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Glenbard West's Devante Toney runs the ball against Downers Grove North. | Patrick Gleason ~ For Sun-Times Media
Glenbard West is good, no question about it.
You have to be in order to win a conference as deep as the West Suburban Silver, which qualified six of its seven teams for the IHSA playoffs. And the Hilltoppers didn’t just win, they dominated.
Saturday’s workmanlike 26-0 win over Downers Grove North on the torn-up natural turf at Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn was No. 2 Glenbard West’s third shutout of the season. The Hitters’ defense held four other opponents to a touchdown apiece and gave up more than that to just two teams (23 to Hinsdale Central, 14 to Proviso West).
Meanwhile, Glenbard West (9-0, 6-0) has pounded it out on the ground on offense as usual with a talented stable of running backs including Joe Zito, Scott Andrews and Devante Toney. When opponents decide to stack the box to stop the run, quarterback Henry Haeffner has shown the ability to find receivers like Nathan Marcus and Luke Domask for big plays downfield.
On Saturday, Andrews gained 94 yards on 15 carries, including a five-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Zito ran 18 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns, a one-yarder in the first quarter and a two-yarder in the second, and Toney (14 carries, 73 yards) had a four-yard TD run in the first quarter.
The defense held the Trojans (5-4, 2-4) to 19 passing yards and 91 net yards.
That was more than enough to win Saturday. The question is, will good be good enough for Glenbard West this year in the postseason? Last year, it wasn’t. The Hilltoppers started 10-0 but were out of the playoffs in Week 2 with a 10-3 loss to Lake Zurich.
How long a shadow that cast depends on whom you ask.
“Don’t really think about it,” Toney said. “The past is past. It’s a new season, we think about being 1-0 at the end of the day.”
Haeffner had a different take on last year’s early playoff exit.
“It’s been on my mind the entire season,” he said. “We don’t try to linger on the past, but it’s there. We know how awful it felt and how bad we felt for the seniors. We just want to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.”
That’s obviously also a concern for coach Chad Hetlet, who’s been focused on the short term up till now.
“Starting now, we talk about it,” Hetlet said of the early end to last season. “It had no bearing on our regular-season schedule.”
What will have a big influence on whether the Hilltoppers make it to Champaign for the Class 7A title game?
“Luck,” Hetlet said. “You can be really good and get hurt. Last year, from Week 7 on we lost a center, a quarterback, two linebackers, two guards.”
Hetlet isn’t saying Glenbard West lost in the second round last year because of injuries alone. But when his team went to state in 2009, “we stayed healthy, we got lucky.
“Hopefully we get a lot of luck and stay healthy. I think we can compete with anybody in the state if we do those things.”
They’ve shown that all season long. Now they’ll try to do it for five more weeks.