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Lake Forest 9/27/12 Libertyville's Justin Guarnaccio (3) | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Just a few minutes into the Libertyville football team’s 33-13 loss to Lake Forest on Friday, senior Justin Guarnaccio had a moment that he’ll never forget.
With his Wildcats already trailing 7-0, Guarnaccio returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, causing a raucous celebration among his teammates.
“It was an awesome feeling, and yeah, I was pumped,” Guarnaccio said. “To be honest, by the time I got the ball to the end zone, I was exhausted. But it’s one of those things I’ll never forget. I would’ve much rather won the game, but it was an incredible moment.”
His kickoff return for a score was his first ever at any level of high school football. Despite being listed at just 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds, Guarnaccio is also prominently featured as a wide receiver in the Wildcats’ offense. And as a two-sport athlete, he was a member of the varsity baseball team last spring, too.
According to Libertyville coach Mike Jones, he’s got a work ethic that is second to none.
“This is his second year on varsity, and Justin’s gotten stronger physically and matured more,” Jones said. “He’s our best route runner. He’s very precise with his feet and his cuts.”
Guarnaccio credits a portion of his improvement to the work he’s done with a personal trainer at Cynergy Fitness & Sports, a gym just west of Libertyville. And in the offseason, he attended camps with senior quarterback Jack Deichl, a move that has done wonders for the duo’s on-field chemistry.
“It helps that he always knows where he’s going when he runs a route,” Deichl said. “And me and Justin are really good friends off the field, too. That kind of chemistry is really important. When a play breaks down, or we have to adjust on the fly, a lot of times I can tell where he’s going to go just by looking at him. It’s nice being on the same page all the time and being able to have a feel for what someone’s going to do on the field.”
Deichl also thinks Guarnaccio is nearly fearless at times.
He showed as much on Libertyville’s final drive in Week 1 at Barrington, when he caught several key passes — including a gorgeous over-the-shoulder catch in extremely tight coverage for the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play.
“You look at him, and he’s not a huge guy, by any means,” Deichl said. “But he’s never afraid to go over the middle of the field to make a catch, and he’s not afraid to run routes in traffic. He has an incredible knack for finding the ball and making plays when I throw it to him.”
Even though he’s not normally an vocal leader in the locker room, it’s that kind of example that appears to rub off on others.
“Justin’s the kind of kid who will do anything to contribute to the team,” Jones said. “He’s just kind of quiet and goes about his business. He’s a tremendous asset for us out there.” ~.