I could have written this column last year. After all, Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East were destined to meet in the Class 7A state championship game.
They were both 9-0 heading into the playoffs, were ranked Nos. 2 and 4 in state by The Chicago Tribune and were on opposite sides of the 7A bracket, ensuring a likely showdown between the Hilltoppers and the Griffins.
Then, in the second round of the 2011 playoffs, the offenses (which both averaged 38 points per game heading into that round) sputtered. Lake Zurich topped Glenbard West, 10-3, while Wheaton-Warrenville South blanked East 7-0.
While there were many upsets last season, "Even more surprising is the elimination of Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East in 7A," Mike Helfgot wrote in The Chicago Tribune last year. "Six of the seven people that played my little bracket game had those two schools meeting for the state championship."
ESPN.com predicted in 2011 that Glenbard West would top Lincoln-Way East in the title. That's OK—most people thought that those teams would meet in the final.
One year later, not much changed. The Hilltoppers and the Griffins finished the regular season 9-0, were ranked in the top five in state and set up on opposite sides of the bracket.
The only difference is they refused to be upset this season, setting up a dream matchup two years in the making.
The last time these two teams faced off was in the 2010 quarterfinals, which Glenbard West won at home, 42-28. West lost its next game to Wheaton-Warrenville South, the team that upset Lincoln-Way East last year. Wheaton would go on to win the championship over Lake Zurich, the team that upset Glenbard West last year.
Those four schools are 7A powerhouses. This year, Wheaton South was down and didn't even make the playoffs. Lake Zurich did, and tried to upend Glenbard again in the semifinals. The Hitters wouldn't have it, winning 19-13 at home. Meanwhile, Lincoln-Way East has rolled through the playoffs, it's closest game being a 24-14 win over Providence Catholic after going up 22-0.
So now we have it: the 7A title game we thought we'd get last year between arguably the two best teams in state:
- The Tribune and Edgy Tim on Rivals.com both rank Lincoln-Way East No. 1 and Glenbard West No. 2 in state; the Sun-Times has West at No. 1 and East at No. 3.
- Both offenses average more than 35 points per game. West's defense has allowed just 8.4 ppg while East's has given up 10.6.
- Glenbard West is 44-1 in the regular season over the last five years. Lincoln-Way East is 42-3 in the same span.
- Both teams have won one state title: Glenbard West in 1983 and Lincoln-Way East in 2005.
- Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet is 64-10 in six years at West. Griffins coach Rob Zvonar is 115-26 in 12 years at East.
Both teams lost major weapons from last year's teams, players that graduated and went on to play at great schools. But these aren't just good teams from year to year; these are great programs.
And it makes for a great game, one we can all appreciate as football fans.