For the past three weeks Glenbard North cut down its opponents like a lawn mower on grass, scoring more than 40 points each time and earning three shutouts.
On Friday night in Carol Stream, West Aurora said not this week.
The Panthers won 31-21 to remain undefeated, but it took everything they had to keep an improved Blackhawks squad at bay.
The Panthers (4-0, 3-0 DuPage Valley Conference) left Weber Field realizing that undefeated doesn't mean having reached one's full potential. The team will need it when it plays Naperville Central, Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North and Naperville North to finish the regular season.
"There's a lot to build on, a lot to work on," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens. "But West Aurora was quick, fast and played very well."
While the Panthers defense looked human this week, it still came up with big plays that would make the difference in the game.
West Aurora (2-3, 0-3) was driving deep into Panthers territory late in the first half when senior linebacker Collin Hansen intercepted a pass and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
"Defensively, it was a big play. It was huge being up 14-7 at halftime," Hansen said.
West Aurora's Shon Enoch was the Blackhawks' running game for most of the evening, and his 33-yard scoring jaunt tied the game at 14 with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
Glenbard North's Mario Rodriguez returned the subsequent kickoff 37 yards to the Panthers' 41-yard line and that helped set up Phil Jackson's second touchdown of the contest, an 11-yard run that put Glenbard North up 21-14 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. Jackson finished the night with 127 yards on 20 carries.
Then came another big defensive play for the Panthers that started to allow them some distance between them and the Blackhawks. Justin Jackson blocked a punt with Andrew Gentner. That led to Trevor Hackett's 35-yard field goal to give Glenbard North its first double-digit lead of the night with 8:42 left in the game. Tremel Smith's interception started the drive that capped off with quarterback Ryan Murphy's 3-yard somersault into the end zone to make it 31-14.
Enoch helped the Blackhawks offense execute excellent ball control on their lone scoring drive of the half. West Aurora moved the ball 64 yards in 12 plays.
Enochs ran eight times during the drive, and the Renner-to-Cole Childs passing connection was effective, and would be throughout the game, as Renner found Childs in the end zone on a 5-yard toss with 9:31 remaining until intermission. He caught 9 passes for 106 yards for the game.
West Aurora coach Nate Eimer was pleased with his team's four-quarter effort and pleased with how his team cooled off the Panthers. But he said the team has to learn to do more.
"It's tough at this point. We want to make the playoffs. We did do better tonight," he said. "But there are still things that need to be cleaned up. I thought the kids didn't quit. But we need to find a way to execute when the score is tied or we're just down one touchdown."
As for Glenbard North, the process of reaching its potential continues.
"We have a lot of room for improvement. We made a lot of mental mistakes, made a lot of penalties. We'll look at the film and start preparing for Naperville Central," Hansen said.