LAST WEEK: The Hilltoppers beat Edwardsville 38-21 on the road in the quarterfinal round of the Class 8A playoffs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cole Brady, sr., QB, Dionte Moorehead, sr., DE, Alex Pihlstrom, sr., TE, Eric Samuta, sr., LB, Dre Thomas, sr., RB, Ryan Diver, jr., RB, Alec Pierce, jr., WR
GLENBARD WEST NOTES: Glenbard West is the defending state champion in Class 7A and is playing in Class 8A for only the second time in head coach Chad Hetlet’s 10 seasons. … After going 6-5 in his first season with the Hilltoppers, Hetlet has posted a 96-7 record with two Class 7A state titles and one runner-up finish in his last nine years in Glen Ellyn. … Because it lost two games in the regular season, No. 20-seeded Glenbard West has had arguably the toughest road to the semifinals. The Hilltoppers have beaten Neuqua Valley, Homewood-Flossmoor and Edwardsville. Neuqua Valley and Homewood-Flossmoor both were ranked in the top 10 by the Chicago Sun-Times after the regular season. “That’s how the draw goes,” Hetlet said. “It’s as fair as anybody else’s. If I could have picked a different route, I would have. But it’s not up to me. We play who we play. The good thing is when you play good teams like we have and come out on the other side, your confidence is high.” … Even though the Hilltoppers weren’t at full strength for their two losses in the regular season, Hetlet said his team “grew up a ton” against Lyons and Hinsdale Central. “We found answers to questions,” he said. “We created more depth because of necessity.” … According to Hetlet, the seniors have been playing with something to prove after Glenbard West didn’t win the Western Suburban Silver Conference for the first time since 2007. “They’ve taken it personally,” he said. “It was a shock to them. But they’ve learned to overcome adversity.” … Glenbard West is balanced offensively, led by senior quarterback Cole Brady. Senior Alex Pihlstrom, a 6-foot-6 tight end, and junior Alec Pierce, a 6-4 receiver, are his favorite options. The 5-10, 175-pound Ryan Diver is the team’s primary running back. … Defensively, the Hilltoppers are headlined by senior Dionte Moorehead, a 6-4, 215-pound end, and senior Eric Samuta, a 5-11, 205-pound linebacker. After dislocating an elbow in Week 5’s loss to Lyons and missing three games, Samuta is back and has energized the defense, according to Hetlet. … As for Loyola, Hetlet said the Ramblers will be the best defense his team has played all season. “Hands down,” he said. “And we’ve seen some good ones. They are good on every level, from the front to the linebackers to the secondary. They are well-coached and aggressive.” He continued to praise Loyola’s offense. “They are big up front, but you can be big up front and not good,” Hetlet said. “They are big and good. [Senior running back Kyle] Rock and [senior quarterback Tommy] Herion are talented. Herion does a good job of getting the ball to his receivers. He and [senior David] Terrell [Jr.] are on the same page and so in sync. That’s a concern. [Senior receiver] Jake Marwede is the head of the beast. He’s very impressive. He’s one of the top players, if not the best players, in the state. I like everything Loyola has. I’ve seen them from afar the last few years, and they are going to present problems on all fronts.”
LOYOLA NOTES: The defending Class 8A state champion Ramblers are looking to become the first team in the highest classification to make consecutive trips to the state championship game since Maine South did it in 2009-10. The Hawks won titles in both years. … Loyola is making its seventh appearance in the state semifinals in eight years. The Ramblers played for the state title in 2011, 2013 before winning it in 2015. … Loyola’s 24-0 win over Huntley was its 29th in a row.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott