GLEN ELLYN – The Glenbard South football team outmuscled short-handed St. Francis 47-28 in a first-round Class 5A playoff matchup Saturday afternoon.
The Raiders, who improved to 10-0 on the fall, will play Lincoln-Way West in the second round. The Spartans ended the 2013 campaign with a 5-5 mark.
St. Francis could not find an answer for the Glenbard South passing game. Raiders quarterback Alex Jeske completed 18 of 23 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdown strikes went to running back Zach Smith in the first half, the first on a 21-yard pitch-and-catch and the second on a 4-yard slant in the red zone.
Smith’s touchdown receptions complemented a 3-yard rushing touchdown he pounded in to open up the scoring.
“We were just doing what we do,” Jeske said. “The offensive line was doing a great job blocking, receivers were catching passes, making great plays on the ball and runners were running hard and we just kept moving the ball.”
Down 21-0 with a few minutes left in the first half, the Spartans sustained a 79-yard touchdown drive behind the three-headed rushing attack of Steven Fassnacht, T.J. Jackson, and Christopher Smith, who were carrying the load with usual featured back James Butler, who was injured in the regular season finale against St. Edward, on the sideline.
A 22-yard scamper by Smith set up Spartans’ quarterback Zach Prociuk’s 23-yard touchdown strike to tight end Nate Zito with just 39 seconds left in the second quarter, giving St. Francis momentum going into the second half.
However, Jeske delivered a pass to wide receiver Tyler Scott, who outran the Spartan defense for a 76-yard score on the Raiders’ first drive of the second half. South safety Jack Curtis then intercepted a Prociuk pass on St. Francis’ ensuing possession and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to put the Raiders up, 34-7.
Prociuk completed two more touchdown passes in the second half, one to receiver Matthew Hanson and another to receiver Joseph Connelly, but the Spartans could not overcome two more interceptions by Curtis.
St. Francis coach Greg Purnell was disappointed with how his team performed, but he remained proud with the progress they had made over the course of the season.
“They shut us down early and that really hurt us,” Purnell said. “We didn’t play very good defense either. But I’m really proud of these seniors getting us back to the playoffs. They’re really great kids and they’re going to go on to be very successful in life.”
Prociuk expressed similar praise for his teammates.
“I love every one of them, they’re all my brothers,” Prociuk said. “We’re family here.”
Glenbard South coach Jeremy Cordell was impressed with how his team played and hopes it can build on the victory for the remainder of their playoff run.
“I thought the first half we definitely played a lot cleaner than we did the second half. We have to always continue to want to finish,” Cordell said. “We want to get better every week. We have another opportunity to get better and we’re looking forward to practice this week.”