Larson runs wild in Glenbard East's playoff win over Addison Trail
With instructions from the coaching staff to own the first four minutes of the second half, Glenbard East and star running back Matt Larson needed just two plays to follow orders and power the Rams onto their first quarterfinal playoff berth since 1999.
After a first half in which the 5-foot-6 speedster gained 158 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, he opened the second half with his team on top of host Addison Trail 14-7 but was tripped up for a 2-yard loss on his first carry following the kickoff. Larson then busted up the left sideline for a 66-yard touchdown run barely escaping the Blazers defensive back Arturo Quiroga on his way to the end zone.
The senior running back would cap off his night with a 1-yard score, finishing his team's 28-13 7A playoff win 296 yards and 4 TD on 28 carries.
"It was exciting. I think it really set the tone for the second half," Larson said of the third of his four scores Friday night. "It seems like the most important parts of the game are the first few minutes of the second half and the last few minutes of the first half."
Larson was important all night long, with the Rams missing a pair of players after a skirmish during their playoff opening win over Machesney Park Harlem last week. He opened the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then added a 14-yard run into the end zone following a 55-yard run in the second quarter. Because of his big success in the game, the 10-1 Rams attempted just five passes and gained just four yards through the air.
"Matt's a very good player and I don't know how many people know that," Glenbard East coach John Walter said. "He's a very good player and our offensive line did a great job all game. If you've got a guy who can get it done you kind of feed the beast. Matt was kind of a beast tonight."
No. 25 seed Addison Trail didn't make matters easy on the Rams. They battled all night long, trailed just 14-7 at the half and were driving down 21-13 with a chance to tie, before fumbling deep in Rams territory early in the fourth quarter.
Senior running back Damari Jones ran for 72 yards and a touchdown for the Blazers and sophomore quarterback Nico Dill accounted for 220 yards of total offense including a 5-yard touchdown run that closed the gap to 21-13 in the third quarter.
The Blazers close out the year at 7-4, which marks great strides for a program that went 2-7 last year and 0-9 two seasons ago.
"He was tough and he made some big plays," Addison Trail coach Chris Bazant said of the Rams' Larson. "They're a tough team. They're fast, they play hard, and their defense is all over the place. But I'm proud of our guys. Proud of the way they fought until the end. My seniors did their job. Our senior leaders started to build the culture from day one. We went though some tough times but they believed in getting better each and every day and I'm excited for the direction we're headed."
With the win, the Rams advance to take on the winner of Saturday's second round matchup between top-seeded Normal Community and No. 16 Bradley-Bourbonnais.
Larson, who credited his blockers for the big night, hopes Glenbard East can keep adding to this special season.
"That's a statement game for me, but the O-line was moving. I mean it all starts with them," he said. "It's a historical season. It's not like anything I've ever seen. That's our motivation to keep making it deeper and deeper in the postseason."