GLEN ELLYN – As Glenbard West gets set to open the defense of its state title on Saturday, Hayden Carlson has seen both ends of the spectrum in terms of postseason success.
A year ago, the safety played a major role as the Hilltoppers captured Class 7A crown. The season before that, Carlson was a sophomore on the team that was upset in the second round by Lake Zurich.
“You have to take it one game at a time,” the senior said. “My sophomore year, we might have got ahead of ourselves a little bit. Last year, we focused on the game in front of us. We didn’t worry about two games down the line or even the state championship. You have to have that mindset and know that anybody can beat you on any Saturday.”
The first team that will be trying to knock Glenbard West off its pedestal is Harlem, which comes in with a 6-3 record.
“They have a real big running back who runs the ball hard,” coach Chad Hetlet said.
“Their quarterback throws the ball effectively and they have good skill athletes and a big offensive line. They are also really big up front on the D-line.”
As for the Hilltoppers, they will enter play riding an eight-game winning streak, capped off by a 35-7 victory over York on Saturday which again gave the squad the outright West Suburban Silver conference title. The program’s sixth straight league championship came despite dealing with the injury bug throughout the fall.
“Our conference is tough year in and year out,” Carlson said. “To sweep it, it shows a lot about our program and the direction we’ve been [going] in the past six years.
“We always talk about the next man up and that’s exactly what has happened. A couple of running backs went down and our middle linebacker went down, and I don’t think we have really missed a beat.”
Hetlet expects his team to be as healthy as they can be on Saturday. Most specifically, running back Jermon Kindle-Joyner and fullback/nose tackle Devonte Toney are scheduled to return.
“I’m most impressed with how it has been the next guy up, especially on defense,” the coach said. “We continue to play good defense. I feel good about that and offensively, I feel good about how we are running the ball. If we execute as a team, we’ve got a chance against anybody.”