GLEN ELLYN – Beads of sweat glistened underneath Chris Terek’s helmet during a breather Monday.
Terek and his Glenbard West teammates received a rather sweaty introduction to the first official day of fall football practice.
Under cloudy skies, and with a commuter train periodically rumbling by in the background, the Hilltoppers ran over an hour of sprints on the turf field. Terek, Glenbard West’s All-State offensive lineman and a Wisconsin recruit, brushed it off.
“It definitely wasn’t fun, but we got through it and learned from it,” Terek said. “It got us better.”
That bar is high. Glenbard West is coming off an 8-3 2021 season that ended with a second-round playoff loss to eventual Class 8A champ Lockport. For 95% of the football programs in Illinois, that’s the kind of season to shout about and build on.
Not so, in Terek’s estimation. And not for a program with 10 double-digit win seasons and two state titles since head coach Chad Hetlet arrived in 2007.
“It’s not how it works around here,” Terek said. “Our motto this season is ‘Return to Glory.’ We’ve been down a few years. It’s time to bring back Hitter football.”
That return should start with the big boys up front.
Glenbard West returns its entire offensive line, anchored by Terek, and adds promising junior Eric Lonvick in what is said to be the biggest O-line in Hetlet’s 16 seasons. Terek, who has shed 30 pounds but still checks in at 305, leads a group that averages 250 across the board.
“250, athletic and they can run,” Hetlet said. “All of those guys are going to have to contribute on defense as well, though.”
That is without Danny Coffey, who started on the defensive line as a sophomore, sidelined until Week 3.
Hetlet is just as bullish about his skill group, led by returning 1,000-yard rusher Joey Pope who holds an offer from Army.
“We’re as skilled as we’ve ever been,” Hetlet said. “There is not a Sam Brodner type, but Pope is as fast a kid as we’ve ever had, he runs a 4.3 40. Ju Ju Ellens, he started for us as a freshman, he’ll be receiver and play some running back, [senior quarterback] Korey Tai has a couple offers, he ran a 4.5 40 at North Central and the other guy is Filip Maciorowski, returning tight end. He’s an unreal receiver and super physical, a guy nobody is looking at but is a dude.”
Tai, who made his first varsity start two seasons ago as a sophomore at Hinsdale Central, is back for his third varsity season. The senior who holds offers from Dayton and North Dakota has had a busy offseason in multiple facets.
“Throwing to my QB coach [Jeff] Christensen, working on footwork, getting the ball out faster, trying to grow as a leader,” Tai said. “I have to make sure I’m on my ‘A’ game, be a leader, do everything I got to do.”
On the opposite side Hetlet has a very young group, a defense that could start six juniors led by senior middle linebacker Jack Oberhofer.
It’s a junior group Hetlet is high on, a strong complement to the senior class. Five played up on varsity as sophomores, and the sophomore team still went 8-1 with a close loss to York.
“It’s an unassuming group,” Hetlet said. “They’re perfect hole pluggers for our seniors.”
Glenbard West will get tested right out of the chute, with a road game at Marist Aug. 27. Preparation for that began with Monday’s first practice, and all of that running.
“Gotta shock them back into shape, wake them up,” Hetlet said. “They had two weeks off, been sleeping in. More than anything it’s mental toughness. The first couple days you can’t hit, challenge them mentally. Conditioning-wise, I think we’re in pretty good shape, and this is a good indicator of that. It’s seeing do you want to be a part of this.”