Visiting Glenbard North overcame unusual circumstances and a furious fourth quarter rally by Fremd to get a 31-24 win in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
It was a battle on the ground as each offense boasted a stellar running game and made sure to prove it.
The Panthers junior running back Justin Jackson drove his team to the win, scoring three times while racking up 221 yards rushing. Junior running back Jeff McGlade added 93 yards and one touchdown for the Vikings.
Fremd, who found itself down 17-3 at halftime, came out of the break focused.
The Vikings put together an 11 play drive that lasted nearly half of the third quarter, culminating in a two yard touchdown run by McGlade to cut the lead to 17-10.
Jackson made his presence felt on the next two possessions, scoring on plays of nine and 61 yards.
“On offense we stepped up and had a good game,” Jackson said. “It’s been like this since I was in second grade: run, run, run and when I got to Glenbard it was no different. I love it.”
Fremd, who shifted its offensive strategy from the spread to the single-wing after losing starting quarterback senior Sam Beutler to a separated shoulder in week seven, decided to return to throwing the ball late in the game.
“We knew we needed to do something, they were doing a good job shutting us down up front,” said Fremd head coach Lou Sponsel. “We felt we had to put our athletes out there and get the ball in their hands.
One of those athletes was junior wide receiver Matt Konopka, whose big catches from junior quarterback Trever Cutler late in the fourth quarter kept the Vikings in striking distance to the end.
Alas, it was Jackson to the rescue all the way to the finish. Facing a third and long with a chance to run out the clock he broke several tackles to pick up the final first down.
“The last play where Justin broke through there was great, he’s just a great player,” said Glenbard North head coach Ryan Wilkens
Although Glenbard North had home advantage with their 8-1 record, the game was moved to Fremd because of an incident in which fans rushed the field in a 2007 matchup of the two schools.
Although it could have been a distraction, Wilkens dismissed it as a problem.
“We don’t buy into all the hoopla, I told my kids to just worry about what we need to do and that’s what high school football is all about.”
Glenbard North will now shift its sights to Stevenson as it moves into the second round of playoff contention.
“We’re just ready to move on, get healthy and watch some film and get ready for next week against Stevenson.”