LIBERTYVILLE — Libertyville football coach Mike Jones was in near disbelief after watching junior quarterback Riley Lees during the Wildcats’ 55-0 North Suburban Lake win over Mundelein Friday night.
In a 12-minute span during the first quarter, Lees racked up 203 rushing yards on just 10 carries, which included three touchdown runs. He added 52 passing yards during that same span.
“No, I’ve never seen anyone have a quarter like that — how’s that for an answer?” Jones said with a huge smile. “It’s surprising to see some of the things he does, despite knowing just how talented he is.”
Lees, who was moved from wide receiver to QB this year, finished with 12 carries for 276 yards and went 7-for-11 passing for 116 yards with a TD and an interception. His 392 total yards of offense came despite him resting on the sideline the entire fourth quarter.
He set the tone with a 24-yard TD run less than two minutes into the game, and an 82-yarder for a score later in the quarter. But his spectacular 48-yard run for a TD at the 6:01 mark of the first quarter almost defied logic.
After appearing to be stopped for a short gain, Lees spun out of numerous tackles along the right sideline, completely reversed to the opposite side of the field, spun away from several more tackles, then followed multiple pancake blocks to the end zone while somehow avoiding being knocked out of bounds.
It was Lees’ 22nd rushing TD this season in only seven games. He has just one college scholarship offer, from Division I-AA Wofford College.
“To be honest, I don’t even think out there on the field as plays happen, I just react,” Lees said. “I have to credit our blocking and entire offensive line though. They created a ton of huge holes for me.”
Libertyville’s starting O-line includes Atakan Pekpolat (LT), Walker Hare (C), Bradley Deberry (RT), Sean O’Malley (RG) and John Evers (LG). They were each excited to get credit for one of football’s most unheralded, difficult jobs.
“None of us could do half the stuff Riley does. He’s that talented and leaves us with our jaws on the floor constantly,” Pekpolat said. “But we each take pride in working hard in practice every week to make things happen for him when he’s running the ball. It’s a great feeling.”
“The drills we run to prepare for games make all the difference,” Deberry added. “Especially the tunnel drill. It’s a device which forces us to stay low while blocking, and teaches us how to maintain leverage.”
O’Malley called Lees “one of the most humble kids” he knows. But all five linemen admitted they occasionally get caught up in the moment when Lees runs.
“I’ll be honest, I got caught staring for a few seconds on his [48-yard] touchdown run,” Evers said. “Us five and Riley are in many of the same classes together in school, and friends off the field, which has been important to our team’s chemistry on offense.”
Libertyville (5-2, 3-2) became playoff-eligible with the victory, while Mundelein (0-7, 0-4) is still searching for its first win.
“Before the season, our kids made it clear to our coaching staff how important it was to them to make the playoffs, and it appears we’ll reach that goal,” Jones said. “I’m thrilled for our guys. I know how much work they put into making this happen after we missed the playoffs a year ago.”
Mundelein managed 157 yards of offense in the first half and 185 total. Junior QB Colten Fisher (16 carries for 71 yards, 54 yards passing) provided roughly two-thirds of the Mustangs’ offense. Jacob Buscher (three catches, 28 yards) and Robert Hamilton (two catches, 21 yards) grabbed five of Fisher’s six completions.