Defense doing its job in Glenbard East's 3-0 start
Don't look now, but a third of the high school football regular season is in the books. For the teams sitting at 3-0, like Glenbard East and coach John Walters, life is good. It can also be a bit of vindication.
"Going into this season, they had our team sitting at 4-5, which we took as an insult and we wanted to prove them wrong," said Rams' junior defensive lineman Troy Cooper. "I remember coming to practice one day and (Walters) told us about it, and he wasn't happy about it, and neither were we."
But there was plenty to be happy about last Friday in Glenbard East's 39-7 victory over an upstart Streamwood team. Cooper and his defensive line counterparts -- senior defensive tackle Devonte Wright, junior defensive tackle Demontay Mack and junior defensive end Delmario Taylor -- held the Sabres and its triple-option offense to just 116 total yards.
Color Walters pleased because, in his mind, containing an offense as potent as Streamwood's comes down to winning the line of scrimmage. In other words, winning in the trenches equates to success.
That's been the case all season. The Rams have only given up a mere 20 points, while scoring exactly 100.
You'll notice that three of those four players up front are juniors. That may bode well for next season, but Walters is more interested in the current one.
Of Mack, who had 3 tackles for loss against Streamwood, Walters said, "He runs like a tight end, maybe even like a slot receiver. He's quick, he's fast, he is long and he is strong. If you want to be an interior run team, you have to account for him."
Taylor led the Rams with 6 solo tackles against the Sabres and is just "scratching the surface of how good he can be," while Cooper, at 6-4 and 200 pounds, is an interesting case because he's only played football for two years.
"Coach Walters had been coming to me all freshman year, come play football, come play football, so I decided the summer going into sophomore year to go out, and I fell in love with it," Cooper said, adding his favorite part of the game is "the common goal of getting a win."
Defense key for Glenbard North, too:
Another 3-0 team to watch closely is Glenbard North, which dispatched Geneva 21-7 Friday and in the process held the Vikings to under 30 rushing yards, due in part to the yeoman's work put in by senior defensive end Max Eick, senior free safety Shea Gaffney, and senior middle linebacker Colin Gudella, who "had a heck of a game," according to Panthers' coach Ryan Wilkens.
Senior cornerback Josh Applewhite had a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six that ultimately put the game away for Glenbard North.
"It was probably one of the best moments of my life," Applewhite said. "We had to play zone, and once I saw the quarterback's arm release, I saw the ball and I just caught it. I was right there in the moment. It felt like a receiver, to be honest."
That's because he is a receiver in multiple Glenbard North offensive sets, something Wilkens values.
"He's a very explosive and athletic kid and once he gets going it's hard to catch him," Wilkens said.
Like Cooper over at Glenbard East, Applewhite's goal is to prove the naysayers wrong.
"This is our last year and we want to go out hard," he said. "It's just a special defense."
Camps paying off for Glenbard South's Murphy:
Glenbard South senior defensive tackle Connor Murphy is in his fourth year on varsity, and prides himself on soaking up as much knowledge about his position as possible.
To that end, he attended 13 college camps over the summer, in venues as far-flung as Illinois State, North Dakota State, South Dakota and Lindenwood, in St. Charles, Mo. All told, he and his dad spent about 50 hours driving around the Midwest.
"It was a lot, but I really appreciated it, because I was able to go to a lot of different camps and talk to a lot of these D-line coaches," Murphy said. "Being able to take so much back was even bigger than the recruitment side of it."
That meant a near-immediate payoff off for the entire Raiders' defensive line, which includes senior defensive tackle Cain Smith and junior defensive ends Jack Wilharm and Owen DiFranco. They would meet at College of DuPage along with their offensive line counterparts and practice what Murphy learned.
"The defensive line has really been lights out," coach Ryan Crissey said. "The heartbeat of the defensive line is Connor Murphy. He's a great leader."