Pekin eliminates Libertyville
PEKIN -- Libertyville struggled to get any forward momentum on Friday night -- literally and figuratively -- in a 28-14 loss to Pekin in the opening round of the IHSA Class 7A state playoffs.
Steady rain and a stiff breeze took 18th-seeded Libertyville out of its game plan in the first half and the host Dragons made a pair of interceptions when Libertyville threatened to get back into the game in the second half.
"We talked about that this was a winnable game if we don't beat ourselves," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. "We didn't handle the weather very well early on. But playoff football, you can't make that many mistakes."
Libertyville had tough sledding on offense with muddy conditions that took two series to figure out. And even then the Wildcats (6-4) struggled to run the ball. They finished with just 69 yards on 22 attempts.
"It was like a slip-n-slide out there," senior running back Tommy Latka said. "This was the most home-field advantage I've ever seen."
Pekin (8-2) had no trouble running on its own field with Kanye Tyler rushing for 140 yards and Tanner Sprecher 97. A touchdown from each of them gave Pekin a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
On its final possession of the half, Libertyville improvised to get a 70-yard reception by Latka when quarterback Connor Dickson scrambled and tossed a jump pass near the sideline.
The Wildcats forced a three-and- out for a positive start to the second half, but it lasted one play when Sprecher picked off a pass and returned 45 yards for a score.
With the rain now a light drizzle, the Wildcats could get back to more of what they had hoped. Libertyville drew within six when Dickson hit Andrew Scott on a 33-yard pass. Dickson finished with 191 yards on 8-of-20 passing.
But Pekin responded with its own touchdown pass, a 22-yard strike on fourth down. The 2-point conversion set the final score.
Libertyville recovered a fumble at its own 4 with 4:24 left but Pekin recorded its second interception on the next play.
"We were able to throw the ball a little better in the second half," Jones said. "We thought we could get some space (against their coverage) but we just couldn't throw it with the weather conditions in the first half."