The word rivalry gets thrown around in sports a little too often. It takes a history full of heated contests and bitterness to produce a true rivalry. There seems to be a different sense of intensity every time the Scouts face off against the Libertyville Wildcats in any sport, especially football.
The Libertyville game has always been a huge deal and Friday night’s tilt on Park Ave. in Libertyville seems to be no different. Last season the Scouts upset the Wildcats at home at West Campus in a thrilling homecoming game. This season, it flips. Libertyville has their first home game this season and the Wildcats have to chance to achieve ultimate revenge over Lake Forest, while the Scouts seek to spoil all the hype leading up to the Wildcats home opener. Both teams are currently at .500 looking to improve their chances at making the playoffs at the end of the season. One thing is for certain: This is the biggest game for both squads thus far.
The (2-2, 1-1) Libertyville Wildcats haven’t gotten off the the start they were necessarily hoping for. After defeating Highland Park in their first game of the year on the road, they lost to both Batavia and Warren by 14 and 16 points respectively. Last week they routed Waukegan 41-14, which isn’t as impressive as it looks given Waukegan’s struggles this season. With four games under their belt, they finally have their first home football game and are ready to impress the Wildcat faithful with the skills they have developed over the past four games.
Their most talked about player is not their quarterback, or running back, or wide receiver. Rather, it is their tight end Brendan Cook (#7). Cook, listed at 6’ 3’’ 230 lbs. recently committed to North Dakota State, one of the best programs in the FCS. Cook is one of quarterback Alex Stanulis’ favorite targets thanks to his height and his ability to break tackles. Stanulis, who takes over the starting job this season, has some talented receivers other than Cook that could make an impact in tonight’s game. Brendan Gallagher (#6) had a huge game last Saturday in the Wildcats’ win over Waukegan. Gallagher caught three touchdown passes racking up 144 receiving yards. Running back Brendan Bazar (#34) has also had a productive season for the Cats. Last week, Bazar had an impressive touchdown run after dodging a series of Waukegan defenders for a 46 yard TD. The Libertyville Wildcats offensive line is also extremely talented. Led by Northwestern commit and three year varsity lineman Charlie Schmit, Libertyville’s front five has done a stupendous job buying Stanulis time in the pocket. Lake Forest’s defense hasn’t played up to their potential in their last two losses. If the three Brendan’s along with Alex Stanulis have a performance like they did last week, this may be another game where the Scouts defense struggles to keep their opposition out of the 20-30 point range.
Technically, Cook was recruited by NDSU as a defensive end. According to Jon Kerr of scoutsfootball.com, he swatted down 8 balls in 2016 and does a fantastic job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, effectively limiting their time in the pocket. The Cats’ defensive talent doesn’t come to a halt there, however. Defensive lineman Jonathan Palmieri could be another threat to the Scouts offensive line. Jack Milinski may not have as much time in the pocket as he desires tonight unless Lake Forest’s O-Line can play to their absolute potential.
Libertyville head coach Mike Jones has now been coaching the Wildcats football team for six years and knows how much this rivalry means to both teams. Here is what he had to say regarding tonight’s rivalry game.
After getting back to .500 by blowing out Waukegan last week, what does that do for your team’s confidence heading into a crucial matchup against Lake Forest?
“The Waukegan game was important because we were able to start fast. That will be important tonight against a good opponent.”
Players such as Brendan Cook and Alex Stanulis seem to have had good starts to the 2017 season, but besides them, who is one player to watch for that may make a considerable impact against the Scouts tonight?
“Charlie Schmidt is an offensive and defensive lineman committed to Northwestern. He is an important player for us in addition to linebackers Jon Schlapper and Will Hare.”
What is the best attribute of this Wildcats team that you believe could propel them to a victory at home?
“I think just being at home. We have been on the road for four weeks to just being at home will be important for us.”
The Lake Forest Scouts have had a disappointing last two games, but have shaken up the lineup for tonight’s contest in hopes of providing a spakr. First, it was Stevenson who blanked the Scouts 23-0. One week later, they welcomed the Warren Blue Devils to Varsity Field in hopes of producing a different result. Unfortunately, it was the same story as the Scouts were defeated 36-7, only managing one second half touchdown from Bryan Ooms. Now, the Scouts likely have their toughest games behind them as they travel to Libertyville in hopes of evening their conference record. Although the Wildcats are a solid overall team, they don’t have the size or talent of Warren and Stevenson. My prediction is that the Scouts offense will do better this week compared to weeks prior.
The biggest storyline since the Warren homecoming game is that starting outside linebacker Bryan Ooms will see quite a few more reps at running back this week. Last week, Ooms scored the lone touchdown on a screen pass then rushed for a 46 yard TD after breaking a few tackles. This move is necessary for the Scouts. The Scouts offense needs a playmaker and Ooms is the perfect candidate. Yes, this could result in Ooms not getting as much playing time on the defensive side of the ball, but I am confident that the defense can continue to perform with him not roaming the middle as much.
This week against the Wildcats, Brendan Cook will be one of the main focuses for the defense. If they can shut down Cook, they will be in good shape, regardless if Ooms is on the turf. If they can force Libertyville to score less than 15 points, I think the Scouts will be in great shape to secure the W.
Every category, both on offense and defense, needs to show improvement from the past two weeks in order for the Scouts to come out of Libertyville with a win. If the Scouts can score early and bring back the confidence they had against Glenbard East, their offense should move the ball consistently throughout. Libertyville by no means will be easy to defeat, especially in a rivalry game on their home field in their home opener.
The Scouts need to believe in each other. This can be the game that everything turns around for the Lake Forest Scouts. They just need to play confident and utilize their athletes on both sides of the ball.
Jack Mislinski: Mislinski has hard a hard time getting the offense moving the last two weeks, but look for him to spark the Scouts offense with his legs and arm on Friday night in Libertyville. Mislinski, a two sport athlete, has the athleticism to really propel the blue and gold.
Chase Bahr/Augie Cirame: The left and right tackle for the Scouts O-line will be challenged with the task of protecting Mislinski and paving holes for RB Bryan Ooms.
Ryan Durburg: If tonight’s game is close, it could become a field position battle. The Scouts’ punter will be tasked with pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory, which will be key for the Scouts.
About the Wildcats:
Record: (2-2, 1-1)
Conference: North Suburban
Location: Libertyville, Illinois
Coach: Mike Jones
Enrollment: approximately 2,000
Furthest IHSA Playoff Advancement: 2005 State Champions (7A)