the screen. We just took it from them."
Wheaton North did have some fourth-down heroics on its ensuing drive; sophomore back Brayton Maske converted on a fourth-and-inches at the Glenbard North 12.
Three plays later, Falcons sophomore quarterback Mark Forcucci found junior receiver Ben Bonga in the right side of the end zone to cut the lead in half. Bonga finished with 7 catches for 125 yards.
"He's had a good year so far for us," Wardynski said of Bonga. "Teams are starting to put coverage toward him and he's still making plays for us. He's a physical kid for a receiver and is doing some good things for us."
Glenbard North's other score came on a 60-yard run by senior Jordan McQuarters with 2:57 left in the third quarter. He finished with 8 rushes for 81 yards, while Betney had 23 for 112.
Forcucci went 11-for-26 passing for 140 yards, while Maske had 35 yards on the ground on 18 rushes.