Big win for Libertyville against Stevenson
Go big, or go home.
That seemed to be the mantra that Riley Lees played by on Friday night in Lincolnshire.
The Libertyville quarterback made so many big, spectacular plays against Stevenson that he and the Wildcats eventually did go home…with a big 35-7 North Suburban Conference win.
Lees scored 5 touchdowns. But not just any run-of-the-mill touchdowns. Three of his touchdowns went for nearly the entire length of the football field. He sprinted for scores of 80, 61 and 78 yards. He also ran in a little 4-yarder and passed for a 13-yard touchdown to Cam Shaffer.
The explosion by Lees helped Libertyville (5-0) get its first win over Stevenson since 2008. The host Patriots, the defending Class 8A state champions, drop to 3-2 on the season.
"Once Riley finds a hole, he's got another whole gear that most people don't have, and that's the difference," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said of Lees, a Northwestern recruit. "(Stevenson) was also playing their defense quite tight to the line of scrimmage. So once he broke through the line of scrimmage, there weren't a whole lot of people there. He was able to get it and go."
Lees got it and went from the get-go.
On the very first play of the game, he scooted through a hole, found daylight and literally went untouched for his 80-yard score. With his breakaway speed, no one was within 10 yards of him as he motored down the field.
Before the end of the first quarter, Lees did it again, this time taking the first play of another series 61 yards. The 78-yarder was also in the first half, with about three minutes left in the second quarter.
"That's just how it worked out. Sometimes it's short yardage, sometimes long, that's how it worked tonight," said Lees, who rushed for 266 yards on 16 carries. He accounted for 83 percent of the Wildcats' rushing yards and 85 percent of their yards overall.
"The line produced big holes and once you get to the second level (of defense), it's off to the races from there. It's an awesome feeling. Obviously, you look for any flags when you first get in (the end zone), and then everyone just goes insane. (The first touchdown) was a great start and such a momentum boost for us. I think it loosened us up and it helped us play free and easy tonight."
The Libertyville defense was making life anything but easy for Stevenson. The Patriots had to punt the ball away seven times, including five of their six possessions in the second half. The other possession of the second half ended with an interception. Overall, Libertyville forced Stevenson into 3 turnovers.
"The Libertyville defense had tactics and schemes and they executed," said Stevenson quarterback Jack Sorenson, who completed 15-of-31 passes for 187 yards, including a 4-yard strike to Connor Crawley (9 catches, 91 yards) for the Patriots' only score. Sorenson also rushed for 91 yards on 24 carries.
"We didn't execute on offense," Sorenson continued. "We didn't carry out our game plan. We had stuff to counter their attacks but we just didn't run them. We didn't carry out our plan and that score is what happens when you don't play as a unit and you don't execute the plan."
Thanks to Lees and his sprinting clinic, the Wildcats took a quick 14-0 lead through the first quarter and extended that to a 28-7 advantage at halftime.
"I think a big kudos goes to the offense putting up 7 points on that first play," Libertyville defensive lineman Ben Kimpler said. "That just gave the defense a big weight off our shoulders. Then our mentality of keeping Stevenson out of the red zone was a big key to our defense.
"This was our best game as a defense this year. We were playing fast and we were playing physical and we put in a lot of work and almost shut out a (defending) state championship team."
The only score in the second half for either team came in the third quarter on Lees' touchdown pass to Shaffer, who caught 3 passes for 31 yards. Stevenson's Henry Marchese also had a big receiving game. He caught 4 passes for 73 yards.