Lake Zurich's back in the postseason

 
By Jeff Newton
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/15/2016 8:36 AM
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  • Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman, left and Lukas LePage tackle Libertyville's Brandon Rule in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman, left and Lukas LePage tackle Libertyville's Brandon Rule in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Brendan Bazar, left, runs as Lake Zurich's Ryan McGeever makes the tackle in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Libertyville's Brendan Bazar, left, runs as Lake Zurich's Ryan McGeever makes the tackle in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Jack Ruskell runs with the ball against Lake Zurich in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Libertyville's Jack Ruskell runs with the ball against Lake Zurich in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman, left, looks to get around Libertyville's Nathan Campbell in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman, left, looks to get around Libertyville's Nathan Campbell in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Brendan Bazar, right, runs as Lake Zurich's Ryan McGeever pursues in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Libertyville's Brendan Bazar, right, runs as Lake Zurich's Ryan McGeever pursues in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Alex Miller celebrates with Joey Stutzman after a touchdown in the second quarter in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Alex Miller celebrates with Joey Stutzman after a touchdown in the second quarter in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Evan Lewandowski launches a pass in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Evan Lewandowski launches a pass in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Jarred Winandy returns a kickoff in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Jarred Winandy returns a kickoff in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman looks for an opening in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Joey Stutzman looks for an opening in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Jack Ruskell looks to pass in North Suburban Conference play against Lake Zurich.

      Libertyville's Jack Ruskell looks to pass in North Suburban Conference play against Lake Zurich. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Brendan Bazar finds an opening in North Suburban Conference play against Lake Zurich on Friday at Libertyville.

      Libertyville's Brendan Bazar finds an opening in North Suburban Conference play against Lake Zurich on Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich's Evan Lewandowski, right, eludes Libertyville's Brendan Cook in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville.

      Lake Zurich's Evan Lewandowski, right, eludes Libertyville's Brendan Cook in North Suburban Conference play Friday at Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Lake Zurich didn't spend much time in the off-season talking about what didn't happen at the end of the 2015 football season.

The fact that the Bears missed the playoffs last fall for the first time since 2001 wasn't discussed much between the coaches.

"We try and stay positive and look ahead," said Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt. "We try not to think like that around here. Last year was last year. We don't dwell on it we just keep trying to go forward."

The Bears, who visited 2015 state runner-up Libertyville on Friday night, needed one win to lock up a playoff spot, while the Wildcats needed a win just to become playoff-eligible.

Achieving the goal of making it back to the playoffs started to become reality for LZ on its first possession, as a 42-yard highlight reel pass-and-catch play from Bears junior quarterback Evan Lewandowski to junior Matthijs Enters put the Bears up 7-0.

When Lewandowski took a knee on the final snap, Lake Zurich had snapped the short playoff drought with a 24-8 win over the Wildcats.

Lake Zurich is now automatically in the playoffs with an overall record of 6-2 and still remains in contention for a share of the North Suburban Conference title. Libertyville fell to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in league play. The Wildcats will have to win next week at Zion-Benton to secure a playoff berth.

"(Evan) is a pretty versatile quarterback so I knew he would get away from the rush," Enters said. "We've been working on that kind of play before so I knew to be ready."

That score and a field goal in the first half gave the Bears all the cushion they would need. The defense shut down a very powerful Libertyville running game, holding the Cats to just 35 yards on the ground and 163 total.

"We spent a lot of time tonight shooting ourselves in the foot," said Libertyville coach Mike Jones. "That first touchdown should have been a sack but he gets away and makes the throw and we are behind."

Lake Zurich added a 4-yard scoring run by Joey Stutzman just before half to move the lead to 17-0. Libertyville's defense was stingy as well, holding Stutzman to only 54 yards on the ground.

"There was satisfaction for us in getting the win tonight but for me the most satisfaction is that we played better this week than we did last week," Proffitt said. "Yes, it's great to get that sixth win --but as coaches it's also great for us to get better."

Libertyville got on the board in the fourth quarter when senior Jack Ruskell hit Brandon Rule for a 2-yard scoring pass. Rule, who came back recently from a knee injury, caught 6 balls on the night for 42 yards. Senior Jason Tse returned two weeks ago from a hand injury and played his first game minus the cast this week.

Lake Zurich closed out its scoring when Stutzman took it in on fourth-and-goal from a yard out to make it 24-0 with 5:28 left in the third quarter.

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