Wildcats embrace underdog role

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By all accounts, so do the Libertyville Wildcats.

It’s only three weeks into the 2012 season, but Libertyville has already faced multiple uphill battles, like the high school football version of Sisyphus. But unlike that tortured soul from the pages of Greek mythology, the Wildcats have actually succeeded in getting that tricky boulder to the top of the hill.

“Our whole thing is we’re never out of the fight, no matter what,” senior quarterback Jack Deichl said. “We always have hope we can score the ball, like we saw Week 1 against Barrington when we threw that Hail Mary on the last play of the game. We always think we have a chance.”

Libertyville (2-1) certainly possesses its share of frontrunners and elite corporeal specimens — Deichl is a titan of a teenager at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, with an arm powered by a nuclear reactor — but the overarching attribute of the Wildcats is perseverance. Senior running back Brian Swift, a 5-foot-8 contradiction to Deichl, is the embodiment of that. He’s an undersize underdog who disregards any physical evidence suggesting that he can’t play with the big boys.

“We almost like being down in games. It pumps us up,” Swift said. “It gives us something to fight for and play for.”

In Libertyville’s Friday night loss to Stevenson, the Wildcats trailed 14-0 early in the first quarter, and it looked like it was going to be a busy night for the visiting team’s scorekeeper. Apparently, the Wildcats had the Patriots right where they wanted them. Libertyville fought and clawed and climbed back into the game over the next three quarters, scoring nine unanswered points before the final bell tolled and ended the comeback bid prematurely.

Still, Libertyville proved that it will never go away quietly.

“One of the things when I took this job is I wanted us to stay in the fight,” coach Mike Jones said. “No matter what, we want to stay in the fight, and we’ve done that.”

On its final play against Stevenson, Libertyville pitched and dove and blocked its way down the field, trying to will the ball into the end zone any way possible.

“I was just trying to maybe get down field and throw a block, help someone out,” Deichl said. “Maybe get a pitch or a lateral back to me, anything to help. It was a cluster there; it would have been fun if something would have turned out.”

That singular play was a microcosm of Libertyville’s season. If the Wildcats keep fighting and doing all they can, maybe it will work out.

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