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Glenbard West quarterback Henry Haeffner is able to release the ball before Wheaton North's Luke Sahly is able to break through the line. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Illinois has plenty of cookie-cutter high school football stadiums, but Duchon Field isn't one of them.
The home of Glenbard West's Hilltoppers stands apart for any number of reasons. One is the setting, in the heart of Glen Ellyn just steps south of Lake Ellyn. The view from the home stands toward the lake is postcard-worthy.
Duchon is unique in other ways as well. It doesn't have lights and does have a natural playing surface. That last thing proved to be a big problem last Saturday when the Hilltoppers hosted Wheaton North in a Class 7A quarterfinal.
Like other grass fields, Duchon tends to get more torn up as the football season heads into November. According to Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet, it was still in serviceable condition the day before the game and even earlier that morning.
But then some heavy storms passed through the Chicago area and everything changed. Several state quarterfinal games had their starts delayed by the weather and some grass fields weren't in great shape when the weather delay ended and play began.
None, however, took as severe a hit as Duchon. Despite the hard work of Glenbard West maintenance workers, who used roller-type contraptions with sponges to soak up the water, the field was a sea of mud.
Senior Joe Marconi, a leader of Glenbard West's lockdown defense, said he'd never seen the field in worse shape and compared it to playing in the trenches during the Vietnam War. Any play near the sidelines usually ended with several players sliding out of bounds as making cuts was pretty much impossible in the muck.
Scoring chances were hard to come by for both teams. Glenbard West took advantage of one early in the second quarter, getting a 32-yard field goal by Hayden Lekacz. Wheaton North missed a field goal just before halftime and that was it, as Glenbard West escaped with a 3-0 victory.
The Hilltoppers (12-0) earned another home game this week against Lake Zurich (10-2). But Duchon won't be hosting any more games this season.
The Illinois High School Association announced on Thursday the Glenbard West/Lake Zurich semifinal will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Glenbard South because of the poor conditions at Duchon.
Glenbard West loses its home-field advantage with the move. But both the Hilltoppers and Lake Zurich get the chance to play their biggest game of the season so far in conditions that won't get more attention than the action on the field.
Game of the week
Jack Toner caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Jack Beneventi with no time left to give Benet a 26-24 win over host Downers Grove North in a Class 7A quarterfinal. The win continued a remarkable turnaround for the Redwings, who were 1-8 last season.
By the numbers
4 – Local conferences with multiple teams in the semifinals: Catholic League Blue (Loyola and Mount Carmel in Class 8A), East Suburban Catholic (Benet in 7A, Joliet Catholic in 5A), North Suburban Lake (Lake Zurich in 7A, Lake Forest in 6A) and Suburban Christian Blue (Montini in 5A, Aurora Christian in 3A).
3 – Defending state champions still alive: Aurora Christian (3A), Rochester (4A) and Montini (5A).
Lookahead game of the week
The teams who met in the highest scoring playoff game in history will face off Saturday at Joliet's Memorial Stadium for a berth in the Class 5A title game. The last time Montini and Joliet Catholic met, Montini survived a 515-yard, six-touchdown rushing effort by Ty Isaac to win 70-45. The teams combined for 1,644 yards – 853 by Montini and 791 for Joliet Catholic.