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Lake County football: Scouting Week 9
 

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Lake County football: Scouting Week 9
 

NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE

Lake Forest (6-2, 4-1) at Libertyville (5-3, 3-2)

Story Continues Below

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last week: Lake Forest lost to Lake Zurich, 16-6; Libertyville def. Warren, 38-6.

Skinny: Lake Forest is looking to rebound and win a division title all at the same time. If the Scouts can get back on track after losing their first North Suburban Lake Division game last week to Lake Zurich, they will be assured of no less than a tri-championship with Lake Zurich and Stevenson, two teams that also have just one division loss heading into the final week of the regular season…Lake Forest had a six-game winning streak snapped by Lake Zurich last week.

The Scouts, averaging a Lake Division-leading 30.8 points per game, managed their smallest point total of the season with just 6 points…Lake Forest, which has been passing the ball all over the field this season, managed just 106 passing yards. Backup quarterback Andrew Clifford got the start in place of Jordan Beck, who was nursing an elbow injury and is still day-to-day. The Scouts were also without wide receiver Bo Dever, who was out with a knee injury. "No matter who is in there, they're going to throw the ball well," Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski said of Lake Forest. "But they also do a really good job with their running attack. They're very balanced this year, probably more so than they have been in the last couple of years."

But last week, Lake Zurich made running the ball tough for the Scouts, too. Standout running back Owen Williams was held to just 47 yards on 18 carries for Lake Forest…Defensively, the Scouts were just about on par. They gave up 16 points to Lake Zurich and are allowing only 13.1 points per game, which makes them the second-stingiest defense in the Lake behind Lake Zurich (8.8 ppg)…Lake Forest's only other loss this season was to Buffalo Grove in the season opener (31-24). Interestingly, the Bison have not won another game all season…

Libertyville looks like a playoff lock whether it wins this game or not. With five wins, the Wildcats would have to qualify on points and they have plenty of those already. In fact, the Wildcats' eye-popping 43 points stand as the most by far in the North Suburban Conference. "We have the third-most points in all of Class 7A," Kuceyeski said. "We're in for sure. We're just so excited to be in again."…Libertyville, which won the Class 7A state championship in 2004 and had 10 straight playoff appearances from 1997 to 2006, has had trouble making the playoff cut in recent years. The Wildcats last qualified in 2008 and have missed three of the last four years, including the last two…Libertyville will be emotional in what could be its last home game of the season and potentially the last home game of Kuceyeski's career. Kuceyeski, who has been undergoing cancer treatments this season, is retiring at the end of the school year…

The Wildcats have won two games in a row (Zion-Benton and Warren) after losing two in a row to Stevenson and Lake Zurich. They are averaging 17.5 ppg and allowing 13.5 ppg…Sophomore running back Connor Simpson, who has filled in nicely for injured back Brian Swift, was a load last week against Warren, racking up 115 yards on 23 carries. And quarterback Jack Deichl showed his versatility in running and passing for touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Libertyville defense was in lockdown mode, picking off four passes and recovering two fumbles. "I thought it was our best defensive effort of the season so far," Kuceyeski said.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Zion-Benton (3-5, 1-4) at Lake Zurich (6-2, 4-1)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last week: Zion-Benton def. Mundelein, 22-7; Lake Zurich def. Lake Forest, 16-6.

Skinny: Lake Zurich has made some impressive postseason runs in the last 10 years. But oddly enough, the only time the Bears have won a North Suburban Lake Division title over that stretch was the year they won a state championship: 2007. That will change if Lake Zurich can take care of Zion-Benton. The Bears would do no worse than a shared title with Stevenson, Lake Forest or both, and could also win the title outright if those two teams lose their season finales…Lake Zurich was able to successfully rebound after a Week 7 loss to Stevenson and defeat Lake Forest, which entered last week in first place in the Lake Division.

The Bears used their trademark stingy defense and shut down a high-flying Lake Forest offense that is averaging nearly 31 points per game. The Lake Zurich defense ranks at the top of the North Suburban in points allowed with just 8.8 per game…Lake Zurich, which went 12-2 last year, has dropped only two games so far this season: to Cary-Grove and Stevenson…Zion-Benton has won two of its last three games (Round Lake and Mundelein) after dropping four straight. It's a marked improvement from last year. In 2010, the Zee-Bees went 0-9. They still have a long way to go, though. They are averaging 15.9 points per game, but are allowing 26.5 points per game, second-most in the NSC Lake…The Lake Zurich offense is averaging 26 points per game.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Mundelein (0-8, 0-5) at Stevenson (6-2, 4-1)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last week: Mundelein lost to Zion-Benton, 22-7; Stevenson def. Wauconda, 13-12.

Skinny: It would be easy for Stevenson to look past a winless Mundelein team as it prepares for next week's playoff opener. But the Patriots learned in no uncertain terms last week that getting too caught up in records can be dangerous. Stevenson had to come up with two scores in the final seven minutes to squeak out a one-point, 13-12 victory over a Wauconda team that has won only two games this season. "We had to fight and scrap and claw. We had to endure. It was a challenging game for us," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said of the Wauconda game. "It makes us remember that week in and week out we need to prepare well and play really well if we want to keep climbing the mountain."

The Patriots are hoping to lay claim to a North Suburban Lake Division title on their journey. If they are able to take care of business against Mundelein, they would do no worse than a shared title with Lake Zurich, Lake Forest or both…It's been a struggle this season for Mundelein, which is averaging just 8.8 points per game, fewest in the North Suburban Conference and is allowing 38.8 ppg, most in the league. "But if we're not ready to play, we could be in another really competitive game," McNamara cautioned. "This is a very tough, competitive league and Mundelein has some very good players, some guys who can make big plays. They've also got some big guys up front."

Senior quarterback Gable Leppert is a playmaker for the Mustangs…Meanwhile, the Patriots got two humongous plays out of sophomore receiver Matt Morrissey last week. He scored both of Stevenson's touchdowns against Wauconda. Quarterback Matt Micucci hit him for a 21-yard strike and a 63-yarder within a three-minute span in the last half of the fourth quarter…Stevenson is averaging 18.5 points per game and is allowing 13.3 points per game.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE

Round Lake (1-7, 1-4) at Lakes (6-2, 4-1)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last week: Round Lake lost to Vernon Hills, 41-13; Lakes def. North Chicago, 42-8.

Skinny: In what some would consider a trap game for Lakes, head coach Luke Mertens isn't all that worried about his team's mental frame of mind. "We have never been a team that thinks it can just show up and win a game, and we will never be that team," Mertens said. "Round Lake is a team that can cause anyone in our division problems."…In fact, Round Lake has. The Panthers defeated Wauconda earlier in the season, lost to North Chicago by just 3 points and took Lake Division foe Zion-Benton to overtime.

"Their quarterback (Anthony Burton) is amazing," Mertens said. "He never comes off the field. "We need to be ready for what he can do."…If the Eagles can take care of Round Lake, they stand to gain quite a bit. They would finish in no worse than a tie for the North Suburban Prairie Division title with Grant or Antioch or both. Lakes has never won a division title before, outright or shared. With seven wins, the Eagles could also get a home game for the first round of the playoffs. "This is definitely a game that we are looking at with a lot of excitement and intensity," Mertens said. "It's also our Senior Night. We have a lot to play for."…The Eagles have won two straight games after suffering their only division loss in Week 6 to Antioch.

"Defensively, we didn't tackle well against Antioch and on offense we didn't control the line of scrimmage," Mertens said. "I think we've done a better job in both areas since then. We are doing a much better job of running the football and we're swarming the ball more on defense. I think we're coming into this game with good momentum."…Direll Clark and Ashton Norwood have been rolling up the rushing yards for Lakes this season while Alan Gomez and Drew Recker are doing the same with tackles on defense…The Eagles are allowing 15 points per game, second-fewest in the Prairie after Antioch (10ppg). Offensively, Lakes is averaging 21.6 points per game but could up that average. Round Lake is allowing 35.1 points per game, second-most in the Prairie after North Chicago. Meanwhile, Round Lake is averaging just 13.1 points per game.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Wauconda (2-6, 1-4) at Vernon Hills (4-4, 2-3)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last week: Wauconda lost to Stevenson, 13-12; Vernon Hills def. Round Lake, 41-13.

Skinny: It's "do or die" for Vernon Hills, which may not get a second life anyway. The Cougars are fighting for their playoff lives and aren't guaranteed of anything even if they defeat Wauconda. Vernon Hills needs to get a win just to reach the 5-win plateau, which opens the possibility to qualifying on playoff points. The Cougars have 34 playoff points heading into the game, and it's possible their final total might not be enough. "We might need a little help," said Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken, whose team could benefit from other teams in front of them losing.

"But we can't worry about that now. We are where we are. We have to get to five wins first and then see what happens."…It would be unusual for the Cougars not to make the playoff field. Since its first season with seniors 10 years ago, Vernon Hills has missed the playoffs only once. That was in 2004…Vernon Hills, the two-time defending North Suburban Prairie Division champion, fell into this predicament thanks in large part to a three-game losing streak that stretched over the middle of the season. The Cougars lost games to Antioch, Lakes and Grant. All three of those teams are playoff-bound, as is 6-2 Wheaton St. Francis, which defeated Vernon Hills in Week 2…In the last two weeks, Vernon Hills has been able to get wins partly because its offense has been clicking better. Running backs Sam Maloof, Dylan McNamara and Jarret Wood have all been rolling up the yardage.

"In terms of our defense, I think we've been outstanding there all year," said Monken, whose team is allowing 15.9 points per game. "Jeremy Brazil and Wayne Didier are making plays all over the place."…Wauconda, meanwhile, could have used some of those plays. The Bulldogs are just a few plays short of a much different season. Three of their losses add up to a combined 7 points (17-14 to Round Lake, 44-41 to Grant and 13-12 to Stevenson)…Wauconda, which is averaging 21.4 points per game and is allowing 24.1 points per game, has lost its last two games after a Week 6 win over North Chicago. Last week's loss to Stevenson was particularly painful.

The Bulldogs had the defending Lake Division champions on the ropes for most of the game. Stevenson had to score both of its touchdowns in the final six minutes to escape with a 1-point win. "The brightest spot was that our defense held a team like Stevenson scoreless for most of the game," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "We were flying to the ball, creating turnovers and we forced Stevenson to turn it over on downs three or four times." Against Stevenson, the Bulldogs got typical performances out of defensive stars Jake Sherman, Shawn Sundquist and Erik Eischen. Eischen had 9 ½ tackles. "We're playing to send the seniors out on a high note, we're playing for next year, too, since a lot of our players are underclassmen" Mills said. "And we're playing for pride."

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

North Chicago (1-7, 1-4) at Antioch (7-1, 4-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Last week: North Chicago lost to Lakes 42-8; Antioch lost to Grant 22-14.

Skinny: Antioch hasn't played at home since a 28-12, Week-5 win over Wauconda. A victory will give the Sequoits a share of the NSC Prairie championship with Grant and possibly Lakes (home against Round Lake). It will also give Antioch the best record in Lake County, something coach Brian Glashagel is aware of. "We are looking forward to playing at home after being on the road for three weeks," Glashagel said. "(After losing to Grant), we want to get the bad taste out of our mouths. We're looking forward to ending with the best record in the county and making a run into the playoffs." ... Antioch's 80 points allowed are the fewest in the NSC Prairie. ... Against Grant, running back Dan Arden rushed for 149 yards, giving him 1,233 for the season.

-- Joe Aguilar

NORTH SUBURBAN CROSSOVER

Grant (6-2) at Warren (2-7)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Last week: Grant def. Antioch 22-14; Warren lost to Libertyville 38-0.

Skinny: The season ends tonight for Warren, which will miss the postseason for the first time since going 4-5 in 2006. The Blue Devils had made the playoffs 11 of the last 12 years under coach Dave Mohapp. But Grant coach Kurt Rous won't be taking his opponent lightly, even though his Bulldogs have won five games in row. "They're still Warren," Rous said. "They're still on the Lake side (NSC Lake Division), and our side (NSC Prairie) hasn't done traditionally well against their side. They're always highly skilled and well-coached. We'll definitely have on our hands full. I highly doubt they want to lose to a little Prairie school." In knocking off previously undefeated Antioch last Friday, Grant assured itself of at least a tie for the NSC Prairie championship and secured its sixth playoff berth in seven years.

Grant's option attack has been dynamite all season with fullback Kyle Whitman (938 rushing yards, 14 TDs), quarterback Alex Villa (783 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and running back Jonathon Wells (691 rushing yards, 9 TDs), but the defense has been equally huge during the five-game victory streak. Since a 44-41 win over Wauconda in Week 4, Grant has allowed just 45 points in four games. Rous credits his team's defensive improvement to a switch from four- and five-man fronts to a 3-5 scheme. Nick Jones, who started the season as a down lineman, has flourished as a stand-up rush linebacker. His 8.5 sacks lead the team, while his 30.5 tackles rank fourth behind Quinton Quarles (45), Charles Williams (31.5) and Steven King (31). Middle linebacker Connor Whitman (Kyle's cousin) and defensive back Dillon Watters have provided huge lifts since returning from injuries. Sophomore safety Billy Sullivan has 2 interceptions, including one for a touchdown, since his recent promotion to the varsity. ... Warren's loss to Libertyville last Friday marked the first time the Blue Devils had been shut out since a 14-0 loss to Lake Zurich in Week 7 last year.

-- Joe Aguilar

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

Carmel (5-3, 5-2) at Benet (1-7, 0-7)

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Last week: Carmel lost 64-63 to Marist in double overtime; Benet lost to St. Viator 28-0.

Skinny: After surrendering 64 points to Marist last Friday, Carmel faces a Benet squad that has scored just 36 points all season and last Friday was shut out for the fourth time. "I told our staff we got to hold them under 40," Corsairs coach Andy Bitto said. "That's our goal." Bitto wasn't laughing. He knows his team 's defensive effort against Marist and its 5 wins through through eight weeks are not something Carmel is used to.

"Our program is at the point where 6-3 is really not acceptable," Bitto said. "It starts with defense. I thought our special teams had a poor game (against Marist)." Carmel safety J.C. Pawlak was injured on the final play of the Marist game, when he flipped over in the end zone trying to break up the winning touchdown. Bitto said Pawlak, who was carried off on a stretcher for precautionary reasons, suffered bruised ribs and a bruised back. "He's got a stiff back," said Bitto, whose team will play it safe with Pawlak and keep him out of tonight's game. The loss for Carmel was its third in the final minute.

"Maybe we got to have one fewer penalty, one more interception," Bitto said. "It's not like we're losing to chumps, but we got to find a way to get over the hump." ... With 277 rushing yards against Marist, Carmel senior fullback Jordan Kos is 78 yards shy of breaking Jimmy Potempa's career record. Kos (1,179 yards, 15 TDs this season) needs 5 touchdowns to break Potempa's career record. ... A win will cllinch a playoff berth for Carmel, but with 40 playoff points already, the Corsairs are all but guaranteed their 12th straight postseason spot.

-- Joe Aguilar

FOX VALLEY FOX

Woodstock North (6-2, 4-1) at Grayslake North (4-4, 3-2)

When: 7:15 p.m. today

Last week: Woodstock North def. Hampshire 34-12; Grayslake North lost Grayslaker Central 44-34.

Skinny: After winning just three games in their first two seasons as a varsity program, Woodstock North's Thunder has made loud noise this year. The playoff-bound Thunder is riding a four-game winning streak, which includes a 25-0 shutout of Grayslake Central in Week 7, and will clinch a share of the FVC Fox title with a win. Grayslake North needs to win in order to become playoff eligible.

Even with a win, the Knights are not guaranteed of making the state playoffs as an at-large team. They enter Week 9 with 33 playoff points and are guaranteed three more. They can pick up two more if Grayslake Central (at Crystal Lake South) and Jacobs (home against Dundee-Crown) win their games. "We are just trying to focus on playing the way we are capable of playing," said coach Steve Wood, whose Knights finished 5-4 last year but did not earn a 10th game. "With two tough loses in a row (Crystal Lake Central, Grayslake Central) it is important for us to stay positive. I expect good things from our kids this week." No Fox Valley Fox team has scored more points than Grayslake North's 263. But the Knights have surrendered 212 points, including 79 the last two weeks.

-- Joe Aguilar

FOX VALLEY CROSSOVER

Grayslake Central (7-1) at Crystal Lake South (7-1)

When: 7:15 p.m. today

Last week: Grayslake Central def. Grayslake North 44-34; Crystal Lake South def. Jacobs 21-6.

Skinny: Grayslake Central's win over Grayslake North last Friday clinched at least a share of the FVC Fox championship for the Rams. They now face maybe their biggest challenge of the season in the Gators, who have allowed only 78 points all season. Crystal Lake South is ranked sixth in Class 7A in the AP Poll. "Obviously, we are facing a great opponent," Grayslake Central coach Nick Goshe said.

"CLS is a 7A powerhouse program in the middle of a great season. They present us with huge challenges in all aspects of the game. Again, as they are seemingly each season, they are huge and our players will get a chance to see what it is like to go against college caliber players. We have our hands full." Most teams have their hands full with Grayslake Central running back Joey Valdivia, whose school-record 6 touchdowns against Grayslake North gave him 22 (16 rushing) for the season. The three-year varsity player also rushed for a school-record 367 yards, allowing him to surpasse 1,000 yards (1,134) for the season. Rams quarterback Ray Beckman has thrown for 1,134 yards and 13 TDs (4 intercpetions). Vince Smith leads the team with 19 receptions (3 TDs). Valdivia has 15 catches, including six for TDs.

-- Joe Aguilar

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