GLEN ELLYN – Jack Oberhofer said Glenbard West calls this week, Week 9, the “gauntlet week.”
This stretch of season indeed has been a gauntlet.
The Hilltoppers on Oct. 15 played their third consecutive conference opponent that will be heading to the playoffs later this month from the deep West Suburban Silver.
For the second straight week, Glenbard West overcame an early deficit, dominated the middle two quarters and hung on at the end. Oberhofer ran for three short touchdowns and recovered a fumble that set up a fourth score as the Hilltoppers beat Lyons Township 28-20 at Duchon Field.
“We got Hinsdale Central [this] week. It’s all tough conference opponents,” Oberhofer said. “We just need to keep finding ways to win.”
It would help if the Hilltoppers (7-1, 4-1) did not hurt themselves, which was the case in the early going Oct. 15. Glenbard West fumbled the exchange on the third play from scrimmage and Lyons lineman Eddie Tuerk recovered it at the Hilltoppers’ 14. The turnover set up Danny Pasko’s 4-yard touchdown run for Lyons (6-2, 3-2) for the game’s first score.
Glenbard West also was whistled for 13 penalties, 10 of which came in the first half. Lyons’ second drive, aided by 30 yards in personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, ended with Ryan Jackson’s 8-yard TD pass to Graham Smith for a 12-7 Lions’ lead with 9:53 left in the first half.
“We feel like right now we’re our own worst enemy,” said Glenbard West offensive coordinator John Sigmund, who served as acting head coach with Chad Hetlet not at the game. “It was good to see those guys play through adverse situations and come through with a positive outcome but we’re a couple weeks from the playoffs. We have to clean up some things.”
The Hilltoppers did seemingly take control of things after Lyons took its second lead. Oberhofer’s 2-yard TD run capped a 13-play, 70-drive for a 14-12 lead with 3:09 left in the second quarter. Lyons went three-and-out on its first series out of halftime and Oberhofer took in another 2-yard TD to make it 21-12.
“We started off slow, which is never good, but we always come back really strong,” Oberhofer said. “That is what we did again today.”
Oberhofer made his opportunistic presence felt on Lyons’ next possession. Filip Maciorowski sacked Jackson and Oberhofer recovered the fumble. Three plays later, Julius Ellens, who ran for 115 yards on 20 carries, took in an 11-yard TD to make it 28-12 with 2:50 left in the third quarter.
Maciorowski, a rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior perhaps more regarded for his pass-catching abilities, made his biggest impact on defense with three sacks. His sack of Jackson in the final minute of the first half stalled a Lyons drive past midfield.
“I just try to do whatever I can to help the team. I love pass rushing,” Maciorowski said. “I love playing offense but when I get on defense it’s a different mentality. I’ve been bugging my coach to let me play both sides. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help.”
Lyons closed to within 28-20 with 3:09 left in the game on Pasko’s second TD run and a Jackson conversion pass, but Maciorowski recovered the ensuing onside kick and Glenbard West ran out the clock.
Jackson was 19-for-30 passing for 173 yards for Lyons, which lost starting running back Jack Cheney to an apparent leg injury on the last series of the first half.
The Lions also were flagged for 13 penalties and had five empty possessions offensively after taking the 12-7 lead.
“We had some penalties and the fumble but overall I was proud of the way the kids fought. We played that team tough,” Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said. “My impression is we shot ourselves in the foot. Too many mistakes but I was proud of the way we battled.”
The Lions already have won their most games since 2017 under third-year coach Beutjer and were within one score in the fourth quarter against conference leaders York and Glenbard West. They play 6-2 Downers Grove North on Saturday in a game that could determine if Lyons gets a first-round home playoff game.
“We’re close,” Beutjer said. “We’re starting to develop a culture and you can see it. We’re really close and against a good football team every possession matters. I think our kids are starting to learn that.”