Glenbard West bulls it way to 28-21 win over Downers Grove North

Jack Oberhofer raised both arms in triumph after bulling his way to an early fourth-down conversion Saturday.

Next play, he ran over a defender on his way to the end zone.

"I just put my head down and run forward," said Oberhofer, Glenbard West's senior running back/linebacker. "Whoever gets in my way, I'm going to run them over."

The Hilltoppers used that physical, aggressive mentality to bounce back from their first loss.

Oberhofer ran for 2 first-half touchdowns and was a ringleader of a Glenbard West defense that held Downers Grove North without a first down for nearly three quarters after giving up a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Then the Hilltoppers weathered two late Trojans touchdowns to secure a 28-21 win in a West Suburban Silver game on Saturday at Duchon Field.

On a day Glenbard West honored its 2012 state champions, the Hilltoppers (6-1, 3-1) scored 28 consecutive points after an early 7-0 hole to clinch their 15th consecutive playoff appearance.

"Like coach says, you never let down. We had to be relentless, and we knew we had to bounce back," Oberhofer said. "'Return to Glory' is our motto, and that means how you are going to respond. We responded well today."

The Hilltoppers indeed responded well from early adversity.

Downers Grove North (5-2, 2-2), seeking its first win over Glenbard West since 2006, got an early jolt with Noah Battle's 80-yard TD run down the right sideline the first play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead.

But Glenbard West answered with touchdowns on its last three drives of the first half, while its defense held Downers Grove North to three consecutive three-and-outs. Julius Ellens, who ran for 129 yards on 25 carries, tied it 7-7 with a 31-yard TD run with 2:08 left in the first quarter.

Oberhofer added TD runs of 5 and 3 yards for a 21-7 halftime lead.

"I think our kids played extremely well," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "Downers Grove North is a very good football team, well-coached and physical. That's the way we expected the game to go. Just happy to get a good win in a tough league."

The Hilltoppers did it with an enormous edge in first-half plays.

Glenbard West ran 45 plays to Downers Grove North's 11 in the first half and outgained the Trojans 255-13 during the time after Battle's score. After Battle's touchdown, the Trojans were held without a first down until a minute left in the third quarter, and that came on a Glenbard West penalty.

"Offensively we did not sustain drives well enough in the first half," Trojans coach Joe Horeni said. "Glenbard West's game plan is to keep its offense on the field and sustain drives. I'm sure the time of possession was absolutely ridiculous."

Facing a Downers Grove North defense that had allowed just 47 points through five games, Glenbard West spread the wealth and opened up its offense.

Six different Hilltoppers carried the ball, and QB Korey Tai attempted 10 passes in the first half, completing seven for 65 yards. Tai later ripped off a 40-yard TD run in the third quarter to make it 28-7.

"We had to get our passing game going a little bit, particularly our short passing game," Hetlet said. "York is a great defense, and Downers is just as good. They're big, physical kids."

"Historically, defenses' game plan on us is to defend the run. If you're able to throw the ball, you can pass and run," Tai said. "It's difficult for teams to stop the run and the pass."

Downers Grove North, though, didn't go away late.

Trojans' QB Sam Reichert (9-for-19, 102 yards) threw a 13-yard TD pass to Tommy Finley with 3:38 left, and a 13-yard TD to Battle with 2:01 left cut it to 28-21. But the Trojans couldn't convert an ensuing onside kick.

"So proud of them," Horeni said. "We have played great competition, but we have not reached our potential yet. I'm proud of the steps we have taken. But when you play teams like Glenbard West, you have to execute in all three phases, and offensively we didn't do that."

Downers Grove North quarterback Sam Reichert (6) celebrates with running back Noah Battle (20) after Battle's long touchdown run on the opening play from scrimmage to start the game against Glenbard West on Oct. 8, 2022 at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn.
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