Undefeated Ironmen gear up for IHSA Football Semifinals showdown with Downers Grove North Trojans

The Ironmen are back in the IHSA Semifinals for the first time in over 15 seasons after a stunning comeback win over Glenbard East. 
They take on the 10-2 Downers Grove North Trojans on the road Saturday. 
Photo Courtesy of: Steph Mazanowski //
MazPix Photography // Mazpix.com
The Ironmen are back in the IHSA Semifinals for the first time in over 15 seasons after a stunning comeback win over Glenbard East. They take on the 10-2 Downers Grove North Trojans on the road Saturday. Photo Courtesy of: Steph Mazanowski // MazPix Photography // Mazpix.com

The Ironmen (12-0) return to the IHSA Football Semifinals for the first time since 2007, traveling to take on the Downers Grove North Trojans (10-2) on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Last week, the Iron (1) battled back from a two-touchdown deficit to secure their spot in this week’s contest, while the Trojans (13) earned a decisive road victory over Lincoln-Way West (12), eliminating the Warriors in a 34-6 upset.

Head coach Mr. Jason Drengwitz said that the second half of last Saturday’s game was possibly “one of the best halves of football [the Iron] have played all year.” 

That one half–and the 31 unanswered points Community put on the board during it–have the Ironmen back in the Semis, their first appearance as a 7A team.

“To think that you’re one game away from playing for a State title,” Drengwitz said, “that’s really cool and doesn’t really happen that often.”

Extending the Ironmen’s season one more week to play a State title game in Hancock Stadium, the coach said, “is going to be a tremendous challenge… go[ing] on the road for a win.”

But the Iron, the coach said, isn’t talking about that next game yet; they haven’t talked about it all year. 

They are focused on the Trojans. 


Downers Grove North enters Saturday’s matchup with just two losses on the season. The Trojans fell 32-21 to the York Dukes and 17-7 to LaGrange Lyons.

Those losses came at the hands of quality 8A opponents, as last weekend, York advanced to the Semis with a 17-14 win over Lyons to earn their spot among the top four teams in Illinois’ largest class.

If you look at Downers’ schedule, Drengwitz said, “week to week, they’re playing really, really good 7- or 8A teams.

“Those two games they lost, they were in those games,” the coach continued. 

The 10 games they won aren’t without note, either.


North is riding a five-game winning streak, a streak that includes eliminating the undefeated, fourth-ranked Arlington Heights Hersey Huskies from the postseason. 

“They upset Hersey in the second round of the playoffs 24-21, “an exceptional 7A team,” Drengwitz said.

“They’re a battle-tested, physical team,” the coach said, “that is playing with a lot of confidence… I’m sure they don’t believe that anybody can beat them right now.”

The Trojans, Drengwitz said, are the best team Community has faced all year. 


Leading them is sophomore quarterback Owen Lansu, who will be tasked with operating Downers’ RPO offense.

In last week’s win for the Trojans, after Lansu threw an interception in the end zone on North’s opening drive, the sophomore racked up three touchdowns on the Trojans’ next four possessions. 

Lansu finished the contest with 259 yards and four touchdowns.

“From everything I’ve seen,” Drengwitz said, “he seems to be a good player, a great leader and a really high character young man which is a recipe to handle high-pressure situations.”

“But [Lansu’s] never been there,” the coach said. “He’s never been in the semifinals in a game like this.”

That experience might mean all the difference.

“I think the challenge is,” Drengwitz said, “you’ve never been there… [it’s difficult] to keep your emotions in check and know that it’s not about the last play, it’s about the next play.”

That is a challenge Drengwitz saw his sophomore quarterback undergo last season in the second round of the playoffs, a home loss to the Pekin Dragons. 

Those situations call for “that ‘next play’ mentality,” Drengwitz said, “you have to do it as a quarterback, [since] the ball is going to be in your hands every snap.”

“Everything I’ve seen of [Lansu] on film,” Drengwitz said, “when he makes mistakes, he’s on [to] the next play and makes a lot of really high-level plays.”

This week, stopping Lansu will require the Ironmen to improve their coverage and tackling.


During Glenbard East’s 28-0 run, “[defense] didn’t execute the coverage that well and tackled poorly,” Drengwitz said. 

The focus this week in the secondary, the coach said, is “better [situational] awareness” of “down distance, how much time left” on the clock…

Then, the Iron “have to trust [their] technique and make a play.” 

If the Ironmen defenders don’t make plays, the Trojans’ receivers will. 


Last week, junior Charlie Cruise pulled in seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown, Cael Brezina hauled in a 47-yard TD reception and senior Owen Thulin added two of his own, a 44-yard catch and score and a five-yard touchdown reception.

“All the receivers are good,” Drengwitz said. “They do a good job of getting off the ball quick and run high-quality routes, which is always a challenge.”

Community’s defensive backs, the coach said, need to cover those receivers “and cover [them] really well.” 


Tasked with helping shut down the Trojans’ defensive threats–dual threat position player Mar’Quan Gary.

Gary, who saw time at receiver until the playoffs, has been Community’s shutdown cornerback this postseason.

“We kind of take the mindset,” Drengwitz said, ‘it’s the Semifinals, Quarterfinals, you got to go.” 

And last weekend, Gary went off, recording two interceptions and taking one to the house.

Playing on both sides of the ball, Drengwitz said, Gary “does a great job communicating when he’s tired, “when he needs a break…”

But those breaks come rarely, the coach said, something that comes from his preparation, from being a “high-level competitor that practices the right way, so typically he’s prepared to play a lot of snaps.”


North isn’t just a threat through the air but on the ground. 

Senior running back Noah Battle ran for a touchdown of his own last week, on the way to 177 yards for the Trojans.

Conquering Battle is a task Drengwitz thinks the Iron defensive front, led by All-State defensive end Dexter Niekamp, is ready for.

Defensive coordinator Mr. Derek Logue, Drengwitz said, does an “amazing job” calling plays and preparing the team. 


Making sure the Iron are “ready to go” on offense is offensive coordinator Mr. Chris Messina. 

Messina, Drengwitz said, “does a great job” working to prepare Community quarterback Kyle Beaty each week. 

“I wouldn’t expect anything less” this week, the head coach said. 

Beaty, Drengwitz said, “at the quarterback position … can do it all.”

In Community’s run-pass-option offense this season, Beaty has tallied 24 passing touchdowns and seven rushing.

 “To win, he’s got to play well,” Drengwitz said.

“I bet,” Drengwitz said, “if you went through and looked at all the teams left playing, their quarterbacks are really high-level players, and Kyle’s no different.”

“Kyle prepares well; he practices the right way, he takes things personally and he takes things to heart. When he makes mistakes, [he] tries to improve upon it going in [to the next week]. That’s really a credit to him.”


Last week, Beaty recorded his third interception of the season, his fourth turnover in 12 games. 

“I think he just forced it to Mar’Quan to try to make a play,” Drengwitz said. “If you’re trying to get the ball to number three, that’s usually a good recipe for success.” 

This week, the Trojans will look to shut down a Beaty-Gary combo that has connected for 13 scores.

“We have to be aware that teams are going to try to take [Gary] away because of how good he is,” Drengwitz said. 

 “We can’t force those things,” the coach said, Beaty just has to “take what the defense gives [him].”

“Kyle’s a really smart, high character kid,” Drengwitz said. “We know he’ll take from the Glenbard scheme and make improvements to be a better version of himself as a quarterback.”


On Saturday, Beaty must deal with the Trojan’s standout defensive front.

“They do a great job of reading guards,” the coach said. “They get you down, and they play good coverage behind it.”

In the box for the Trojans will be All-State linebacker senior Cael Brezina. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Iowa State University commit entered the season as one of 100 best linebackers in the nation.


Like last week, Drengwitz said Community will need to execute in all three phases: “We had to make a play on offense, Tommy’s run; we had to make a play on defense, Brady’s interception; and then we had to make a play on special teams which was a blocked punt.”


But play-making aside, it comes down to emotions.

“We’ve got to keep our emotions in check,” Drengwitz said. 

“There are going to be emotions because football is an emotional game. You’re going to be emotional because it means a lot to you,” the coach said.


The Ironmen take the field on the road Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Video of the contest will be live-streamed on the NFHS Network, and the Inkspot will provide audio-only commentary here

The winner of the contest will face the victor of the Batavia (7)-Chicago-Mt. Carmel (6) matchup in the Class 7A State Championship Thanksgiving weekend.

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