WILMETTE -- For two programs far apart in terms of distance (Carol Stream to Wilmette) and circumstances (public vs. private schools), Glenbard North and Loyola know each other awfully well.
Playing in the Class 8A semifinals against each other for two straight years can breed that sort of familiarity.
Last year, Loyola posted a 28-13 victory before falling in the Class 8A state title game to Bolingbrook, 21-17. The two teams face off again Saturday at 1 p.m. at Loyola in a game that will be broadcast by CN100. The game will be shown at Noon and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, and at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20. You can also find the game throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
"Loyola is a well-coached program with a great defense and an offense that can put together drives," Glenbard North assistant coach Justin Kerwin said. "We've seen them two years now, and their defense is stout and their offense has the ability to control the game and move the ball down the field."
Coming out of the rugged DuPage Valley Conference, Glenbard North is 11-1 and was a spotless 7-0 in the DVC. The Panthers are still searching for their elusive first state title. They placed second in Class 8A in 2007 and second in Class 6A in 2000 and 1991. This year, their only loss came in the season opener to Batavia, who was 9-0 in the regular season, by one point.
Junior running back Justin Jackson has been the talk of the program this season. The DVC Offensive Player of the Year has put up 2,304 yards and 32 touchdowns rushing and added 16 catches, 254 yards and two scores receiving. And, for good measure, he had 278 kick return yards and another score. Oh, and he plays defense as well.
Quarterback Brian Murphy who is headed to wrestle at Michigan next year, has also had a solid season with 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns through the air with five interceptions and 511 yards and five scores on the ground.
"We know them well," Loyola coach John Holecek said. "They're extremely athletic and physical. Obviously, containing Jackson is a priority, but also limiting Murphy, their quarterback, who has become a much more efficient player than last year and continually moves the chains with his legs."
Offensive lineman D'Angelo Hodges leads the way up front for Glenbard North. With DVC Defensive Player of the Year Mario Rodriguez out due to injury, Dom Fornino and Andrew Mulshine lead the way.
"We are playing well, but there is plenty of room for growth," Kerwin said. "We need to have clean execution without turnovers, penalties and other self-inflicted wounds."
Holecek is in his seventh season leading the Ramblers and is also looking for his first title. Loyola's only football state championship came in 1993. Holecek, the former NFL linebacker, enters the game with a 73-18 record. The Ramblers' only loss this season was by one point to Texas powerhouse Dallas Jesuit in a game played in Dublin, Ireland. Loyola is 10-0 against Illinois playoff teams, including its last eight games.
Quarterback Peter Pujals took over for star Malcolm Weaver and was the Chicago Catholic Blue Offensive Player of the Year. He has 612 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing to go with 2,132 yards and 13 touchdowns passing. He is committed to Holy Cross. Luke Ford was the CCL Blue Player of the Year with 77 tackles and four interceptions defensively and 26 catches for 472 yards and eight touchdowns offensively. Receiver Richie Wehman has 56 catches for 615 yards and two scores. Linebacker Cody Sullivan had three interceptions last week against Palatine.
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- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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