Libertyville downs Mundelein to keep playoff hopes alive
The intensity level automatically turns up a notch when you're fighting for your playoff lives.
And both Mundelein and Libertyville needed to win their last three games to become playoff eligible with 5 victories.
It was the Wildcats who rose to the challenge, coming away with a 29-7 North Suburban Conference win at home on a cold Friday evening.
Libertyville's playoff hopes are still alive after it improved to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the league.
Mundelein, meanwhile, was eliminated from playoff contention, dropping to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in league play. It also marked the 15th time in 16 years Libertyville has prevailed in the series.
"It took us a while to get going," said Libertyville coach Mike Jones. "We didn't come out with that fire."
This one indeed took a while to get going as both teams traded first downs, each punted five times in the first half.
Wildcats quarterback Blake Ellingson got things going with a 72-yard scoring pass to senior wideout Sam Paden down the left sideline just 12 seconds into the second quarter, giving Libertyville an 8-0 lead.
"Big plays helped us get going, and Blake had some really nice throws tonight," Jones added.
Then, with 1:47 left in the half, Ellingson hit senior wideout Sean Wittenbrink and the Cats were ahead 14-0 at intermission.
Mundelein's deepest penetration in the first half was down to the Libertyville 13- yard line, but a blocked 28-yard field goal by junior defensive lineman Chase Baczek negated any points.
Senior running back Sean Luce then got into the action with a 3-yard plunge with 8:11 left in the third that put Libertyville up 20-0.
Luce added another score in the fourth, this time from 10 yards out to give the Wildcats a 26-0 lead with 6:34 left in the game.
Mundelein spoiled the shutout when halfback Joey Foreman cruised in from 10 yards out to make it 26-7 with 4:45 left. The touchdown was set up by a 33-yard pass play from Isaac Wellman to Foreman.
A 26-yard Wittenbrink field goal in the closing minutes provided the final margin of victory.
Ellingson finished 15-for- 26 for 288 yards and the two scores.
Defensive back Will Murphy picked off a Wellman pass, while Trace Batesky had a first-quarter batted pass.
Paden was Ellingson's favorite target with 100 yards on 5 grabs.
Defensive back Luke Pietrusiewicz picked off a pass for the Mustangs.
"We can't look past anyone, and it's one game at a time," said Jones, whose team travels to Lake Forest next Friday and ends the regular season with a home date against Zion-Benton.