Libertyville's defense dominates 2nd half vs. Zion-Benton
The Libertyville football team entered the half with a 3-point lead and a defense that was giving up big gains up the middle.
In the second half, the defensive line tightened up and took control of the game, leading the Wildcats to a 42-13 victory in the final home game of the season over Zion-Benton Friday night.
"At halftime, we were all kind of ticked off," defensive lineman Cole Matulenko said. "We were angry."
In the first half, the Zee-Bees rushed for 74 yards, in the second they went for negative-24 due to a strong push from the Libertyville line to get into the backfield. Libertyville also sacked the quarterback five times, blocked a punt and recovered a fumble in the end zone, all in the second half.
"It was our seniors last game at home, and our leaders really stepped up and got everyone going to start the second half," senior defensive lineman Cole Bonder said.
With the victory, the Wildcats are now playoff eligible at 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the North Suburban Conference, setting up showdown next week against conference rival Stevenson on the road with major postseason implications for both teams.
Matulenko was a force in the second half, sacking the quarterback twice, and blocking a punt.
Bonder, Matt Drumke, and Kristian Gavric all had sacks, while Austin Gomez intercepted a pass and Scott Johnson recovered a fumble in the end zone.
On the offensive side of the ball, Quinn Schambow threw three touchdown passes. Gavric, Rocco LaVista, and Luka Nikolich all hauled in a reception in the end zone. LaVista also scored on a 12-yard run in the fourth, and Charlie True scored just before the half to give Libertyville the lead.
Zion-Benton held several first half leads thanks to big plays. Deric Cooper got open deep, hauling in a third-and-19 pass for a 74-yard touchdown. William King had a 33-yard run earlier in the game for the Zee-Bees to set up an 8-yard scoring run by Eric Perteet.
Zion-Benton coach MacAruthur White said he has seen a lot of improvement from his team this year.
"As a coach being around these guys every day, they have grown tremendously," White said. "We've got some guys that couldn't even block during the beginning of the season. Now we have guys blocking. We have guys motivated. You go from kids that were brainwashed to you are never going to win, and you are trying to fix that mindset and now you are getting them to believe."