Ironmen take on Glenbard East Rams in IHSA 7A Football Quarterfinals [game preview]

After a string of shutouts, the Iron defense surrendered 30 points last week. 
This week the defense is tasked with stopping Glenbard Easts explosive running game.
After a string of shutouts, the Iron defense surrendered 30 points last week. This week the defense is tasked with stopping Glenbard East’s explosive running game.
Mr. Jeff Christopherson

The Ironmen punched their ticket to the IHSA 7A Football Quarterfinals for the first time since 2015 with a 31-30 overtime victory over the Bradley-Bourbonnais Boilermakers Saturday at Dick Tharpe Field.

For the second time in two years, one point would decide the Ironmen and head coach Mr. Jason Drengwitz’s playoff fate in the round of 16.

“We’ve been on the other side of games like that in the past year,” Drengwitz said. “It was nice to come out on the positive side.”

The win, coming as the Boilermaker’s failed to convert a game-winning two-point attempt, sees the Ironmen heading to Lombard this Saturday, seeking a 12th straight win over the Glenbard East Rams.

The Rams enter this weekend’s contest after Friday’s 28-13 victory over Addison Trail (25).

Senior running back Matthew Larson fueled the Glenbard East offense, recording all four of the Ram’s touchdowns.

Larson, Drengwitz said, is a “really talented” “special back” who “can take it to the house” and “make things happen.”

Last week, the running back was responsible for all four Rams’ scores.

“He’s fast, he hits the hole hard, he’s physical,” Drengwitz said, “a really good downhill runner.”

The Rams, the coach said, do a “good job of getting [Larson] the ball in the right situations.”

But last week, the “right situation” was almost every offensive snap, as East’s quarterback Blake Salvino threw just five passes, and Larson rushed for 296 yards on 28 carries.

That’s “how good they are with the run game,” Drengwitz said. “Why do you need to throw it if you’re clipping off runs? [If your] tailbacks are having that much success in the run game?”

But Salvino isn’t one to be underestimated under center either, Drengwitz said.

“He’s tough, he’s physical,” Drengwitz said, and “does a great job in play-action.”

Just how tough is Salvino? The 6-foot-1 205-pounder also lines up at inside linebacker for the Rams.

“He’s got a different, unique makeup, which makes him really tough, a really good player,” the coach said.

Salvino’s receivers are talented too, Drengwitz said. They “have speed or dynamic [ability] and can take the top off of the defense.”

Shutting down the Rams, Drengwitz said, comes down to the Iron’s ability first to stop Larson.

“We have to get everybody around the football to tackle him, seven or eight hats around the ball.

In the passing game, Community needs to pressure the quarterback, the coach said, and “make throwing difficult and be really disciplined in our coverage.”

“The way we play coverage,” Drengwitz said, “people should not be running behind us.”

With the Iron taking on higher caliber receivers, Mar’Quan Gary may see more time in coverage after making his debut at cornerback in last week’s win.

“We have different defensive packages,” the coach said. “Defenses that allow us to roll different guys out on the field, and that’s something we’ve been working on for a couple of weeks, having [Gary] involved in the defensive gameplan. It’s something you’ll continue to see.”

A wrinkle, the coach said, that the Iron added last week was a two-back package, with both Tommy Davis and Calen Taylor in the backfield.

Last week, the coach said, “we had a lot of times where they were both on the field together. That’s going to be something you are probably going to see in the future as well.”

Taylor is “fast and physical, with “good vision,” Drengwitz said. “He just happens to play behind one of the best tailbacks around.”

Success in the run game for the Iron starts up front.

The Rams are “long and athletic on the D line,” the coach said. “We’ve got to be able to control them and neutralize that length and athleticism.”

Despite the Iron’s first 11-0 record since 2007’s State playoff run, Drengwitz said, the Iron need to continue to “get way better at a lot of different things.”

One of the most glaring areas of improvement is managing emotions.

Last week, the Ironmen were plagued by penalties–racking up over 100 yards.

“We’ve got to keep our emotions in check, and we’ve got to handle adversity better,” the coach said. “The only thing that’s going to stop us is us.”

Saturday’s contest is the Iron’s first road game since their 42-0 win over Manual Oct. 20, and their first afternoon kick-off of the year.

“We’ve got to handle the travel well,” Drengwitz said. “Our pregame and everything that we do will be almost identical to how we travel when we go on the road. Just the times will all be changed and pushed up.”

“I think lots of people when they think of playing football, think of Saturday day games,” the coach said. “So I’m sure kids are really excited to get the opportunity to play during the day.”

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