Week Nine of last year. I was on my annual pilgrimage to Glenbard West and caught the second half of the last game of the regular season.
I walked away shaking my head.
(But first a digression. If you don't get out to lovely Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn at least once a year, you really should. The Hilltoppers play their home games on Saturdays -- no lights, long story -- on a field with natural grass -- no artificial turf, another long story. There's really no excuse not to experience the ambiance of Glenbard West; the trick is in finding a game that's competitive enough to justify the drive.
In 2012, the Hitters outscored their opponents at home by a margin of 195-14, including three shutouts! And those weren't cupcakes, either: Wheaton Warrenville South, Lyons, Oak Park River Forest and Downers Grove North. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing a "good" game there. Maybe this year will be different.
And, by the way, don't forget to check out that hot dog guy in Lake Ellyn Park at the half.)
Now, about that headshaking.
I had seen Glenbard West once before in 2012, at Hinsdale Central in Week Four. Down by two touchdowns at the half (if I remember correctly), the Hilltoppers came roaring back to defeat the Red Devils, 28-23. It was their closest game of the regular season.
But by Week Nine, I realized I hadn't been out to Duchon Field. So after an earlier game in the city, I drove out to Glen Ellyn on a beautiful October afternoon just in time for the second half against the Trojans. I stood next to an old guy -- older than me! -- on the visitors' side who had played at St. Rita back in the day. I asked him how the first half had gone and he shook his head (there was a lot of headshaking that day) and said, "I don't think they've even had a first down."
Oh, well, I thought. At least it's a sunny day, I'm watching football, and no one's bugging me to do anything. (Life is good.)
The game ended finally -- mercifully -- in a 26-0 shutout, and I walked away thinking, "Boy, is that Downers Grove North team horrible! They won't survive the first round of the playoffs."
But I was wrong. Real wrong. The Trojans, who limped into the postseason at 5-4, went on to defeat previously unbeaten Batavia and then Thornton before losing narrowly to red-hot Benet in the quarterfinals. "Wow!," I thought. "These guys must not be horrible. In fact -- light bulb! -- Glenbard West must be that good."
(Turns out, the Hitters finished undefeated after beating a really, really good Lincoln-Way East team in Champaign. And, for my part, I'll go to my grave wondering if they could have also taken 8A champ Mount Carmel.)
So, anyway, here we are in 2013. And I think the Trojans may be a team to watch this year (if only out of the corner of my eye). Why? Well, I remember they had a really tall quarterback last year. David Edwards, only a junior, is 6'6", 195, and already attracting interest from several Big Ten schools as well as Florida State, Stanford and Vanderbilt. (This kid must be the real deal.) What's more, the Trojans may have the best linebacking duo in the state, Vontae Diggs and Richard Olekanma, both on their way to Toledo next year.
Now, will Edwards (above, with head coach John Wander) have anyone blocking for him this year? Will he have anyone to hand off to? Or throw to? I don't know. But I understand the Trojans have fourteen returning starters. And I really like the way they finished in 2012.
Here's a look at Downers' 2013 schedule (with last year's records in parentheses). Look familiar? The Trojans play in the same conference as Lyons, the West Suburban Silver.
Aug. 30 @ Lockport (1-8)
Sept. 6 Hinsdale South (6-4)
Sept. 13 Glenbard West (14-0)
Sept. 20 @ Oak Park River Forest (7-4)
Sept. 27 Lyons Township (7-5)
Oct. 4 @ Downers Grove South (4-5)
Oct. 11 York (0-9)
Oct. 18 @ Proviso West (6-4)
Oct. 25 @ Hinsdale Central (7-3)
If North can find a way to beat a rebuilding Glenbard West at home, or at least give them a good game, you might start hearing about these guys. If so, you'll have contests the following two weeks against OPRF and Lyons to see if this squad has a shot at DeKalb.
You never know; you might even see me at one of those games.