Glenbard West considers itself a run-first, pass-second team and that was literally the game plan on Saturday.
After Joe Zito ran for four yards on the first play from scrimmage, the Hilltoppers got a 73-yard scoring pass from Henry Haeffner to Nate Hokenson on the next snap.
"Nate Hokenson is one of the fastest kids in our conference," Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. "He's the fastest kid in our school. ... This was his moment to shine. We said, 'We're going to run that pass second play of the game come hell or high water."
The big play gave No. 1 Glenbard West a lead it never lost en route to a 19-13 win over No. 11 Lake Zurich in a Class 7A semifinal. The home game for Glenbard West was played at Glenbard South because of poor field conditions at the Hilltoppers' own stadium.
Haeffner threw another touchdown pass, a 22-yarder to Nathan Marcus just before halftime, and finished 9-of-14 for 156 yards as the Hilltoppers (13-0) showed another dimension on offense than the one they're best known for.
"I think we've known that we can throw all season," Haeffner said. "We don't really need to. We're a run-first offense all the way. "We all know that. I know that. The receivers know that. But if we need to throw, we'll do it."
The Hilltoppers also had a one-yard touchdown run from Devante Toney (20 carries, 73 yards) in building a 19-0 halftime lead. Scott Andrews added 66 yards on six carries, all in the first half, as he continued to deal with injury issues.
Glenbard West seemed on the verge of putting the game out of reach when Jordan Hassan recovered a Lake Zurich fumble inside the Bears' 20 early in the third quarter. Glenbard West had a first-and-goal at the Lake Zurich 7-yard line when the Bears suddenly came alive.
Grant Soucy recovered a Hilltoppers fumble and ran it back 95 yards for a score that cut the deficit to 19-6 at 7:05 of the third quarter.
"I had a caravan of white jerseys that I followed to the end zone," Soucy said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime feeling."
The Bears scored on another fumble recovery to make it 19-13 late in the third This time Noah Allgood recovered a teammate's fumble and ran it in from two yards out.
"At halftime our mentality was not to make any mistakes and we made some," Haeffner said. "When we needed to secure the ball, we let it go. And that's something we need to work on."
But Glenbard West's defense forced a punt on Lake Zurich's next possession and got a takeaway on the Bears' final drive: an interception by Tyler Dayton with 2:00 left.
The Hilltoppers ran out the clock to earn a date with No. 4 Lincoln-Way East (13-0) in the Class 7A final next Saturday in Champaign. "To be honest, I think we started off a little too slow and it was ... too big of a hole to get out of," Soucy said.
The Hilltoppers held Lake Zurich to 28 rushing yards and 100 yards total. "Nobody's run on us all year," Hetlet said. "Those 11 guys on the field are as good as anybody in the state of Illinois against the run."