Libertyville ready for showdown with Stevenson

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LIBERTYVILLE — When Libertyville’s varsity football team visits Stevenson Friday night, there will be plenty at stake.

Not only are the two schools rivals, but it’s an early season contest that could wind up having huge playoff implications. The Wildcats (2-1 overall) are coming off a convincing 38-21 win over Grant last week, while Stevenson (1-2) notched its first victory thanks to a 48-13 NSC Lake Division drubbing of Zion-Benton.

No extra motivation is needed for either club.

“Stevenson is our rival and has been for a long time,” said Libertyville running back Conor Simpson (12 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns against Grant). “And I’m very familiar with a lot of those guys. Wide receiver Cameron Green, Matt Morrissey … I played with a bunch of them during the offseason in 7-on-7 drills for the Core 6 (training) team, after baseball season ended.

“Everyone knows just how important of a game this is. Every game is important. But this could make or break our season, literally.”

Wildcats senior quarterback Anthony Monken, meanwhile, continues to improve. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 241 yards last week.

“Our receivers did an outstanding job for us,” Monken said. “And so did our offensive line. When they started keying in on Conor as the game went on, our offensive coordinator (Chris Davis) and the rest of the staff did a great job mixing things up and keeping Grant off balance. One of the things Chris is always stressing is our offensive line’s blocking schemes and how to win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

“But again, I can’t say enough about Riley Lees (four receptions, 93 yards) and Jake Mansfield (eight catches, 89 yards). Those two guys did a tremendous job catching the ball for us.”

Lees and Monken had been splitting time behind center at quarterback, and still may. Monken said he’ll be a team player no matter what, but hopes to see Lees at the wide receiver position as often as possible in future games.

“He’s only a sophomore, but honestly he’s so talented, skilled and elusive that I think he really helps us at that position,” Monken said. “The Grant game was a prime example. He ripped off a 63-yard touchdown catch late in the game where he made several people miss and just plain look silly out there. And he’s only going to get better.”

Wildcats Coach Mike Jones has been impressed — though not completely satisfied — with his team’s progress.

“We’ve done some things better the last few weeks, sure,” Jones said. “But there’s a ton of things we can get better at. That’s our goal each and every week is to keep getting better, while trying to win of course.

“And this week, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Stevenson’s record is not indicative at all of how talented they are. That’s a team that can score on you in a hurry, which Zion-Benton saw firsthand. They may be the most talented team we’ve played all year up to this point. It’s not gonna be easy.”

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