Senior running back Leonard Ross put the Lyons Township High School football team on the board first against Glenbard West. An upset was brewing briefly before the Hilltoppers turned the tide in Friday’s 44-7 win against host LTHS at Bennett Field.

The Hilltoppers convincingly reminded LTHS that they are the Class 7A defending state champions for plenty of reasons including a superb defense.

Ross opened the West Suburban (Silver) Conference game with an explosive 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage to score the Lions’ lone touchdown.

“I just saw an opening to the outside,” Ross said about his touchdown. “The outside was open on just about every play. I think we had a lot of opportunities out there, but we just didn’t get it done.”

 The Glenbard West defense, known for its incredible speed across the board, took over from there holding Ross to five yards the rest of the game.

Ross ended up with 85 yards rushing on 10 carries, while junior quarterback Tommy Fiedler went 11-for-20 for 108 yards through the air. Senior wide receivers Marcell Kellum (three catches, 28 yards) and Sam Shea (two catches for 37 yards) also contributed offensively. LTHS had 208 yards of total offense on the night.

With the score tied at 7-7 at the 11:53 mark of the second quarter, LTHS punter Connor Pavletic was tackled in the end zone after chasing down a bad snap, giving the Hilltoppers a 9-7 lead via a safety. Glenbard West rolled offensively after that lead change, tacking on an additional 35 points.

“[Glenbard West] was just better than us,” LTHS head coach Kurt Weinberg said. “They were more physical and they were faster, and we just need to get better. Glenbard West outplayed us and outcoached us, and that’s what happens when you get that kind of score for sure.”

Realizing that the Hilltoppers’ calling card is a swarming defense, Ross felt getting out to the perimeter was the key to any potential success.

“My mentality was just to try to get to the outside,” he said. “I knew they were aggressive and were going to cave down in the middle so I wanted to get to the outside. I didn’t have the opportunity to do that as much, but that was my mentality.”

The LTHS defense actually kept the Lions within striking distance for most of the first half, but the Hilltoppers scored two touchdowns in the closing minutes of the second quarter, including Scott Andrews’ one-yard touchdown run to take a 23-7 lead at halftime.

“Our defense played well early on,” said Weinberg. “We’ve got to make some plays offensively to keep our defense off the field a little bit, but I really thought our defense played well early.”

Glenbard West (3-1, 2-0) currently stands in a three-way tie with Hinsdale Central and Oak Park and River Forest atop the conference standings. LTHS (1-3, 0-1 West Suburban Silver) turns its attention to an excellent week of practice in preparation for another stern conference test against Downers Grove North.

“We just have to work better and work harder [this week] to get a win against Downers Grove North,” Ross said. “We have to watch the film and see what we can do better. We can’t do anything about this loss; we just have to bounce back. That’s all we can do.”