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O’Brien: Touchdown machine Sam Brodner leads Glenbard West past Lyons

If Illinois high school football had a fantasy game, Sam Brodner would be the first pick in every league.

The Glenbard West running back is a touchdown machine. He scored 27 rushing touchdowns as a junior last season and is on pace to beat that total this year.

“Sam is a pretty powerful kid,” Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. “He does a lot of things that kids can’t do, a lot of things most running backs can’t do.”

The Hilltoppers demolished previously unbeaten Lyons 35-0 in Western Springs on Saturday. Brodner scored on runs of 20, four and nine yards. He’s scored 18 touchdowns so far this season.

“I try not to let one person take me down,” Brodner said. “The offensive line was giving me places, those little seams that I need and I made the most out of them.”

Brodner, a Vanderbilt recruit, had 18 carries for 115 yards. He says there isn’t a specific number of touchdowns he has in mind as a goal for the season.

“Oh, no,” Brodner said. Hopefully it is higher than it was last season. Everyone is playing the way they need to so it should be good.”

Everything was clicking for the Hilltoppers (5-0, 3-0 West Suburban Silver). Brodner wasn’t the only running back to make an impact. Junior Dominick Ficarella, ill with a 102 degree fever on Friday, stepped up and carried the ball eight times for 74 yards and a touchdown. Senior Isaiah Skinner had 10 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown.

“I love those boys,” Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said. “(Ficarella) is really special. Skinner is just an absolute workhorse that does everything for us, blocks, runs, catches passes. He is a very special all-around player. We are very blessed to have those three backs.

Glenbard West’s program is known for defense, but it surrendered 52 points in the first three weeks of the season. Things seem to be on track now with two consecutive shutouts after the Hilltoppers blanked Downers Grove North last week.

“I was really happy with the way we played defensively,” Hetlet said. “We had a new safety in there (Michael Brewer) because our starter is injured. I thought he played really well. We’re really fast on the defensive side of the ball and against most run teams we’re able to do some things. I think we’ve found our rhythm on the defensive side of the ball right now.”

The quarterback is the offensive focus of most high school teams, but senior Brian Cochrane is in the shadows at Glenbard West. The three running backs, the defense and the stout offensive line attracts most of the attention from opposing defenses and the media. But Cochrane is the unsung key to to the Hilltoppers’ offense. He seems to almost never make a bad decision or take a foolish risk.

Cochrane was 11-for-14 passing for 127 yards and one interception, but that ball was tipped.

Glenbard West dominated Lyons (4-1, 2-1) on both sides of the ball and the outcome of the game was never in doubt. It wasn’t a flashy performance by the Hilltoppers though. They weren’t as explosive as Homewood-Flossmoor has looked this season or as ruthless and efficient as Loyola. Glenbard West’s longest run was 26 yards (by Skinner) and the biggest pass play was an 18-yarder from Cochrane to Chrystian Maciorowski.

“Once we found our adjustments we were able to move the ball pretty well,” Hetlet said. “It’s like anything, it’s a work in progress. I thought we did some good. 14-0 (at the half) against an undefeated team is not that slow of a start.”