Glenbard West sophomore running back Kendall Johnson ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns while the Hilltopper defense forced six turnovers en route to a 47-7 win over Downers Grove North at Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn Saturday afternoon.
Downers North reserve quarterback Cody Pooler, making his first ever start at the position, was responsible for four of those turnovers.
"Cody is a great kid and he tried to do the best could," Trojans coach John Wander said. "For your first game at quarterback you don't want to go against Glenbard West."
Pooler's final line was 1-of-4 for 10 yards and two interceptions. He ran for 55 yards and fumbled twice. When asked whether his performance was what he expected, Pooler's answer was simple.
"No, sir," he said. "There were some butterflies. We just got to bounce back next week."
The two interceptions were received by Hilltopper defensive back Mike Lansing on consecutive Downers North possessions in the second quarter. The second pick Lansing returned 26 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back on an illegal block.
Six plays later, linebacker/goal-line running back Beau Warden ran in the first of his two touchdowns from inside the 2-yard line with 19 seconds left in the half. Glenbard West (8-0, 5-0) led 27-0 at the break.
"[Forcing] turnovers was a big spot we wanted to work on," Hilltoppers senior linebacker Justin Mesch said. "That came up big today."
Mesch forced one of Pool's two second-half fumbles. It was recovered by junior defensive back Matt Marston and was the first of three cough-ups in a span of five plays.
Glenbard West backup quarterback Justice Odom fumbled a handoff that was recovered by senior Trojan defensive back Joseph Fox. Two plays after, Downers North running back Frederick Palma lost the ball out of the Wildcat formation. It was recovered by senior lineman Craig Olsen.
Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet confirmed that his team was focused on turnovers last week during practice; it was a "focal point."
"We gave them a lot of challenges this week," he said. "A big part of it is hitting hard and putting your face on the ball."
Offensively, the day belonged to Johnson, who got the ball 11 times and averaged 15.9 yards per carry. His 72-yard touchdown on the second half's first play from scrimmage made the score 34-0 and effectively ended Downers North's chances.
The offensive line has opened up the field throughout the season for several different runners.
"We always have to give credit to our O-line," Johnson said. "That's why our O-line is where we go first when we celebrate touchdowns."
Senior Nick Burrello added 94 yards and a touchdown, but carried the ball only once in the second half.
So despite the lopsided score against a short-handed opponent, Hetlet thought it was a positive game.
"We've needed to get better as a team," he said. "We've won some games when we didn't get better."
For Downers North (1-7, 0-5), the loss is just another in a disappointing 2010 season.
"That's the way it goes," Wander said. "I tell them they're a good football team. Hopefully they believe it."
Next up for the Trojans is their Friday night finale at home versus Oak Park River Forest (2-6, 0-5). For Glenbard West, a Saturday (10/23) afternoon game versus Lyons Township (7-1, 3-1) is all that stands between them and an undefeated regular season.