Waubonsie Valley junior Dylan Warden has been involved in 8 touchdowns during his last four quarters of action on the football field.
PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer
Friday in Glen Ellyn, Glenbard South's football team officially exits life as an independent.
The Raiders (1-3) finally open play in the Metro Suburban Conference with a home game against Elmwood Park (2-2). Glenbard South then plays MSC games against Riverside-Brookfield, Fenton and Ridgewood before closing the regular season with a fifth nonconference game against Fort Zumwalt South in Missouri.
"We're excited to get into conference play," said Raiders coach Jeremy Cordell. "It's something new to us, and we're anxious to make our mark."
After the Western Sun Conference dissolved following the 2009-10 school year, Glenbard South found itself searching for a new home. The Raiders immediately joined the MSC in all sports except for football, which meant that program had to play as an independent in 2010.
Glenbard South played nine nonconference games last season, and started this season with four nonconference games. It's been a tough early stretch for the Raiders, who fell to unbeaten and state-ranked Prairie Ridge and Crete-Monee.
A sweep of their final five games, though, guarantees the Raiders a playoff berth.
"We've been through the meat grinder, and I think we've come out OK," Cordell said. "I think we're pretty well prepared for conference play."
New Warden in town:
In the past four quarters, Waubonsie Valley junior quarterback Dylan Warden has accounted for 8 touchdowns.
Replacing injured senior Mitch Stefani against Bartlett, the 6-foot-1, 173-pound Warden came on to pass for 1 fourth-quarter score and run for 2 in a loss. He ran for 4 touchdowns and threw for another in last week's 54-7 win over Lake Park.
"To me, his potential is unlimited," Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said after the Lake Park game. "He's got to obviously fill out a little bit more but he's a quality young man."
Murphy said in the preseason both quarterbacks would see playing time the steady Stefani and the electric Warden. Stefani started the opener against Naperville Central and got the lion's share of the work, and took all the snaps against Oswego. After Stefani had his collarbone broken in the third quarter of the third game against Bartlett, for at least the next few weeks the job is all Warden's.
After practice the day preceding the Lake Park game, Murphy told Warden: "'You're going to have a great game Friday night because you had a great week of practice. Now you've got to do that every week. You cannot take a step back. You can't get satisfied, you've got to keep progressing.'
"Because he's going to start seeing more and more stuff thrown at him so that (defenses) can try to confuse him with his reads on the triple option."
Willowbrook junior linebacker Daniel Harris couldn't wait to get back on the field in last week's West Suburban Gold Conference game against Morton. It showed.
"He shot out of a cannon," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "It was great to see."
Harris became the Warriors' leading tackler as a sophomore last season after starting six of nine games. Expected to be an anchor of this year's defense, Harris went down with a preseason knee injury.
The Warriors' already inexperienced defense became even more inexperienced with Harris' loss. Because running back Dom Battaglia was slated to be a part-time defensive player, that meant only one starter junior defensive back Nick Kilianek returned defensively from last season.
With Harris back in the fold, the defense is in much better shape heading into Friday's Gold game against Proviso East.
"He really gave us a spark on defense last week," Hildreth said. "We're so thin on experience he helps solidify things on that side of the ball."
Hitting the ground running:
Neuqua Valley's starters got plenty of rest for this week's big game against South Elgin.
There was little need for them to play after the first quarter of last week's 56-7 win over East Aurora. The Wildcats scored 35 points in the first quarter on 4 offensive plays.
"I haven't seen anything like that," Neuqua coach Bryan Wells said.
Starting with Joey Rhattigan's 84-yard kickoff return to start the game, Neuqua scored on Mike Ippolito's blocked punt, a touchdown run by Jeff Evak a two-play drive and Shane Langton's touchdown catch from Nate Boudreau.
The Wildcats held the ball a total of 52 seconds in that first quarter. For the game Neuqua ran 28 plays, averaging 9.4 yards a play.
"It was good that we had other players we were going to put into the game," Wells said.
York senior quarterback Joe Lucca won't play this week against Proviso West, but he's doing much better after a scary play in last week's win over Oak Park.
On the Dukes' first offensive play from scrimmage in the second quarter, an Oak Park defender sacked Lucca and drove him into the ground. Lucca remained face down before being taken off the field in a stretcher and driven to a hospital.
"It was real scary," said Dukes coach Bill Lech. "We just told the kids that Joe was going to be OK and we had to keep playing. It was tough."
By halftime, an announcement was made over the public address system that Lucca was fine. Lucca completed 10 of 12 first-quarter passes for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns before being relieved by junior Andrew Iwaszkiewicz.
Lech said he'll give Lucca this week off to allow his sore neck a little more time to heal.
"That's the first time I've even had a player taken off on a stretcher, and it's something you never want to see," Lech said. "Thankfully he's OK."
Nice new Carr:
Arriving at Immaculate Conception in June, first-year head coach Chris VanDyke implemented a spread offense after the Knights ran the veer option for years. Helping drive the offense is a junior quarterback named Carr Demetrius Carr.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound transfer from St. Joseph, finding that program's commitment to football lacking after starting there as a sophomore, made inquiries at IC because some of his friends attended the Elmhurst school. As soon as the IHSA cleared his paperwork, "he just jumped right in and started working with the guys," VanDyke said.
Nothing was guaranteed except the athletic Carr would be playing somewhere. In fact, he plays receiver on the scout team.
Among four players vying for the quarterback slot in July, Carr eventually earned the starting nod in a close duel with senior Dan Vatch. Now at tailback Vatch has run for 197 yards and 4 touchdowns. VanDyke said it's worked out best for both players.
Carr is a dual-threat type who can make all the throws and evade the rush to scramble for yardage. He's surpassed 100 yards rushing in two of the Knights' three games (the fourth was a forfeit win against Edwardsburg, Mich., a game canceled due to lightning). Carr comes off a 149-yard rushing game against Walther Lutheran and leads IC with 327 yards rushing to go with 408 yards passing for 4 touchdowns, 1 interception.
VanDyke said Carr's decision-making, work ethic and ability to accept coaching has earned the respect of teammates such as IC co-captain James Peachey, a coach-on-the-field lineman who won't accept less than a best effort.
"He's just a great athlete, and he makes it look easy," VanDyke said of Carr. "But it's a lot of hard work, because he stays after practice."