Downers Grove South's Jayden Lambert fends off  Downers Grove North linebacker Ryan Schindler in a home game on Oct. 25.
Downers Grove South's Jayden Lambert fends off Downers Grove North linebacker Ryan Schindler in a home game on Oct. 25. — Bill Ackerman - For Shaw Media

Downers Grove South experienced a wide range of emotions in a short period last weekend.

The Mustangs hit a low period in their season after losing 14-7 to neighborhood rival Downers Grove North on Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, the Mustangs (5-4) received some good news when they earned the program’s first playoff bid in five years.

But then, the Mustangs discovered their Class 8A first-round opponent was undefeated Glenbard West. The two teams hook up on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Glen Ellyn.

“It was a crazy feeling because we lost, then found out we’re in the playoffs, so it was good and bad,” Downers Grove South senior Jayden Lambert said. “We have to take advantage of the situation and bounce back. We lost a big rivalry game. But one of our goals was to get in the playoffs, and we accomplished that. It feels great. It’s the first time in my high school career that I’ll be going to the playoffs. It’s a great feeling.”

Quarterback Cole Warehime, who combined for only 115 yards of total offense in the loss to the Trojans, expressed a similar sentiment.

“We were really confident going into our game, and we thought we had a good game plan on how to attack their defense,” Warehime said. “After the game, everyone was down and mad that we didn’t get the outcome we wanted…But we were very excited that we made the playoffs and were the team to turn around the program and make the playoffs.”

The Hilltoppers present a formidable challenge for the upstart Mustangs. Glenbard West has dominated teams this season, scoring 42 or more points in eight of its nine games. The famed Hilltoppers’ defense enters the playoffs allowing a stingy 7.4 points per game.

“We have a very talented offense and we’re excited for the challenge,” Lambert said, a wide receiver/defensive back. “This game is going to show what we’re capable of. It’s a test for everybody.”

Warehime, who recently made an unofficial visit to Miami-Ohio, said the Mustangs have to be focused during practice this week to be ready for the challenge of playing at Duchon Field.

“We’re going to have play as close to perfect offensively because we know they are going to be ready to play,” he said. “We’re going to have to put together a good game plan to put us in position to be successful against them.”

Downers Grove North update

After losing their final regular season game last season to miss qualifying for the playoffs, the Trojans averted the same scenario by controlling the clock with 189 yards rushing in the second half to defeat the Mustangs.

With the win, the Trojans punched a ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Downers Grove North (5-4) travels to Maine West at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 7A first-round playoff game.

“Obviously, our kids are excited about the opportunity to play in the playoffs,” Downers Grove North coach Joe Horeni said. “We were confident we were going to get in after Friday based on our playoff points.”

Horeni, a second-year coach, plays a familiar opponent from his days coaching at Highland Park. The Warriors (8-1) won the CSL North title, but played only two teams with winning records. Maine West’s signature win came against Deerfield (7-2) in Week 5 in Des Plaines.

“We played Maine West when I was at Highland Park from the Central Suburban North (days),” Horeni said. “We also played them in a 7-on-7 this past summer. Our kids remember that. They are really well-coached and have a really good passing game, a defense that has stopped a lot of teams in their league. 

St. Francis has high hopes

St. Francis enters the playoffs with lofty goals following regular season victories over Bishop McNamara and IC Catholic. The Spartans (8-1) closed out the regular season with seven consecutive victories, including a 45-0 rout over Aurora Central Catholic on Friday.

The Spartans open the Class 4A playoffs against Chicago Clark (5-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We’re excited to get in the playoffs and hopefully we have five more games,” St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said. “We knew we would have a good football team with a lot of guys returning and our quarterback, Tommy Rittenhouse. Our first goal was to win conference, get to the playoffs with an opportunity to win state. We’ve played a bunch of good football teams that helped put St. Francis on the map.

“Now we have to go out and prove it. It’s a testament to how hard these guys have worked. It’s a great senior class.”

McMillen said he was able to get four games of film on the Eagles (5-3). Chicago Clark defeated St. Viator in Week 2.

“They are big and physical and athletic,” McMillen said. “We have to be able to stop their running back and play sound defense. Offensively, we have to take care of the ball.”

McMillen said Rittenhouse is tentatively scheduled to return for the second round of the playoffs. Rittenhouse, a dual threat quarterback, suffered an injury to his non-throwing arm in Week 8 that caused him to sit out the regular season finale. Rittenhouse made an unofficial visit to Iowa State on Saturday.

“Tommy threw a little this past week with his arm in a cast, so we will see when the stitches come off next week,” McMillen said. “Things are looking good now.”