DOWNERS GROVE – Wheaton North junior wide receiver Karsten Libby had hopes for his varsity football debut in the season opener Aug. 27 at Downers Grove South.
“I wanted to score at least once,” Libby said.
How about this? Three catches and three touchdowns in the Falcons’ 50-0 victory.
“I wasn’t really expecting three. A nice treat on top,” Libby said. “Definitely [I’ll remember] that first touchdown, first touch on varsity. A very proud moment for myself. [Still shocked] a little bit, yeah.”
The Falcons led 43-0 by halftime after scoring on all five first-half possessions, as well as an electrifying 55-yard interception return by junior outside linebacker Ross Dansdill for a 21-0 advantage.
“Coming into Week 1, it’s kind of iffy as to what kind of group of guys you’ve got. It’s just nice to come out and put all of the pieces together and play a complete game like we did,” said Wheaton North senior quarterback Mark Forcucci, a Holy Cross recruit who was 7-of-7 passing for 101 yards and four touchdowns in one half of action.
The defense held Downers South to 35 yards and three first downs in the first half and shut out an offense led by Northern Illinois-bound senior receiver Eli Reed and junior quarterback Ryan Dawson that scored at least 14 points in all six games during the spring season.
“Our execution for Week 1 was pretty good. Both sides of the ball played well,” Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. “They prepared well this week despite having some crazy [hot] weather. We were inside two nights this week. The kids had a mature approach to it. It’s something to build on.”
Last season on the sophomore team, Libby played only the first two games before being sidelined by a broken finger.
Libby had the Falcons’ first two touchdowns Aug. 27 on 26- and 8-yard catches, respectively. He later had a 10-yard reception for the last first-half score.
Libby’s first score came after play action to running back Brayton Maske. Forcucci rolled left and Libby was wide open at the 5, needing only to catch the ball to score.
“That was my first catch on varsity, so I was really nervous. Once I got the ball in my hands, I just turned and ran it upfield as fast as I could,” Libby said.
Other Wheaton North touchdowns were by Tyler O’Connor on a 9-yard shovel pass, Maske’s 25-yard run and a fourth-quarter 1-yard run by senior Norby Herbert.
“I can definitely spread the ball around. [Libby] just did a great job running his routes, getting himself open,” Forcucci said. “The line did a great job up front. I think we really executed tonight.”
The Mustangs started just five seniors.
“We’re a real young team. They were a very young team when we played them three years ago and they’re a very senior-laden team,” Downers South coach Mark Molinari said. “We got a lot of good experience, but it’s tough. The kids did a great job in our preparation, but at the end of the day, I think we kind of got manhandled.”
Reed had five catches for 35 yards and one punt return for 18 yards. In the spring, Reed had nine touchdowns and 726 all-purpose yards, including 572 receiving yards.
Like Forcucci, Dawson passed for more than 900 yards in the spring. Dawson (32 passing yards) and Reed had a 40-plus-yard connection Aug. 27 that was nullified by a penalty.
Downers South was moving the ball behind two first downs when Dansdill’s pick-six fueled the Falcons’ momentum.
“I got into my drop. The D-line getting pressure always helps. The ball came right to me. I took off to the edge and I scored. Loved it,” Dansdill said. “We’ve been grinding it out in practice and been preparing. We got it done.”