Glenbard East coach John Walters paced up and down the sideline Wednesday watching his team prepare to host East St. Louis in a Class 7A second-round playoff game on Saturday.
Two things looked unusual: the Rams practicing this late in October and the lengthy beard on Walters.
“My wife says it ages me,” Walters said. “But I’m not shaving it until we lose.”
Walters hasn’t shaved since before Glenbard East’s 36-7 win against South Elgin in Week 5. The Rams are 10-0 for the first time in school history and Walters isn’t taking any chances.
It’s been a historic season for Glenbard East. This year marked the first time in 19 years it made the state playoffs and the first time since 1965 that the Rams won conference.
“I’m not really surprised we’re in the position that we’re in,” Walters said. “It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been around it and around these kids. The bond that they have and the commitment they made, I knew we were going to be a good football team.”
- Nick Andrews (79) says he is ready for East St. Louis on Saturday. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Andrews (79) gives all he has during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Deon Wok (12) holds on to a hard pass during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Dominic Tenca (69) kicks a punt during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Athletic trainer Nora Collins and Jamylann Miles talks during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Walters looks over the play sheet with Bushka. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Walters talks to Bushka. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Bushka rolls out of the pocket during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Shockey takes a short water break. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Linebacker Anthony Shocky (5) watches the ball during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Kennen Brown reaches out for a catch during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Davis Hritz lines up on defense. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Bret Bushka throws a pass in practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- John Walters looks on his drone during practice. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
- Glenbard East gets ready to take on East St Louis Saturday. in the second round state playoffs. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times
The Rams were 3-6 last season and 2-7 in 2016-17. The turn around has been special and Walters credits it to the leadership that anchors the group. There are 32 seniors on the team.
“I hear a lot more people saying ‘are you going to the football game?’,” quarterback Bret Bushka said. “More people take pride in Glenbard East football, they have something to look forward to now.”
Bushka is one of six captains. He leads the team on and off the field. He’s averaging more than 200 yards passing and has thrown 26 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
The Rams will face a massive challenge against East St. Louis on Saturday, by far their biggest of the season.
The Flyers have won eight state championships, the most recent in 2016. East St. Louis is the 15 seed, but will be a heavy favorite on Saturday in Lombard. The Flyers (8-2) played three national powerhouses this season and haven’t lost to an in-state opponent.
“We all know that they obviously have some good athletes on their side, they’re a little bit bigger than ours but this is our test,” linebacker Anthony Shockey said. “We get past this and I’m very confident we can go to state.”
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