Same two teams. Same venue. Exact same thing on the line.
As fate would have it, just 12 months after meeting in a Class 8A semifinal, Glenbard North and Loyola will renew acquaintances in Wilmette Saturday with the winner again moving on to Champaign.
But this time around, the Panthers hope for a little different ending; their 2011 season was brought to a close by the Ramblers in a 28-13 loss that was much closer than the final score might indicate.
“After what happened last year, we’re going to try to avenge our loss for all the seniors last year,” said junior running back Justin Jackson. “It was a tough loss. We were up. We thought we were going to win and we just came out flat in the second half.
“We know that we gotta get better because they’re a very, very good team. They’re a very well-coached team, a very disciplined team. We know we gotta get better to beat them, but we’re going to give it our all and play Glenbard North football.”
Loyola, which wound up losing to Bolingbrook in last year’s state championship game, reached its fifth consecutive semifinal with a 19-7 victory over Palatine Saturday.
The defense continued to lead the way for the Ramblers as that unit has allowed just 14 points through the first three postseason contests.
“We’re back in Loyola again,” said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens. “And their defense is very, very stout.”
The formula for the Panthers almost certainly won’t change — a heavy dose of Jackson mixed with the big play capability of quarterback Brian Murphy if the opponent brings too many defenders into the box. In the last two games, Jackson has carried the ball 84 times.
“At this point why go away from it unless we see something on film that dictates otherwise?” Wilkens said.
Glenbard North punched its ticket to the semifinal with a 29-23 win over previously undefeated Maine South Saturday in Park Ridge.
Jackson ran for 210 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries to lead the Panthers, but he also received plenty of help from his supporting cast, namely Murphy. The senior QB had a number of big plays, including a gutsy six-yard run on a third down to ice the game in the final minutes.
“He’s just a competitor,” Wilkens said of Murphy. “Normally it goes to Justin, obviously, on a crucial third and six. Murph kept it and around he went and had to dive for the first down, did what he had to do and got the first down.”
Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti opened the scoring on a four-yard run in the first quarter, but touchdown runs of one and four yards by Jackson gave the Panthers a 14-7 lead. John Oberheide boomed a 51-yard field goal just before halftime to cut the lead to 14-10.
Jackson made sure any momentum was halted quickly out of the break by taking the first play of the second half 88 yards for his third touchdown.
“Last time we played Maine South, in 2000, we lost in the state final so we won for those guys who lost and we won for ourselves,” Jackson said. “We bought ourselves more time. We’re just going to keep on the grind this week.”
Alviti and Jackson went back and forth with touchdown runs in the third quarter and the Panthers led 29-16 after three quarters. Alviti ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 123 yards. The Hawks (11-1) got back within six and had the ball on the Panthers’ 40, but the defense held and Murphy’s clutch run sealed the game.
Dan Santaromita contributed to this story