Patient Glenbard North seizing the moment
Following Glenbard North's winless 2018 football season with an 0-2 start this year, Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens saw no need for panic.
Particularly when the losses came to Neuqua Valley and Warren, now a combined 15-1.
Wilkens' emphasis was simple.
"Just always moving forward," he said.
Now Glenbard North (5-3, 5-1 DuKane Conference) has won four straight games and five of its last six.
"I'd say our passing game and our defense are getting better every week," Wilkens said.
The Panthers historically gain more yards rushing than their opponents. Tailbacks Jordan McQuarter, Cordell Smiley and Denhim Betney have helped the team average 164 yards rushing a game. Linemen Miguel Galvez, Mark Keith, Johnny Cassidy, Paulie Robertson, Ben Voigts, tight end Jake Cicero and fullback Josh Kliment -- an "unsung hero," Wilkens said -- have jelled as a unit.
The passing game has outgained foes as/ well, which doesn't always happen.
Behind solid protection and quarterback Mike Vazquez's ability to avoid pressure, the last two weeks the play-action pass game clicked for 272 yards against St. Charles North and 187 against Wheaton Warrenville South. Loading the box against the run is risky when it means single coverage on top Panthers receivers Kobie Jamison, Rory Hills and Angelo Cusumano.
"If he stays hot and we can get our run game going we can be OK," Wilkens said.
In Week 4 Naperville North (2-6) edged Waubonsie Valley (3-5) 31-28 in DuPage Valley Conference play.
Five weeks later, the Huskies aim to beat the Warriors again.
On the road. In retiring Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy's final game on the sidelines.
Not exactly the ideal situation as Naperville North tries to carry some momentum into the off-season.
"I don't like it, but it's where we're at," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel.
Because the DuPage Valley Conference has only six teams, the league must fill four weeks of nonconference games. It's not easy finding Week 9 games, so four teams must play each other a second time this weekend in nonconference play.
The other DVC rematch is Neuqua Valley (7-1) against Metea Valley (1-7), a game that went the Wildcats' way in Week 7. Only DeKalb and Naperville Central, which respectively scheduled Alton and East St. Louis, avoided the DVC doubleheader.
"It's a tough situation for both teams," said Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus. "But it's the only way we could put together a schedule."
Glenbard West (8-0, 5-0 West Suburban Silver) won six straight games with a running clock and by an average of more than 50 points.
Then came Saturday and Hinsdale Central (7-1, 4-1).
The Hilltoppers won the game 20-17 in overtime with a gutty effort on both sides of the ball. They've clinched their 11th Silver title in 12 years and can enter the playoffs unbeaten for the 11th time with a Friday win at Oak Park.
For all the nervous moments against the Red Devils, a game like that was exactly what Glenbard West needed.
"We had so many lopsided games and I think we lost our edge a little bit," said Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet. "Whether you win or lose, you learn so much from games like Saturday."
St. Francis (7-1, 5-0 Metro Suburban Blue) earned a big 20-19 victory Friday over IC Catholic Prep despite a third-quarter injury to the left, non-throwing arm of quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse. The junior likely won't return until an early round of the playoffs.