Libertyville improving after early-season growing pains

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After struggling through some first-week growing pains, things are looking up for Libertyville’s football team.

Saturday, the Wildcats pulled away from Westinghouse for a 28-6 victory. And in doing so, they pulled back even at the .500 mark.

“It’s always huge to get that first win out of the way each season,” Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. “But we are far from satisfied.”

Consistency, specifically, is something Jones would like to see the rest of the season.

“We’ve had some highs and lows already in the first two weeks,” Jones said. “We’re still looking for that consistent player or players. Guys we know what to expect from each and every week. I’ve seen some flashes of some really good things, but not often enough to where we should be close to being satisfied.”

Libertyville (1-1) continues to mold its offense as it heads into a huge Week 3 North Suburban Conference crossover showdown against Grant. Senior Anthony Monken has started both games at quarterback for the Wildcats, while sophomore Riley Lees has also taken snaps behind center in each contest.

Monken (4-for-8, 114 yards passing last week) is more of a traditional pocket-style passer, while Lees is more versatile but unpolished, according to Jones.

“Playing at the varsity level is different than playing on a freshman or JV team,” Lees said. “The biggest thing is how much faster the game moves at the varsity level. It’s so much quicker. You have to read and react to things without hesitation a lot of times. But I feel like I’m learning and getting better every game.”

Another big reason for optimism is senior running back Conor Simpson, who had 17 carries for 119 yards — and a pair of touchdowns — at Westinghouse. One was from 38 yards out, the other from 25.

He said Week 1 cramps slowed him and many of his teammates in a loss to Palatine.

“A lot of guys were banged up in the opener, but it was extremely important for us to bounce back like we did,” Simpson said. “And the game this week against Grant is enormous. It could wind up deciding whether or not we make the playoffs for all we know. Especially playing in a division as tough as ours (the NSC Lake) with teams like Lake Zurich, Lake Forest, Warren, Stevenson and the rest of them.”

Grant (0-2) runs a triple-option offense and will be looking to rebound from losses to Crystal Lake Central and Lake Forest. The Bulldogs made the postseason in 2012, and came in with high expectations again this year. Libertyville and Grant didn’t play last season.

“They’re a fast-paced, consistent, physical team,” Jones said. “I’ve had the chance to watch some film on them (as of last weekend), and they’re good. It should be a really hard-fought game.”

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