Focus on execution leads to Libertyville comeback
Libertyville's Jimmy Stoll (No. 51) reacts after making a big play in Friday's win over Barrington. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Pioneer Press/Doings Football Power Rankings
As voted on by the Pioneer Press/Doings sports staff. First place votes are worth 15 points, second place 14, etc.
1. Maine South 60 (1-0) (4)
2. Loyola 56 (1-0)
3. Stevenson 52 (1-0)
4. Hinsdale Central 48 (1-0)
5. Nazareth 40 (1-0)
6. Libertyville 32 (1-0)
7. Lake Zurich 30 (1-0)
8. Evanston 23 (1-0)
9. Fenwick 19 (1-0)
10. Lyons Township 17 (0-1)
11. Hinsdale South 16 (1-0)
12. Vernon Hills 15 (1-0)
13. Barrington 12 (0-1)
14. Carmel 10 (0-1)
15t. Glenbrook South 9 (0-1)
15t. Leyden 9 (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Notre Dame 9; Lake Forest 8; Niles N. 5; Deerfield 4; Oak Park-River Forest 3; Highland Park 2.
Updated: October 1, 2012 3:54PM
At first, it appeared Mike Jones was going to lose his debut as Libertyville’s football head coach on Friday.
The Wildcats trailed host Barrington by 17 points at halftime, and had been dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, with the Broncos outgaining them 205-59 in total yardage during that span.
But once the second half started, it was clear the Cats were done messing around, and they eventually won 24-20.
“I don’t think we made any drastic changes in the second half,” Jones said. “More than anything, I think our guys started doing their jobs, making their blocks, and executing the plays properly.”
After managing just three first downs the entire first half, Libertyville scored on its opening drive of the third quarter. It took the Cats five plays — and a mere 1:28 — to go 82 yards, with Connor Simpson’s 2-yard touchdown run narrowing Barrington’s lead to 10 points.
Though Jones claimed he didn’t make any drastic changes, he did change the balance of his play calling on offense as the game went on. After attempting just three passes in the first half, Jones called on senior quarterback Jack Deichl 18 times in the second half. Deichl finished 18-for-21 passing for 221 yards, including a game-winning touchdown toss.
Brian Swift’s 12-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter cut the Broncos’ lead to three points. After that, Deichl went to work with surgeon-like precision. He had three fourth-down conversions through the air in the game’s final six minutes, including the game-winning 31-yard TD pass to senior Justin Guarnaccion on a 4th-and-12 play with under a minute left in regulation.
Guarnaccio’s spectacular, over-the-shoulder grab in tight, one-on-one coverage in the back left side of the end zone gave Libertyville the lead for good.
“It just wasn’t working for us out there early on, and we started to get down a little,” Deichl said. “But when we came out in the second half, we made sure to tell ourselves not to get greedy, and make sure we took things one possession at a time. I was just focused on moving the first-down sticks, and taking what the defense gave me. I think our early struggles were a more mental, than anything.”
Gift of grab: As good as Deichl was, he couldn’t have completed Friday’s comeback without sure-handed receivers.
Guarnaccio (5 catches, 61 yards), Simpson (5 catches 58 yards) and 6-foot-1 senior Austin Williams (7 catches, 85 yards) each were instrumental in Libertyville’s success down the stretch. Senior Blake Ritland’s 17-yard grab for a first down in the first half was the team’s only other reception.
Motivational tactics: Prior to the season opener, Libertyville’s players conducted workouts with a team of Navy Seals, of which Deichl made sure to mention after Friday’s win.
“I think that gave us a huge boost in our confidence,” Deichl said. “Hearing their stories, knowing what they’ve gone through, how can you not be motivated by that? They told us that there’s going to be a lot of adversity in life, not just in our football games. And it’s how you respond to that adversity that’s important. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we might have something special here with this team this season.”
Defensively, the Wildcats picked off a pair of Barrington passes Friday night. The first was hauled in by senior Joey Salata, which stalled a Broncos’ drive deep in Libertyville territory in the first half. The second interception, by senior Dan Tropple at the Wildcats’ 10-yard-line, thwarted what would’ve been a miraculous last-minute comeback by the Broncos.
On the schedule: Libertyville (1-0) hosts Urban Prep (0-1) in the Wildcats’ home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Urban Prep was routed by Oak Forest 55-6 in Week 1.~ ~.