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10/27/12 Glen Ellyn-Glenbard Wests Joe Zito carries against Elk Grove Village. Stacia Timonere/for Sun Times Media
Clinging to a 28-21 halftime lead, Glenbard West needed somebody to make a play. That “somebody” was senior linebacker Joe Marconi.
Marconi stepped in front of Elk Grove receiver Mike Bishop to intercept a pass at the Grenadiers’ 43-yard line two plays after the Grenadiers recovered a Hilltoppers’ fumble on their third play of the second half.
Marconi’s interception sparked a seven-play drive that gave Glenbard West (10-0) a two-touchdown lead and the top-ranked Hilltoppers pulled away for a 49-21 victory in a Class 7A first-round playoff game Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
Marconi said there was no yelling at halftime, only a reminder of duty.
“Coach (Chad Hetlet) called us out at halftime and said our playmakers needed to make plays and give us a spark, and that’s what I did,” Marconi said. “He (Bishop) was getting the ball mainly the whole game. He ran an out, I jumped the route and the ball was right there.”
Glenbard West had little to show for dominating the first half against Elk Grove (5-5). The Hilltoppers built a 28-7 lead with 54 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but watched as the visitors converted two interceptions into 14 points in the final 1:19 of the first half.
“We got up and then we shut down a little bit,” Hetlet said. “During the season we got up on other teams and closed the door. You can’t let up against good teams in the playoffs. We had to rev the engine back up.
“Overall, I felt we played well except for about a three-minute span when we got sloppy,” he added. “Other than that, I thought we played an outstanding game.”
Glenbard West scored on its first three possessions to build a 21-0 lead. Devante Toney’s five-yard touchdown run started the fireworks, then quarterback Henry Haeffner found Scott Andrews for a 66-yard touchdown and Andrews scored again on a two-yard run after an Elk Grove fumble.
But after Glenbard West answered a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Adam O’Malley to Bishop with a 55-yard bomb from Haeffner to 6-5 senior Nathan Marcus, the roof began caving in on the hosts.
The Grenadiers’ Johnny Assimakopoulos stepped in front of an attempted screen pass by Haeffner to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from O’Malley to Kishan Patel, and on the Hilltoppers’ ensuing possession, the visitors’ Luc Dimaso returned an interception 45 yards to close the deficit to 28-21.
“I’m not happy at all with how I played,” said Haeffner, who finished seven of 11 for 188 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. “But my teammates all helped to keep me up. We had to make sure we stayed positive and not get down on anybody. Overall, I thought we did a good job.”
An 18-yard touchdown run by Andrews (14 carries, 96 yards) and a one-yard plunge by Joseph Zito (12 carries, 77 yards) closed the scoring.
“We did some things that we can’t do and we haven’t done all year, but I like the way we responded,” Hetlet said.
O’Malley finished 20-for-37 for 200 yards, but was just 6-of-16 in the second half for 54 yards with two interceptions.
“We didn’t start the game like we wanted to,” Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. “We got ourselves into a hole. But the kids fought back like they have all year. We really felt we had a chance to win. But we had to play our best game of the year and play turnover-free. We weren’t able to do that.”