With score and stop, Mundelein beats the odds to upset Libertyville
Mundelein apparently didn't watch the Appalachian State-Marshall game on Thursday.
In the waning moments and clinging to a 1-point lead, an App State running back slid to a stop at the 5-yard line rather than score a touchdown so his team could run out the clock instead of giving it back to Marshall with an 8-point lead.
The host Mustangs faced the same scenario on Friday against Libertyville, but running back Omari Rhinehart accepted the open path to the end zone, stretching Mundelein's 7-6 lead to 8 points with 2:53 remaining. This set up a dramatic drive in a pouring rain as Libertyville quarterback Connor Dickson moved his team for a potential tying score.
Dickson completed four passes on the drive, but on third down at the Mundelein 25-yard line, Rhinehart made sure his score was no mistake, making a diving interception with 55.3 seconds on the clock, giving the Mustangs a surprising 14-6 upset victory in the North Suburban Conference.
"My teammates were telling me take a knee because we were going to get the first regardless, but I trusted the defense," Rhinehart said. "I knew we were going to get a stop, so I went in for it. Right place, right time (on the interception). I dove, I read the play."
These schools have been playing each other for roughly 60 years since they split apart and whatever the overall record, it's safe to say Mundelein hasn't won very often.
The Mustangs' most recent victory in the series was in 2009 when they knocked Libertyville out of the playoffs in the final game of the regular season. Before that, the previous Mundelein win was in the 70s or 80s. The rain thinned out the crowd, but a large number of Mundelein students stormed the field to help celebrate. The Wildcats started the day 4-0, so this was their first loss of the season. Mundelein improved to 3-2.
"Honestly, I don't really feel anything. It's really numb to me," Mundelein quarterback Brock Paluch said. "I just can't believe it happened, it's honestly unreal. We haven't beat them in I don't know what our coaches said. ... Next stop, playoffs baby."
The result was no fluke. Mundelein's style in recent years has been to rely on its big offensive line and a power running game. In this one, the plan worked to perfection as the Mustangs drove 62 yards on the opening drive, using 14 runs and an incomplete pass.
Xavier Ortiz handled most of the workload, but Jason Salazar scored the touchdown on a 1-yard run to give Mundelein an early 7-0 lead. The Mustangs front wall includes massive center Isaiah Gonzalez, along with fellow seniors Raytheon Hamblin, Jake Prejna and Miguel Hernandez.
"It all starts up front with our O-line," Paluch said. "Those guys get no recognition and I hate to see it, but they played their butts off today and they created holes for us and that's ultimately what led us to the win."
Trailing 7-0, Libertyville used a good punt to gain field position and drove to the Mustangs 10-yard line on its second drive before Mundelein's Nathan Miller intercepted a pass after it was deflected by a teammate.
The Wildcats were able to get on the board in the second quarter when junior RB Charlie True broke through the middle, spun out of a tackle and picked up 46 yards before being knocked out of bounds. True scored from 2 yards out on the next play, but Libertyville tried a 2-point pass out of their swinging gate formation and it didn't work. So Mundelein went into halftime with a 7-6 lead.
Mundelein's defense, led by senior LB Zach Frenzel, kept Libertyville's offense quiet for most of the night, while the offense piled up time of possession. In the fourth quarter, Mundelein switched it up and put Rhinehart at running back and moved the ball well. After a punt, Libertyville took over at its own 8-yard line with 7:09 on the clock. The Wildcats picked up two first downs, but after a penalty, faced a fourth-and-9 at their own 37-yard line and Dickson overthrew his receiver with four minutes left, setting up Mundelein's second TD.
Rhinehart finished with 85 yards on 14 carries, while Ortiz had 69 yards on 21 attempts. True ran for 80 yards on 9 carries, while Dickson had 90 yards passing.