Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 8/30/2014 7:29 PM

Lees, Libertyville produce at Palatine

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By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent

In the midst of all the lightning and thunder, Libertyville and Palatine brought the heat both Friday night and Saturday morning.

On offense.

Libertyville was able to make a few more big plays in a 41-31 season-opening football win at Palatine.

And make no mistake, Libertyville has weapons. It starts with quarterback Riley Lees, and whenever Libertyville needed a play, the 6-foot, 170-pound junior made it.

In a game in which the Cats trailed only once, Lees set the tone, rushing 6 times for 54 yards on the opening drive, which concluded with his 26-yard strike to Nick Rosetti, wide open down the middle for a touchdown.

After setting the tone Friday night, Lees finished things off Saturday when the teams came back to finish the contest following the previous evening's weather-driven postponement at halftime.

His 45-yard touchdown run sealed the decision with 10.8 seconds left after Palatine twice closed within 3 points. In his patented manner, he changed direction when cornered in the backfield and zipped virtually untouched the rest of the way against a Palatine team that struggled to contain him all game.

Lees finished with 191 yards rushing on 21 carries and tossed touchdown passes to Rosetti again on the same play for 23 yards and to Timmy Calamari for 32, all in the first half.

"He's a good athlete," said Palatine coach Rick Splitt. "We gave up some big plays."

To some big players. Lees has a young but somewhat veteran offensive line that consistently opened holes and provided pass protection in the persons of Bradley DeBerry, Sean O'Malley, Jonathan Evers, Atakan Pekpolat and Walker Hare.

"The O-line, they were awesome," said Lees. "We got a good push."

What bothered him was Libertyville not scoring after a forced fumble and recovery by Matt Dunsing, and a pick by Brian Murphy. Meanwhile, big Ben Kimpler kept the pressure on Pirate quarterback Nick Orlando.

The Pirates had their moments, though. Chris Cornelius rushed for 123 yards and ran a kickoff back 93 yards for a TD to conclude a wild first-half sequence peppered with mistakes, big plays, torrential rain and postponement-causing lightning.

"Our O-line was excellent," said Cornelius. "Without them, me and Dionte (Neustadter) wouldn't have gotten what we did."

That said though, "We lost the game because of mistakes we made."

"You heard Cornelius," said Splitt, referring to the turnovers. Plus, "We've got to become better tacklers."

Somehow, Libertyville did become just that on Saturday after just a short night's rest and a long ride back.

"It had a different feel," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said of playing Saturday with no band, no concessions and a much smaller crowd.

He called his offensive line "a young group that is coming together," and said his defense "has things it needs to hone down."

As for Lees?

"He's a good player, a great kid," Jones said. "I'm glad he's just a junior."

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