Glenbard East coach John Walters paced up and down the sideline Wednesday watching his team prepare to host East St. Louis in a Class 7A second-round playoff game on Saturday.
Two things looked unusual: the Rams practicing this late in October and the lengthy beard on Walters.
“My wife says it ages me,” Walters said. “But I’m not shaving it until we lose.”
Walters hasn’t shaved since before Glenbard East’s 36-7 win against South Elgin in Week 5. The Rams are 10-0 for the first time in school history and Walters isn’t taking any chances.
It’s been a historic season for Glenbard East. This year marked the first time in 19 years it made the state playoffs and the first time since 1965 that the Rams won conference.
“I’m not really surprised we’re in the position that we’re in,” Walters said. “It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been around it and around these kids. The bond that they have and the commitment they made, I knew we were going to be a good football team.”
The Rams were 3-6 last season and 2-7 in 2016-17. The turn around has been special and Walters credits it to the leadership that anchors the group. There are 32 seniors on the team.
“I hear a lot more people saying ‘are you going to the football game?’,” quarterback Bret Bushka said. “More people take pride in Glenbard East football, they have something to look forward to now.”
Bushka is one of six captains. He leads the team on and off the field. He’s averaging more than 200 yards passing and has thrown 26 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
The Rams will face a massive challenge against East St. Louis on Saturday, by far their biggest of the season.
The Flyers have won eight state championships, the most recent in 2016. East St. Louis is the 15 seed, but will be a heavy favorite on Saturday in Lombard. The Flyers (8-2) played three national powerhouses this season and haven’t lost to an in-state opponent.
“We all know that they obviously have some good athletes on their side, they’re a little bit bigger than ours but this is our test,” linebacker Anthony Shockey said. “We get past this and I’m very confident we can go to state.”
More Sun-Times high school sports stories
- VIDEO: Watch the CST Game Week show for playoff predictions
- PLAYOFF BRACKETS: All eight classes
- Beth Long’s predictions for Class 8A
- Beth Long’s predictions for Class 7A
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