Balanced attack helps Libertyville roll Lake Forest Academy

SHARE Balanced attack helps Libertyville roll Lake Forest Academy
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LIBERTYVILLE — A week ago, a star was born in Libertyville junior quarterback Riley Lees.

Friday night, the Wildcats showed they are more than a one-man show.

Yes, Lees was again spectacular in Libertyville’s home opener, a commanding 37-7 victory over Lake Forest Academy (0-2) in which he scored two rushing touchdowns before the end of the first quarter. By the time he was pulled early in the fourth, Lees had filled the stat sheet with 313 total yards and four touchdowns (three rushing).

But it was the play of the Wildcats defense that had the rain-soaked, near-capacity crowd confident.

“We saw the scoreboard against Palatine and we didn’t like it,” said Libertyville senior defensive end Jordan McInerney, referring to the Wildcats allowing 31 points in a Week 1 win. “We changed our attitude about it.”

That attitude shift began in practice Monday. On film, linemen saw they were running up the field too often in the Palatine game. Drills designed by defensive coordinator Tim Budge focused on individual technique, with a position group emphasis on field depth.

“I changed my pad level, staying lower and working on extensions with my arms,” senior defensive lineman Matt Dunsing said. “As a defensive line, we worked on initial hits, sitting but waiting on the ball then attacking.”

It didn’t take long before the practice work was put to the test.

In the opening minutes Friday, a 74-yard fumble return gave the Caxys first-and-10 on the Wildcats’ 16-yard line. But three plays yielded just five yards and a 28-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left.

The drive foreshadowed the rest of evening’s action as Dunsing, McInerney, and seniors Quincy Kayle and Ben Kimpler consistently stuffed the Caxys’ running game on first and second down.

“That [first] drive was huge. It affected the rest of the game. It gave us that tempo, it gave us [momentum] so our offense could score,” McInerney said.

By the end of the first half, when the Libertyville lead was still 17-0, the Wildcats held the Caxys to 18 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Five of those rushes were negative plays.

On Lake Forest Academy’s opening possession of the second half, the Libertyville defense provided an exclamation point. Senior linebacker Aleks Dragin intercepted Caxys quarterback Dom Haubner, rumbling 23 yards to set up Lees’ third touchdown of the night. That gave the Wildcats (2-0) an insurmountable 24-0 lead.

Two games into this season, it appears Libertyville can score, averaging 39 points. But as the September schedule turns more challenging, Libertyville will have continue its balanced play from Friday night.

“We have three games on the road right away. It’s very competitive,” coach Mike Jones said of an upcoming stretch that includes Lake Zurich, Warren and Lake Forest. “We’ll cut our teeth here coming up.”

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