CAROL STREAM – The dynamic between Glenbard North running backs Jordan McQuarter and Cordell Smiley certainly is striking, if not deadly.
"We're a running back duo," Smiley said. "We've been calling each other the two-headed monster [since] the beginning of the season."
They were that Friday. McQuarter and Smiley combined for 184 first-half rushing yards, and the Panthers offense, led by quarterback Michael Vazquez, took care of the rest in beating Benet 35-8 in a Class 7A first-round playoff game in Carol Stream.
"I love playing with him," McQuarter said of Smiley. "We're just trying to change the game. Every team really has one running back, but we're trying to make it two. We actually got more than that, we actually [have] four running backs and we're working hard together."
Not to be overlooked, the Panthers (7-3) defense harassed Benet quarterback Colin Gillespie into nine first-half incompletions – with just three completions – for 24 passing yards. The Panthers forced three punts and recovered two turnovers.
Glenbard North advances to the second round of the postseason to face No. 1-seeded Mount Carmel, who defeated Eisenhower 61-14.
Just one season ago, the Panthers were 0-9. They're now riding a six-game win streak since a narrow loss to Batavia on Sept. 20.
"Proud of us, very proud of us," Smiley said. "We stepped up a long way. A very long way."
McQuarter finished with 120 rushing yards, while Smiley had 132.
Vazquez opened the Panthers' first possession with a 44-yard strike to Kobie Jamison. McQuarter later ran for his first of three rushing touchdowns with 5:54 left in the first quarter from two yards out to make it 7-0.
On the Panthers second possession, Vazquez (five completions, 83 yards) found Josh Kilment for a 6-yard touchdown to go up 14-0. After forcing Benet's third consecutive punt, McQuarter found the end zone for a 10-yard score with 2:39 in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers recovered their own kickoff at the Benet 33, and McQuarter ripped off a 25-yard rushing score four plays later to make it 28-0.
The next possession, Gillespie's completed pass to Jonathan Martin was fumbled, and Glenbard North recovered. Vazquez then found Angelo Cusumano for a gorgeous 9-yard fade into the end zone – with some artful stutter-steps from Cusumano to get his feet down for the score – and the 35-0 halftime lead.
"We came out; we were a little amped up," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We ran the ball really well. Our defense played outstanding, and then Mike made some huge throws, he really did."
On Benet's first play of the third quarter, Gillespie ran for four yards, but was removed after visibly holding his left arm. He did return the next two possessions, but Michael O'Connor handled the majority of the fourth quarter.
Benet (6-4) got on the scoreboard with 8:49 left on an 82-yard touchdown from O'Connor to Pierce Walsh. The Redwings converted the two-point conversion. The Redwings forced three turnovers in the second half.
"I think the mistakes were kind of shared by everybody," Benet coach Pat New said. "Unfortunately, Colin did take some hard hits. He's a tough player, and hung in there as best he could."
"To make the playoffs isn't very easy, especially with our schedule and in our conference," New said. "I'm proud of these guys and I'll miss the seniors."