Libertyville homes in on a big win
The Libertyville Wildcats hadn't played a home game all season until Friday night, and on top of being the team's home opener, it was also senior night.
And in front of a packed house, the Wildcats did not disappoint in a 26--10 victory over Lake Forest in North Suburban Conference play.
Just like last week, when it put up 41 first-half points on Waukegan, Libertyville wasted no time getting in front of the Scouts on Friday night. And while Libertyville's offense was sizzling, its defense got the team on the board first.
Lake Forest senior tailback Bryan Ooms, who was bottled up all night, was stripped going to the ground on just his third carry of the game. Libertyville linebacker Jon Palmieri recovered the loose ball and raced to the end zone for the 32-yard scoop and score to give Libertyville a 6-0 lead.
"We got that big play right away and it put them on their heels a little bit which helped us. [The fumble] was huge. We were able to play with a lead. In our two losses, we haven't been able to play with a lead, so I think being able to do that just added to our confidence."
The Wildcats scored on their next two first-quarter possessions following the defensive touchdown, getting a 15-yard touchdown reception by wideout Ben Lopez and a 50-yard scamper by senior running back Brendan Bazar to give Libertyville a 19-0 first quarter lead.
Libertyville's offensive lined pushed the Scouts' defensive line back all night long, making the way for Bazar to shred the defense once he got to the second level. The game was in hand after halftime, but Bazar put a capper on it in the fourth quarter as the senior running back took an inside handoff 83 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 25-3 lead. Bazar finished with a game-high 228 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Wildcats finished with over 440 yards of total offense.
"There were only a couple runs where I got hit behind the line of scrimmage. The offensive line locked really well," said Bazar. They worked hard all week. The whole season we've been missing that big play. Having a few big plays early really helped us. Everyone got amped up.
"We knew the whole town was going to be here tonight. Having four games on the road is tough, especially in our conference. It wears on you. But that was the best first quarter of football we've played in years."
The struggles continued for Lake Forest's offense in Week 5. The Scouts managed just 70 yards passing and looked out of sorts for the third week in a row. The one bright spot for the Scouts was the emergence of Jacob Thomas. The junior running back rushed for 131 yards on 24 carries. Ooms, who started the game, managed just 8 yards on 12 carries.
It's not easy to play back-to-back road games and it's almost unimaginable to play four consecutive road games to start the season. But Jones believes the tough stretch of games will help his Wildcats as the season moves along. His team showed it Friday night.
"It gave a sense of toughness, kinda brought us closer together. It definitely made it special to come back here," said Jones. "We practice on the new turf, but this is our first time using it in a game. It was big."
Libertyville (3-2, 2-1) will look to contain the high-octane offense of Stevenson next week. Lake Forest (2-3, 0-3) will attempt to break a three-game losing streak as it meets unbeaten Lake Zurich in its Week 6 matchup.