By Mike Clark
Maybe the best defense is a good defense and a bad field.
It seemed to work that way Saturday at Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn, where No. 1 Glenbard West averaging 40 points a game met No. 12 Wheaton North, which came in scoring 36 points a game.
They combined for just a single field goal a 32-yarder by Glenbard West's Hayden Lekacz early in the second quarter as the Hilltoppers grounded out a 3-0 win in a Class 7A quarterfinal.
Glenbard West (12-0) moves on to the IHSA semifinals for the first time since it finished second in the state in 2009 and will play Lake Zurich next week. Wheaton North (10-2) was seeking its first semifinal berth since 2002.
Both teams struggled to stay on their feet as the morning rains turned Duchon's grass field into a mud pit.
"It was like playing in Vietnam during the war," said Glenbard West senior Joe Marconi, who had one of his team's three interceptions. "It was so muddy it was like you were playing in the trenches. I've never played on it when it was this bad before."
The offenses weren't helped by being short-handed. Wheaton North was missing half of its quarterbackreceiver duo with Clayton Thorson out with a broken collarbone suffered last week. Glenbard West lost running back Scott Andrews to a sprained right ankle, though he still rushed for a game-high 65 yards on seven carries in the first half.
On a day like this, Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said, "you've just got to get the points where you can. The field just got progressively worse and worse.
"It was nice Friday. Our field was in great shape after we ate breakfast and came down here at 9:30 Saturday morning. And then the rain came through. It's just a neutralizer for everybody. It's bad that kids have to play on that kind of surface."
But the Hilltoppers' defense came up with another dominant performance, getting interceptions of Wheaton North's John Peltz (10-of-22, 108 yards) from Marconi, Charlie Sweeney and Grant Greeno.
"Sure, we would have liked to have been able to run a few different passing routes," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. "That impacts your passing game. But their DBs have to deal with the same stuff."
Andrews' 32-yard run down the right sideline on the first play of the second quarter gave the Hilltoppers a first-and-goal at the Wheaton North three-yard line. But a penalty and three plays for negative yards pushed Glenbard West back to the 34 before Devante Toney ran 19 yards to the 15. That was within Lekacz's range and he booted the field goal with 9:17 left in the second quarter.
Wheaton North got to the Glenbard West 13 late in the first half, but Lake Bachar's 30-yard field-goal attempt missed to the right. Glenbard West managed just two first downs in the second half. But the defense made the lead stand up as Marconi and Sweeney had interceptions in the fourth quarter.
"I figured it would be low-scoring and it would be hard for offenses to get going," Wardynski said. "And it turned out to be that way."
Hetlet was glad to get past the Falcons.
"With or without Thorson, they're a very effective offense," he said. "If we play those guys 10 times, it's probably 5-5. ... They're not weak anywhere."
"Our emotions are all over the place right now," Wheaton North's Jaylen Howze said. "The surface, we both played on it so we can't make excuses about that. All in all, we played a good game."