Glenbard West's gambles pay off in high-scoring win over Maine South
Glenbard West played a little keep away to hold off Maine South 37-34 in the Class 8A quarterfinals Saturday in Park Ridge.
Glenbard West (11-1) is making its first semifinal appearance since 2015. The fifth-seeded Hilltoppers will play at top-seeded Lincoln-Way East next weekend. The official day and time will be announced on Monday. Lincoln-Way East beat Warren 35-14 in its quarterfinal game Saturday.
It was a bit of trickery that gave Glenbard West the momentum it needed. The Hilltoppers successfully completed a pair of onside kicks in the second quarter. That enabled Glenbard West to hold the ball for 13 consecutive minutes and score 10 points to lead 24-14.
"Once you get a feel for the game and how their quarterback was throwing the ball, we were going to have a tough time defending," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "We had to figure out how to get an extra possession. Then we were like, let's just try it again."
Maine South had built a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard run by Michael Dellumo and a 68-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Leyden to Sean Mullen. Glenbard West's touchdown came on a 61-yard run by Joey Pope.
After the Hilltoppers scored on a 12-yard pass from Korey Tai to Filip Maciorowski to tie the game at 14-14, Hetlet rolled the dice. The strategy worked with Michael Short recovering the kick. Jack Oberhofer made the strategy look even better when he scored on a 1-yard run to make it 21-14.
Hetlet again grabbed the dice and came up with another winner with a second successful onside kick. This turned into a 43-yard field goal by Marcello Diomede and it was 24-14.
After a third try was unsuccessful, Maine South (9-3) showed why it is so important to keep the ball away from the Hawks, Maine South flew down the field in just under two minutes with Leyden scoring on a 22-yard run to cut the lead to 24-21.
The Hilltoppers answered with an 80-yard drive. Julius Ellens, who would rush for 135 yards on 24 carries, scored on a 5-yard sweep with 17.6 seconds left to make it 31-21 at the half.
"We can run the ball and pass the ball," said Korey Tai, who was 8-of-12 passing for 82 yards and rushed for 88 yards.
"We have to capitalize on the opportunities we get."
Glenbard West was able to control the clock in the half. The Hilltoppers put together a pair of long drives that culminated in field goals of 22 and 33 yards by Diomede as Glenbard West increased its lead to 37-21.
The Hilltoppers defense also came up with big plays. They forced a turnover and turned away Maine South on two other occasions to have what appeared to be a comfortable lead with just over two minutes.
But, that's how fast Maine South can strike.
On the first play following a punt, Leyden, who would finish 19-of-24 passing for 426 yards, hooked up with Mullen (5 receptions, 155 yards) on a 35-yard touchdown. However, the conversion pass was intercepted by Kenny Rainey to make it 37-27 with 2:04 left.
After another defensive stop and a punt, Leyden and the Hawks went to work again. On the second play, Leyden connected with Ryan Ryan Pothast on a 49-yard touchdown pass and it was 37-34 with 1:08 left.
But the Hawks' onside kick was not successful and the Hilltoppers were able to hold on for the win.
"I knew it was going to be high-scoring both sides," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. "Obviously, their two calls for onside kicks were fantastic. Not having the ball for so long was not good. Especially for an offense that was moving the ball. You have to give them credit for having the guts to try that."