With all the running and running, it was like Matt Brenner was at lacrosse practice.
Which, come to think of it, he has been doing lately whenever his schedule allows since his sports are starting to overlap.
Brenner, Libertyville’s 5-foot-9 speed demon running back who will be playing lacrosse in two weeks when the football season is over, was racking up the mileage on Friday night.
Brenner had two long touchdown runs of 71 and 80 yards, and a total of 173 rushing yards to spark host Libertyville to a 40-22 North Suburban Conference win over archrival Stevenson.
It’s the first time Libertyville has beaten Stevenson on the varsity level since 2015.
“There’s a lot of running in lacrosse,” said Brenner, suggesting his conditioning from lacrosse may have helped with his breakaway runs on the football field. “We just did our thing. I got some lucky blocks and we took care of it.
“Those (long touchdown runs) just hypes up everyone I hope, and it puts energy in me, too. Our linemen really took care of business in the trenches.”
Libertyville, which moves to 3-1 on the season, had a 12-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 20-7 lead at halftime. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had extended that lead to 26-7.
Quarterback Blake Ellingson opened the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run, then Brenner ran in his 71-yarder. Brenner added a 1-yard touchdown run right before halftime and then scored the only touchdown of the third quarter on his 80-yard run.
Stevenson’s only touchdown through three quarters came in the second quarter on a 4-yard run by Ryan Hynes.
At halftime, Stevenson (2-2) had managed just 18 rushing yards and 59 passing yards.
“We came with a good game plan and we fought hard,” Stevenson quarterback Liam Crawley said. “We just fell short. We missed a couple of big plays. I tried my best to make some plays and the line was fighting really hard, doing their best. We’re a family, we’re a group and we play as one. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Libertyville opened the fourth quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ellingson to Connor Dickson and got one more score for good measure with about four minutes left when Tommy Latka ran in a touchdown from 14 yards out.
Latka finished with 119 rushing yards on 14 carries.
“We ran the ball consistently today and executed,” Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. “And Matt (Brenner) was really tough. I mean, he’s going to both football practice and lacrosse practice right now and all he does is run in lacrosse practice. It’s like, ‘Matt, don’t get too tired.’ But maybe (all the running helped).”
Stevenson got two fourth quarter touchdowns to cut into its deficit, which grew to as much as 26 points (33-7).
Jayden McFadden returned a Libertyville kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and when the reserves came in, backup quarterback AJ Eliot threw a 5-yard touchdown to AJ Loch.
“This is always our biggest rivalry,” Brenner said of Stevenson. “We really wanted to take care of business, especially since we hadn’t beaten them on varsity since 2015.”