GLEN ELLYN – The seeds of doubt that were planted about the 2013 Glenbard West football team were only exacerbated by an opening week loss to Wheaton Warrenville South and various injuries throughout the fall.
But despite the obstacles in their path, the Hilltoppers kept plugging along, rattling off 11-straight victories before their run came to an end Saturday with a 16-7 loss to Lake Zurich in the Class 7A semifinals.
“It was a great season,” Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. “We had a major loss of kids from the team last year and then we lost to Wheaton South and also had a bunch of injuries. But the kids never flinched. They fought through it and definitely lived up to the expectations we had for them.”
Playing for the opportunity to defend their state title, Glenbard West was stifled by a stout Bears’ defense in what was the fourth postseason meeting between the two teams over the past five years. The Hilltoppers had won two of the three previous contests, notching a 21-17 win in 2009 and a 19-13 victory last fall.
“All the respect to the Lake Zurich program,” Hetlet said. “They outplayed us, they outhit us, they were more physical than us.”
Glenbard West led 7-0 after the opening 12 minutes on a 27-yard touchdown run by Devonte Toney. But Lake Zurich answered with a field goal and a short touchdown pass in the second quarter to take a 10-7 advantage into halftime.
The score remained that way until late in the fourth quarter, when Bears’ quarterback Noah Algood found the end zone from one yard out to seal the outcome. Turnovers proved to be the Hilltoppers’ main nemesis, with the home team giving the ball away five times.
“Coach had said that we are the same kind of teams,” senior safety Hayden Carlson said. “Great defense every year, run the ball down your throat. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over too many times and we didn’t get enough turnovers on defense. They capitalized on that momentum and we let the game get away from us.
“This was my third year in a row playing them in the playoffs and they are the best team I’ve ever played. They deserve it.”
Carlson is a member of a senior class that leaves a lasting legacy. In addition to being a part of last year’s state championship, that group helped post a record of 25-2 over the past two seasons.
“It’s a good group of guys and they have been a big part of this program,” Hetlet said. “It’s a very special group.”