Many happy returns for Glenbard West
As if Glenbard West needed another way to damage the morale of an opponent.
A kickoff return for a touchdown is one of the most exciting plays in football, and the Hilltoppers got a pair of them Friday in a 55-7 defeat of Downers Grove North -- the first time they touched the ball to start each half.
After Downers North senior quarterback Drew Cassens got loose for a 69-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the game, Glenbard West junior Jaylen Moore responded on the very next play with a 98-yard kickoff return down his own sideline for a score.
"I'm just like, I hope they don't kick it to me, because I'm hyped up, because the defense got scored on," Moore said. "They kicked it to me and I was just in a whole different zone. I saw the seam open and I hit it as fast as I could and I scored.
"We're getting better and better on our kick returns, and today, we showed what we can do when we get the opportunity."
If that wasn't enough, consider that the Hilltoppers won the coin toss but deferred to the second half. At that point they were up just 21-7 -- but that was before junior Samson Zander got loose for a 96-yard kickoff return down Downers North's sidelines.
"We were like, they're definitely not kicking it deep after Jaylen returned that one, and I was fired up because our coached talked to us in the locker room about how we need to prove ourselves to each other," Zander said. "When they kicked that ball deep, I just took off."
Glenbard West (6-0, 3-0 West Suburban Silver) nearly had a third special teams score. In the third quarter senior Gerik Tyburk returned a Downers North punt 45 yards for a touchdown, but that got called back due to a penalty.
The spark on special teams was necessary because Cassens is a real weapon for the Trojans. He rushed 23 times for 118 yards and his team's only score, that 69-yard scamper four plays into the game. He raced up the middle, hit the secondary hard and led a convoy to the end zone.
"The Cassens kid, I told our kids all week how special he was, and I think they believed me after that first drive when he broke off that long run," Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet said. "He's one of the best players in the league, if not the area. He's so tough, physical, explosive and elusive."
The Trojans also got 32 yards rushing on 12 carries by senior back Joshua Lumpkin, but those kickoff returns were the biggest problem for the Trojans (3-3, 1-3).
"We had the lead for like 12 seconds," Downers North coach Joe Horeni said. "We gave up two kickoff returns for a touchdown. We can't do that against Glenbard West, let alone anybody we play. They are a physical football team. I think our kids fought hard. It certainly got away from us at the end, but I don't know if anybody is going to play those guys that hard."
Senior back Nic Seifert led Glenbard West with 103 yards on 11 carries, while senior Joey Richmond added 90 on 8 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Moore had 32 yards on 6 carries and Zander chipped in 25 on 3 touches.