Tough draw, tough break sink Glenbard West
As the sun was beginning its slow descent westward and his teammates milled about, many in tears, Glenbard West defensive lineman Dave Lanciloti mused about the end of his final high school football season.
What was the senior going to miss the most?
"Just the grind," he said after thinking about the question for a moment. "Waking up every morning in the summer at 6 a.m., going to practice, before everyone else is up. Just fighting for this."
Lanciloti and his teammates fought and fought in a hostile environment Saturday afternoon but saw Loyola slip away with a 28-27 victory in a Class 8A second-round playoff game. It was the first and only loss of the season for the Hilltoppers (10-1).
Nearby Lanciloti, senior running back Joey Richmond, who rushed eight times for 45 yards and a touchdown, ruminated over the same question.
"Just the experiences," he said of what he'd miss. "This year was probably one of the best years I've had with the juniors, and hopefully they win state next year."
The Hilltoppers held a tenuous 27-21 lead early in the fourth quarter after a 5-yard scoring pass from Loyola junior quarterback J.T. Thomas to senior receiver Matty Mangan.
Glenbard West went nine plays on its ensuing drive, moving from its own 20-yard line to the Ramblers' 42 in a little over five minutes, with every play but the last one on the ground. The last one was an interception by Loyola junior free safety Marty Auer.
The Ramblers capitalized by running eight plays and covering 57 yards, with the game-winning touchdown coming from junior running back Vaughn Pemberton, who rushed 32 times for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The best Glenbard West could do was a three-and-out on its ensuing possession, giving Loyola the ball after a punt on the Hilltoppers' 43. Five Pemberton runs later, and it was over.
"There's a bunch of people with broken hearts," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "A lot of coaches and players that hurt right now, because this is a special group of guys, not because of winning, but what they do off the field and (how they) carry themselves. You'd like to see a team like that experience what it's like to go to a state championship or further in the playoffs.
"They did everything they were supposed to do, and it didn't fall for them."
The Hilltoppers had a penchant for the big play Saturday, despite the loss. With the game tied 14-14 with 7:10 left in the third quarter, junior running back Jalen Moore took a handoff on a jet sweep left, cut through two defenders and then sprinted down the Loyola sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run. There was a bad snap on the point-after attempt, however, and Glenbard West couldn't capitalize on the impromptu conversion opportunity.
Loyola ran six plays on its ensuing possession but was forced to punt on fourth-and-6. But once again, the snap was bad and the ball trickled into the end zone, where junior defensive back Will Sackett scooped it up for another touchdown.
"I just sprinted all the way down," Sackett said. "Me and my teammate Laz (Smith), Laz helped me a lot on that. He hit the ball over to me, and I recovered it."
That gave the Hilltoppers a seemingly comfortable 27-14 lead at that point. But it just wasn't to be.
Moore led all rushers with 168 yards on 22 attempts and the 49-yard touchdown. Senior back Nic Seifert rushed seven times for 35 yards and a 13-yard touchdown. And senior safety Sean Michel had a key pick in the first quarter of Loyola junior quarterback J.T. Thomas.