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Explosive Tyquan Cox ready to carry the load for No. 9 Glenbard West

Glenbard West's Tyquan Cox during a preseason practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

It seems silly to ask Glenbard West football coach Chad Hetlet and his players about the first game of last season. It was so long ago and this is a new season, a new team.

Then the question is asked and you see the sparks go off in their eyes. The Hilltoppers are more than ready to talk about that 62-34 loss at home to Maine South.

“That is the game everyone has been thinking about,” senior defensive lineman Marky Winters said. “Since we lost last year beating them has been the goal, honestly. Giving up 60 points was something Glenbard West had never done. Being a part of something like that just does not feel right. If the boys keep grinding and pushing hard until the 24th it will not be the same result as last year.”

The Hilltoppers travel to Park Ridge and face Maine South on the opening night of the season.

“I’m anxious,” senior linebacker Jayden Rodgers said. “I’ve been thinking about Maine South for months. It’s the biggest game for us until the playoffs. We still have some work to do, some things to clean up. But we will be ready to see them.”

Glenbard West rebounded phenomenally after that game last year, finishing the rest of the regular season unbeaten. The Hilltoppers lost to Oswego in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.

Seven starters are back on defense, which is the first sign that Glenbard West could be primed for a big season and a key reason it starts the season as the No. 9 team in the Sun-Times’ Super 25 rankings.

“That should make a big difference,” Hetlet said. “But you don’t know until you play the first game. Right now we are working extremely hard and we are way ahead of where we were last year because of that experience.”

Winters is a three-year starter on the defensive line and linebackers Rodgers, Otis Nevins and Kyle Dell all return.

The Hilltoppers also have that special, star ingredient that makes a deep playoff run possible: speedster Tyquan Cox.

“He’s really special,” Hetlet said. “I can’t begin to tell you how explosive he looks. When you give him any open space he’s gone, just super fast.”

Glenbard West players spring during a preseason practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.
Glenbard West players spring during a preseason practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

Cox, a senior, has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his career and ran for more than 1,000 yards last season.

“I’m faster and quicker and I have better hands than last year,” Cox said. “Last year I wasn’t a guy that could catch 10 passes but this year I can do it all. I’m explosive and I can catch the ball well. I’ll follow the offensive line and they can lead me to the promised land.”

Cox knows that a great deal of the Hilltoppers’ success this season will hinge on his production.

“My number one goal is for us to win state,” Cox said. “I have to put up extreme numbers for us to do that but I feel like I can do it.

“We’re going to be more of a hurry-up offensive team and try to wear the defense out. We will see fatigue in their eyes and keep pounding and that should open it up for deep balls.”

Cox has an offer from Minnesota State but has his heart set on Western Michigan.

“Western Michigan is my dream college,” Cox said. “I just feel like it is a super sick place. I visited there and it was awesome. They are still recruiting me and I’m hoping to go there. That’s what I’m playing for this season.”

GLENBARD WEST SCHEDULE

Aug. 24 at Maine South

Aug. 31 at Proviso East

Sept. 8 vs. Addison Trail

Sept. 14 at York

Sept. 22 vs. Downers Grove North

Sept. 29 vs. Lyons

Oct. 5 at Hinsdale Central

Oct. 13 vs. Oak Park-River Forest

Oct. 19 at Proviso West

This is the second story in the Sun-Times 2018 Football Countdown series. The No. 8 ranked team will be revealed tomorrow.

More football stories:

Want the latest info and analysis on high school football? Our preps team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and Annie Costabile will share all the latest news, insights and Super 25 football rankings in a new livestream show called “Sun-Times Game Week.” Our next preview show is Aug 20 at 4:30 p.m., then the regular season livestream show will be every Monday at 6:30 p.m. starting August 27. Like and follow our high school sports Facebook page to watch the show on FACEBOOK LIVE. You can also ask questions using the hashtag #SunTimesGameWeek.