Friday's North Suburban Lake Division football contest against Warren was just the kind of game host Libertyville was looking for on homecoming night.
With playoff eligibility on the line, the Wildcats got off to a fast start and they never looked back as they built a 17-0 halftime advantage before rolling to a 38-6 victory over the Blue Devils to improve their record to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Lake Division.
That means Libertyville is now officially playoff-eligible when it hosts Lake Forest in its final regular season game next Friday.
Warren (2-6, 2-4) had played the Wildcats to a scoreless tie until Libertyville quarterback Jack Deichl rolled left and hit Max Ebert with a 7-yard TD pass before Austin Williams' extra point made the score 7-0 with 1:19 remaining in the first quarter.
After a four-and-out by the Blue Devils, Libertyville got going again on its next possession as Deichl made a great fake handoff to sophomore running back Connor Simpson, who got nailed by a Warren defender on the play. But Deichl wound up keeping the ball himself as he ran up the middle for a 16-yard TD scamper and a 14-0 lead with 9:55 left in the second quarter.
A bad snap on a punt attempt gave the Wildcats the ball on the Warren 10-yard-line with 1:53 left in the first half. But the Wildcats had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Williams as the clock expired to end the first half.
Warren was plagued by turnovers throughout the contest as quarterback Adam Reuss was intercepted four times and the Cats recovered two Blue Devils' fumbles.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to Libertyville, they are getting better and better," said Warren coach Dave Mohapp. "We had a hard time getting in any rhythm and you are going to have a hard time (winning) with that many mistakes."
After an interception in the second quarter, Libertyville's Joey Salata (2 interceptions) recovered a fumble on a fair catch attempt to help set up the Cats' next scoring drive.
Simpson (115 yards on 23 carries) capped the 54-yard march with a 6-yard TD run off right tackle for a 24-0 lead with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
A.J. Schmidt recovered a fumble on the Warren 33 on the ensuing kickoff. And playing in only his second varsity game, Simpson bounced right off a Warren defender and went into the end zone from 4 yards out to cap the short drive before Williams' extra point made the score 31-0 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
"It's probably one of the best feeling's I've had in a long time to reach our goal, and we took advantage of their turnovers," said Libertyville coach Randy Kuceyeski, who was presented with a No. 18 jersey before the game for his 18 years as coach.
Deichl faked a handoff and scored on a 3-yard TD run to boost the lead to 38-0 with 11:54 to play.
"It's been our goal for nine months to get to the playoffs and we just wanted to send coach (Kuceyeski) out on a great note and that is what we did," Deichl said. "Connor Simpson was ripping it up on the sophomore level and he made the most of his opportunity tonight."