LAKE ZURICH — It’s not a stretch for Libertyville quarterback Blake Ellingson to get his running back on.
He used to be a running back.
It was only when Ellingson himself stretched an additional six inches after seventh grade that he had to look for a new position and went from running back to quarterback.
“I grew so much that I couldn’t play running back very well anymore,” the 6-foot-2 Ellingson said. “I was just too tall.”
Ellingson’s frame became perfect for quarterback, and he’s played that position for the last five years. But when he has to run, Ellingson slips back into that running back mentality fairly seamlessly.
On Friday, it was like Ellingson was re-living his grade school days. He rolled up 61 rushing yards and ran in two touchdowns to lead Libertyville to a 15-6 North Suburban Conference victory over host Lake Zurich.
“(Lake Zurich) switched up their defenses tonight and played cover-2 pretty much the entire game, so the passing just wasn’t there,” said Ellingson, who has been recruited to play quarterback at Drake next year. “So we knew we had to win up front and we did and we ran the ball down their throats.
“I’m always looking to get downhill when I run which is what I used to do when I played running back.”
Libertyville also got 96 rushing yards from junior running back Tommy Latka. He carried the ball 24 times and was instrumental in keeping the chains moving for the Wildcats.
“I think last year’s game influenced how Lake Zurich played us this year,” Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. Last year, we were dinking all over the place with our passing game. This year, it seemed like they really wanted us to run the ball. The throwing really wasn’t there and we needed to run the ball.
“And when your quarterback can throw and run, that’s one of the hardest things for a defense to do is to defend a quarterback who can also run.”
Libertyville opened up the scoring early in the second quarter by capping off a 5-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ellingson.
The Wildcats came up with a nifty passing play between Latka and Joey Neal for the 2-point conversion.
Lake Zurich answered on the very next drive. On the eighth play, senior Jack Dwyer ran in a 19-yard touchdown. The Bears missed the point-after and the halftime score was 8-6 Libertyville.
On the game, Dwyer rolled up 86 yards on 14 carries.
“We are running the ball a lot,” Dwyer said. “Our offensive line is progressing. But Libertyville is a really good team and we just have to figure it out. Our defense did a great job today. They played their butts off. This is on the offense today. Last week, too. We just have to figure it out.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Libertyville intercepted a Lake Zurich pass early in the fourth quarter and then capitalized five plays later when Ellingson ran in a 1-yard touchdown. That gave the Wildcats all the cushion they would need.
“We tried to change up the looks (Ellingson) got and make him feel like he wasn’t sure if he should run or throw,” Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. “He threw the ball a lot more last year, and ran it more tonight. I thought our defense did awesome but (Ellingson) made some good plays.”