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There were times this season when Libertyville scored plenty of points. The Wildcats also surrendered a few, such as two weeks ago when Lake Forest scored 33.
Since then, Libertyville has been all about low scores. The Cats pitched their second straight shutout on Friday, beating Zion-Benton 17-0 in the North Suburban Lake Division. This win comes on the heels of a 3-0 victory at Lake Zurich.
"Defensively, after that Lake Forest game, we kind of woke up a little bit," defensive back Joey Salata said. "We were focused in practice. I think our preparation has been outstanding and I think that's leading to success on the field."
The Wildcats (6-2, 4-2) held Zion to 3 first downs and 55 yards of total offense, while forcing 5 turnovers. There wasn't any single standout, they just played old-school, swarming Libertyville defense.
"They play well as a group and they understand where they need to fit off each other," coach Mike Jones said. "They did a good job of tackling really well the last two weeks and I think that makes a big difference."
Libertyville's offense was not at full strength. Three starting offensive linemen were out with injuries and leading rusher Brian Swift was limited to 2 carries while coming back from an injury.
The passing game suffered a bit, but Salata stepped in at running back to gain 124 yards on 21 carries. He hadn't carried the ball at all this season until last week, although he filled in at running back a few times last year.
"Joey's a warrior for us. He'll do anything," quarterback JackDeichl said. "It was a battle. We hung in there and we really started to get our running game going. When that happens, it makes our offense a lot more effective."
The Wildcats scored first after Kevin Verkler recovered a fumble at the Zion 4-yard line. Salata ran it in on the next play and the 7-0 lead held up through halftime.
Libertyville finally put a drive together in the third quarter, moving 60 yards and scoring on Deichl's 3-yard pass to Austin Williams. After Logan Reiff recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Williams booted a 36-yard field goal to complete the scoring.
Zion-Benton's defense had some good moments, piling up 7 quarterback sacks and stopping Libertyville twice on fourth down in Zee-Bees territory early in the game.
After the game, Zion coach Robert Strickland lamented a missed opportunity for his offense. On a double reverse, wide receiver pass late in the first quarter, the Zee-Bees had a chance for a big gain, but Terrence Woods' pass fell off the fingertips of the receiver.
"Against a defense like this, you only get one or two shots like that," Strickland said. "We had some guys open downfield and dropped footballs. Had we caught those, I think for our kids, confidence-wise, the momentum would have changed. That's our battle. That's what we're working on now."