NORTHBROOK, Ill. -- For just the fifth time in school history, the Harlem Huskies have reached the second round of the IHSA football playoffs.
After traveling 85 miles from Machesney Park, the 10th-seeded Huskies left Northbrook with a 31-21 upset victory over the No. 7 seed Glenbrook North Spartans in a Class 7A first round matchup that featured plenty of big plays and costly turnovers. After a safety gave Harlem the early lead, 2-0, its rushing attack took over, totaling 398-yards on the ground, including all four touchdowns.
"Those kids ran hard tonight," said Harlem head coach, Jim Morrow. "Everybody in the backfield ran hard and the offensive line did a great job blocking for them."
But even with Harlem's effective ground game, Glenbrook North held on right until the very end.
Harlem would score the game's first 16 points (all in the first quarter), thanks to touchdown runs from seniors Brandon Rogers and Keith Purifoy. But after Purifoy's 35-yard scamper midway through the first quarter, Glenbrook North came alive. Phil Crawford took the ensuing kickoff 75-yards for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Spartans went trick-or-treating as quarterback Zack Hilgendorf would threw a lateral to running back Grant Rushing who then found receiver Armin Batang down the sideline for a 73-yard gain. Four plays later, Hilgendorf would draw the Spartans within two-points on a 1-yard sneak. More Glenbrook North fireworks would go off at the conclusion of the first half as Hilgendorf again took to the air, finding Nick Freund for a 20-yard touchdown, and the 21-16 lead as time expired.
"I'm really proud of the way our kids responded," Glenbrook North head coach, Bob Pieper said. "They'd take a punch and we'd answer right back with one."
Unfortunately for the Spartans, the second half did not have the same back-and-forth result. Harlem would score on its first possession of the third quarter on a Kevin Witcik 22-yard run, and ice the contest with under one-minute remaining in the fourth thanks to another Witcik effort of 29-yards.
Harlem quarterback, Brandon Rogers, who finished the game with 191-rushing yards and a touchdown, still couldn't catch his breath as the final horn sounded. "I'm at such a loss for words right now," said Rogers. "I give a lot of credit to Glenbrook North, they played a hell of a game, but man, I'm just proud of these guys, of my team." Now, Harlem gets to sit back and wait for its next opponent, St. Rita, to make the trek to Machesney Park. "We stayed positive the whole time because we knew this game wasn't over and we just fought until the end," Rogers added. " "We fought through adversity, we won and it's the greatest feeling in the world to go home next week and face St. Rita."
Glenbrook North (8-2) has nothing to be ashamed of according to Pieper. "I'm calling this season a success." he said. "We were 8-1 before tonight, went undefeated and won the conference championship. That conference championship is something these kids will have forever."
The Spartans were lead by Hilgendorf (189-passing yards, TD, rushing TD) and senior wide receiver, Armin Batang (153-receiving yards).
Players of the game: Harlem QB, Brandon Rogers (23-car, 191-yards, TD), Sr. RB Keith Purifoy (11-car, 108 yards, TD), So. RB Kevin Witcik (9-car, 94-yards, 2 TD).
Stat of the game: Harlem outgained the Spartans 398-80 in rushing yards.
It was over when: Harlem sophomore running back Kevin Witcik ran for a 29-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Quote of the night: Harlem head coach, Jim Morrow, "when you're at a school that doesn't have a great playoff history, this win really means a lot."