Glenbard West celebrates general's return with blowout victory

Glenbard West scored its first victory of the day when running back Nico D'Argento ran onto the football field for the first time this season.

Some players are just that valuable.

The senior leader and his Hilltoppers teammates also enjoyed a 63-0 West Suburban Silver romp over Proviso West at Duchon Field on Saturday.

"He's our best leader," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said, emphasizing how D'Argento holds his teammates accountable. " ... It hurt him to watch us play without him. But his leadership is just amazing behind the scenes. Kids respect him."

D'Argento missed the season's first three games because of an injury - "neck, shoulder, all over," he said - suffered in practice days before the season opener.

"I felt it a little before the game, but it feels good, though," he said. "I'm so happy to be back out here with my guys. ... You always have that thought in the back of your mind if it's going to come back or not, but there's nothing better than playing with these guys, walking down the hill with these guys and playing our hearts out on a beautiful day on a Saturday."

D'Argento contributed a 16-yard touchdown run to the Hilltoppers' offensive onslaught. A 50-yard punt return for a touchdown was negated because of a Hilltoppers penalty.

D'Argento admitted to feeling a little rusty and not quite in game shape.

"I was breathing a little heavy after the punt return," he said with a laugh, "and then I had to go back out there."

The touchdown was a nice contribution to the Hilltoppers' cause, but D'Argento means so much more, in part because he's one of the few seniors on the field.

"It's a big deal," Hetlet said of having D'Argento back. "Not only is he a great leader but he knows everybody's position. He knows where everybody is supposed to be, who they're supposed to block. He's like our general out on the field."

Glenbard West (4-0, 2-0), ranked No. 5 in the Daily Herald Top 20 and tied for sixth in Class 8A, put the focus offensively Saturday on its passing game. The Hilltoppers' first 10 plays on offense were passes, with the first running play coming on the second play of the second quarter. That resulted in a 13-yard touchdown run by Joey Pope to make the score 35-0. It was 49-0 by halftime.

The Hilltoppers, known for their running game, focused on passing to give their players confidence and experience in it. They earned plenty of confidence but didn't get much experience.

Their first drive lasted just one play, a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jason Thomas from junior quarterback Korey Tai. The second possession also lasted one play, a 43-yard screen to Pope that he took all the way to the end zone.

Julius Ellens touchdown receptions ended the next two possessions, going 10 yards on the third play and 40 yards on the first play.

Tai finished 6-of-9 passing for 143 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Saturday's big win and the undefeated start are nice, but the Hilltoppers have bigger goals, as their "general" is happy to remind them.

"Well, we want to win a state championship," D'Argento said. "We have no thought of being short of that. No matter who we play, we have to work every single day like we're playing the best team in the state, even though we believe we are the best team in the state. We have to keep fighting every practice like we want it the most because we do want it the most."

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