Behind dominant D, Panthers clinch title

CAROL STREAM - With Justin Jackson on the team, it is not easy for Connor Dombrowski and his Glenbard North defensive mates to get noticed.

But as the Panthers’ senior running back rushed for 349 yards and three touchdowns Friday, the defense similarly made a big statement in the team’s 37-21 victory over Wheaton Warrenville South on senior night.

Glenbard North allowed just one first down through three quarters, completely stiffling the Tigers’ offense, as the home team built a 37-7 advantage.

“Our defense is always questioned,” Dombrowski said, “so it is nice to come out and show what we can do, show what our abilities are. We put it all together.”

With the victory, its seventh straight, Glenbard North clinched no worse than a share of the DuPage Valley Conference title and can grab the outright championship with a victory over Wheaton North tonight.

A win would also give the Panthers a perfect league mark for the second consecutive year.

“It’s great [to clinch a share],” Dombrowski said. “We work hard and it pays off.”

Topping the Falcons, especially on their home turf, won’t be easy. Wheaton North comes in riding a five-game winning streak.

“They are explosive,” Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. “Their quarterback, Clayton Thorson, runs extremely well, and if he extends the play he’s got the ability to take it the distance. They’ve got [wide receivers] JP Forcucci and Matt Biegalski and running backs Dom Garza and Dee Alexander. They are a very good team.”

Glenbard North can also be explosive. Jackson scored on runs of 11, 18 and 80 yards before sitting out the fourth quarter.

Back-up running back Vittorio Tricase then rattled off a 76-yard TD scamper.

“It was senior night and I’m proud of our seniors,” Jackson said. “They did a great job. It is nice to beat these teams the way we have, executing on defense and running the ball on offense.”

Count Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch among those who are impressed with the Panthers.

“To their credit, they are a better football team than we are,” he said, “and they have a chance to go and win the conference this week. Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. Offensively and defensively, they kicked our butts. They are a very physical football team. Offensively, they [Glenbard North] not only did it to us, they’ve done it to everybody. And I don’t think their defense is getting enough credit.”