Hetlet continues tradition at Glenbard West

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Hetlet continues tradition at Glenbard West

Chad Hetlet was the perfect choice to follow in the tradition of Bill Duchon and Jim Covert as the head football coach at Glenbard West. Since the 1960s, the Hilltoppers have been known as the "Hitters," a reference to their smash-mouth and bruising style of play.

After Duchon built the program into a state power and Covert, his handpicked successor, picked up the torch and carried it to another level, winning state championship in 1983, the Glen Ellyn school fell on hard times, producing only one winning team from 1996 to 2006.

Duchon, who played for legendary coach Tony Lawless at Fenwick in the 1940s, was 9-0 in 1968, 10-1 in 1975 and finished second in the state in 1976 with his last team. In his last 11 years, he didn't field a losing team.

Covert was 132-58 in 19 years, a .695 winning percentage. He had only two losing teams. His 13-0 team won the state title in 1983.

Hetlet arrived in 2007 to right the sinking ship and restore the program's flagging prestige and tradition. It didn't take long. After a 6-5 start, his last four teams have gone 12-1, 13-1, 10-2 and 10-1. His 2009 team finished second in the state. This year's squad is 10-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 7A.

In Saturday's 49-21 victory over Elk Grove, the Hilltoppers were led by quarterback Henry Haeffner, who completed 7 of 11 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Scott Andrews, who rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Linebacker Joe Marconi intercepted a pass go set up another touchdown.

They'll play at Libertyville in the second round of the Class 7A playoff.

"They're playing physical again," said Covert, a frequent observer at Saturday home games. "That element of the game was lost for a while. But now it's back. He (Hetlet) has them playing hard all the time. It's the way it used to be."

Hetlet, 40, described his hiring at Glenbard West as "a perfect marriage." He came from an old-school background where players listened to their coaches talk and kept their mouths shut. He learned that running the ball with a physical presence up front and stopping the run on defense was a surefire recipe for success.

"The selling point for me was they always were a smash-mouth style of football team," he said. "You want to go into a program that is similar to yours. It may not be the only way to do it but it's the only way I know. We won't finesse people. We will be successful as long as we are physical and stop the run."

Hetlet came to Glen Ellyn by a back road. A graduate of Zion-Benton in 1990, he played linebacker on the football team. At Northern Illinois, however, he played rugby because he liked the physical aspect of the game. After his freshman year, he changed his major from computer programming to physical education. He wanted to be a coach.

He began teaching at Libertyville and learned Xs and Os under Dale Christenson, Randy Kuceyeski and Tony Monken. Then he got a job at Johnsburg and assisted Bob Bradshaw for eight years. He was head coach at Johnsburg for one year, then went to McHenry for two years, was Mike DiMatteo's defensive coordinator at Hinsdale Central for one year, then moved to Glenbard West.

"I knew Glenbard West had a great history before I came to the western suburbs," Hetlet said. "I knew Duchon and his history. I knew Covert, too. The more the interest level rose, the more I learned.

"So many former players live in Glen Ellyn. We had instant approval from them as to how we played the game. We kept the Hitters program that Duchon established. What we talk about all the time and remind the kids is they come from a long line of great physical football players. It started with them making a name for themselves. When kids buy into being physical, they are tough to stop."

It's all about putting a big green G on the side of your helmet. Duchon had gold helmets and Covert had 100 percent helmets. That was their thing, their trademark. They were Hitters, all of them. The style of football was the same, a bunch of tough kids.

"I believe in that. That's what we have to do to be successful," Hetlet said. "Our kids have to earn their Gs on the side of their helmets. They don't get it until they go through the off-season. Their parents come to the ceremony. It goes with the tradition, who we are. We don't want to pretend that we are the Duchon or Covert era. We want people to think we want to replicate what they did. We don't want to steal what they did. We want
people to talk about us."

Hetlet said his plan for rebuilding Glenbard West's program was borrowed from Bradshaw, who won a state championship at Woodstock in 1983 and then turned around a program at Johnsburg that was 0-9 and produced five playoff qualifiers in eight years.

"I had to go on what I learned from Bradshaw--outwork your opponents, establish a weight lifting program in the spring, hire good positive coaches, establish a work ethic, get the kids to buy into the idea that we are blue-collar and we will outwork and out-physical opponents."

Hetlet admits that if his 2007 team didn't buy into his old-school philosophy, "then the rest of this doesn't happen." The 2007 squad came off an 0-9 season and finished 6-5, losing to Morgan Park 34-27 in the second round of the state playoff.

"They had the worst record but it made them believe that they could win," Hetlet said. "They were physical. We got lucky and made the playoff. We won the last game of the season against Hinsdale Central to qualify. Our confidence rose. The kids said to themselves: 'Hey, we can do this.' Then we started to get talented players to come out, tough, hard-nosed kids."

Other things haven't changed, either. Duchon Field still has natural grass and no lights and looks like a Norman Rockwell painting on a crisp Saturday afternoon in the autumn. The players still ring the victory bell on the hilltop after winning a game.

And the Golden Eagles youth football program is "a huge deal," according to Hetlet. The youngsters are coached and supervised by many former Hitters who grew up in the same program. "Our kids come ready to play at the freshman level--and our freshmen are very successful," he said.

"But now we are different because the kids in the DuchonCovert era were a Glen Ellyn team. Now the boundaries have changed. We're a Glen EllynGlendale Heights team."

But they're still Hitters, make no mistake about that.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead