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Batavia knocks off Libertyville



Batavia's defense has shown itself to be a forced to be reckoned with eight quarters into the season.

Defense led the Bulldogs to a 24-10 nonconference victory over Libertyville at Bulldog Stadium Friday night. Senior defensive back Tom Stuttle had 2 interceptions and Batavia outgained the Wildcats 297 total yards to 169.

The only touchdown for the Wildcats came 1:11 left in the fourth quarter as Jack Henry Turco was ruled to have caught a 38-yard touchdown by out-wrestling Batavia defensive back John Golden on a dual possession. Otherwise, Libertyville was limited to a first-half field goal by Matt Rudophi.

The performance comes on the heels of last week's 21-0 win over Lemont, like Libertyville, a 2016 playoff team.

"We knew they had a really strong running back and a really good offensive line, but we closed it up front and made their quarterback get pressured," Stuttle said. "They threw it up in the air and our (defensive backs) were able to get picks"

"Really, two great games by our defense," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "A little fade there right at the end, but about eight quarters and three points is pretty doggone good."

Batavia (2-0) held Libertyville (1-1) to 23 rushing yards, all by senior running back Brendan Bazar on 15 carries. The Wildcats completed 16 of 31 passes for 169 yards, but 99 of that came in the second half trailing by 2 touchdowns.

"We didn't execute and it started early, first series," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. "But, yeah, they're quality, no doubt about it. They play downhill, put a lot of people on the line of scrimmage and we didn't handle it as well as we wanted to.

"Some of it had to do with assignments. I don't know, we just didn't get it going offensively running the ball, which is kind of disappointing. Obviously, it puts more pressure on throwing the ball. If we have to throw the ball that much, we're not going to be that effective."

The game was tied 3-3 when Batavia struck just before halftime. Running back Reggie Phillips rushed for a 4-yard touchdown with 22 seconds left in the second quarter to cap a 57-yard, 12-play drive.

The Bulldogs struck again early in the third quarter, taking the first possession 62 yards in 11 plays. Quarterback Riley Cooper found Stuttle, a two-way player, for a 7-yard touchdown reception on third down. Cooper completed 16 of 22 attempts for 158 yards and no interceptions.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 24-3 with 9:32 left in the third quarter with a big fourth down play. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Libertyville 38-yard line, Cooper spotted tight end Colin Richter beyond the safety and hit him in stride for his second touchdown pass of the night.

The defense did the rest.

"I feel like we truly dominated," Batavia defensive back Michael Niemiec said. "That's one of coach's famous words that he likes to use. We just took control of the game."

by posted 09/06/2017



Libertyville's Bazar more than making the grade


Libertyville running back Brendan Bazar has made the transition from freshman B-teamer to varsity standout.






So what's the best way to turn a 'B' into an 'A?'

Hard work is certainly a must.

Ditto for determination.

To be better than just good, to be among the best of the best, you must push yourself harder than you've pushed yourself before. And if the road gets tough, you dig in. Giving up on the ultimate goal isn't an option for high achievers.

Sounds like we're talking about grades, right?

Well, maybe.

But turns out, what is good advice for the classroom, also works on the football field, where one Lake County football player literally used to be a 'B.'

And now, he's a solid 'A.' Acutally, he's a full-blown 'A-lister.'

Libertyville senior running back Brendan Bazar, who rolled up 221 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries in the Wildcats' 27-14 season-opening win over Highland Park last week, started out his high school football career on the freshman B-team. He did not make the cut for the freshman A-team.

He was not happy about this.

"I was mad that I didn't make the A-team," Bazar said. "All my life, like in youth football, I had been on the top teams and I thought I had a good summer leading up to the season. And when they divided the freshmen into A and B teams, I was pretty upset.

"But that just really fueled me to work as hard as I could to become who I knew I could be."

And just two years later, that was one of the best running backs in Lake County.

As a junior last season, Bazar was a secondary running back for Libertyville until starter Jason Tse broke his hand in the third game.

Bazar, shifty but powerful, took over the lead spot and went crazy with it, putting up eye-popping numbers week after week after week.

In essentially seven games, Bazar wound up with more than 900 rushing yards, 385 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He was also named all-conference, all-area and Libertyville's most valuable player.

In one game against Stevenson, Bazar was essentially Libertyville's entire offense. His number was called for 41 of Libertyville's 55 total plays.

"To go from a B-team guy your freshman year to MVP of the varsity and all-conference as a junior, that's pretty impressive," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. "I don't know how often that happens. Not often, actually. It's quite a transformation."

So how did Bazar do it? How did he turn himself from a 'B' into an 'A?'

Hard work and determination, of course.

Bazar was determined to show that he belonged with the better players. And he wasn't going to be deterred from that.

A lot of B-team players get frustrated early in their careers, and they end up quitting football long before they even have a chance to make varsity. Bazar dug in deeper and refused to get discouraged by his B-team status.

He also logged the work in the weight room. Lots of it.

"I think one of the biggest reasons I was put on the B-team as a freshman is that I was small. I was probably about 5-foot-6, 135 pounds," said Bazar, who is about 5-foot-10, 185 pounds now. "There wasn't much to me when I was a freshman. I knew I needed to get a lot stronger and a lot bigger."

So Bazar spent hours and hours, far more time than the minimum mandated by the coaches, working on his body. He says a lot of bench and front squats helped him add some significant size and strength.

Bazar now benches 265 pounds and squats 340 pounds.

"I really got a passion for lifting, and I just gave my all to every single rep, like I had a chip on my shoulder, because I kind of did about not making the A-team. Every rep was at 110 percent," Bazar said. "Most of our lifting is at 6 a.m., and it's really not fun waking up at 5:30 to get there that early. But I even started liking that. I just liked lifting and seeing the gains, looking at my mucles. I saw all my hard work paying dividends. It made me feel pretty good."

To his surprise, Bazar also wound up feeling pretty good about being on the Freshman B-team.

The team went a perfect 9-0 and won the conference championship that year. And Bazar was the lead running back. He scored 30 touchdowns that season.

"It ended up being a blessing in disguise that I played on the B-team that year," Bazar said. "We had such a great season. It was so much fun. And I got to run the ball a lot. If I had made the A-team, I probably would have been a safety or cornerback because they already had other running backs."

Now, he's "the" running back for Libertyville, the 'A-lister.'

"I love it. I embrace it," said Bazar, who got his usual heavy dose of work last week even with a broken pinkie finger on his left hand. "Whatever I can do to help the team, I'll do it."

Being an inspiration to his teammates might be happening by default, without him even trying. Bazar's story of rising is a pretty good one. Even he has started to recognize that now.

"If you have a passion and you keep going and you keep working, eventually things are going to go your way. Eventually good things will happen," said Bazar, who is getting interest from some smaller Division I schools, such as Dayton and Drake. "A lot of kids on the B-team might say, 'Maybe football isn't for me.' But being on the B- team as a freshman doesn't mean anything. I always saw myself being a starting running back on the varsity and I just kept working at it.

"I'm pretty proud that the hard work paid off."


• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw


by posted 08/31/2017

Pioneer Press football preview: Libertyville Wildcats


Jon J. KerrPioneer Press

Last season: 5-5 (4-3 North Suburban), Lost to Bradley-Bourbonnais 42-17 in Class 7A first round.

First-and-10: After a state runner-up finish in 2015 that featured an extremely talented senior class, the Wildcats struggled at times last fall. Entering the new season, there are plenty of questions regarding whether Libertyville could sneak into the playoffs or have a resurgent season that lasts well into November. "I expect us to be good every year. I expect us to win most of our games and be better when the playoffs come," said tight end/defensive end Brendan Cook. A 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior, Cook is a solid building block for the program. A three-sport athlete who committed to North Dakota State earlier this summer, Cook gives the offense a tall, athletic weapon at tight end who can outrun linebackers.

Three-and-out: Cook said he was recruited by North Dakota State as a defensive player. He batted down eight balls in 2016 as a stand-up edge rusher in the Wildcats' 4-2-5 scheme. "He has quickness and speed and is a difficult guy to block," Jones said. Senior defensive lineman Alex Jackson (6-2, 210) will move inside after playing outside in 2016. Junior Jonathan Palmieri (6-0, 210) and senior Cormac Haverty-Dennis (6-4, 200) are athletic and will disrupt opposing rushing attacks.

Keep an eye on: Senior Alex Stanulis (6-2, 180) takes over as the starting quarterback. Jones said he is impressed by his quarterback's offseason preparation. "He did a great job with the lifting program," Jones said. "He has a good grasp of what we are trying to do." What the Wildcats will do is give multiple looks out of a spread base, hand the ball off to senior running back Brendan Bazar (5-10, 185) and throw it to wide receivers Ryan Greenberg (5-9, 170) and Niko Christensen (6-1, 170). Northwestern commit Charlie Schmidt returns for his third year on the offensive line.

Game to watch: Sept. 22 vs. Lake Forest. This will be the Wildcats' first home game after starting 2017 with four road games.

Jon J. Kerr is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

Twitter @Pioneer_Press

2017 Schedule


8/25 at Highland Park, 7

9/1 at Batavia, 7:30

9/8 at Warren, 7:30

9/16 at Waukegan, 1:30

9/22 LAKE FOREST, 7:30


10/6 MUNDELEIN, 7:30

10/13 at Lake Zurich, 7:30

10/20 ZION-BENTON, 7:30

by posted 08/24/2017



Libertyville High School football player Anthony Vincini comes out of a small swimming pool Wednesday during training led by a pair of retired U.S. Navy SEALs.Retired Navy SEALs Rob Stella, left, and Nick Hays train Libertyville High School football players Wednesday. Stella is a Libertyville alumnus.Libertyville High School football players Max Wood, left, John Palmeri and their teammates roll in dirt Wednesday during a training exercise led by two retired Navy SEALs.


Navy SEALs push Libertyville Wildcat football players to work together


Libertyville High School football player Anthony Vincini comes out of a small swimming pool Wednesday during training led by a pair of retired U.S. Navy SEALs.
Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

By Russell Lissau


A pair of retired Navy SEALs gave members of Libertyville High School'sfootball squads a taste of their infamously strenuous training program Wednesday as a team-building exercise.

At the command of ex-SEAL and Libertyville High alumnus Rob Stella, the Wildcats did countless pushups, jumping jacks and flutter kicks. They rolled through dirt and crawled through human tunnels.

They sweated. They groaned. They pushed themselves beyond what they thought were their limits.

And through it all, Stella coached and coaxed them to work together. He urged them to overcome the blazing heat, the frustration of difficult physical challenges and the growing pain in their bodies.

"It's all in your mind," Stella told the nearly 80 football players as they did calisthenics on the practice field behind the school. "Sacrifice for your teammates."

Stella, who was accompanied by fellow retired SEAL Nick Hays, has helped train Wildcat football players the Navy way once before, in 2012. They run programs like this through a company called Acumen Performance Group.

Clients include groups from Northwestern University, the Miami Heat and Air Canada.

The goal Wednesday, Stella said, was to teach the teens how to maximize their performance.

"We only want you guys to get 1 percent better every day," Stella said. "That's doable."

Varsity offensive lineman Thomas Fenlon was among the boys who participated in the program.

"I was hoping (it would help me) get into better shape for football," he said. Fenlon admitted the session was harder than he expected.

Not every football player took part. Wide receiver Jack Morris watched from the side because of a knee injury.

As hard as the exercises were, Morris said he wished he could participate.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," he said.

The day also included indoor discussions about mental toughness, mentoring and other topics.

Varsity head coach Mike Jones said he hopes the teens learned to work through adversity, and not just on the gridiron.

"It's in the classroom. It's in life," Jones said. "They can be more than they think they are."

by posted 07/21/2017