Liberty’s second-half rally for 21-17 win over Kennedy sets up rematch with Bellevue

November 18, 2008

By Jim Feehan

It was a tale of two halves.

Richard Crespo (29), Liberty senior wide receiver, barely gets a first down off a pass from quarterback Trey Wheeler on a fake punt in the fourth quarter, as Peter Moffat, Kennedy senior defensive back, defends. Photo by Greg Farrar

Richard Crespo (29), Liberty senior wide receiver, barely gets a first down off a pass from quarterback Trey Wheeler on a fake punt in the fourth quarter, as Peter Moffat, Kennedy senior defensive back, defends. Photo by Greg Farrar

In the first half, Liberty had a dickens of a time containing Kennedy’s dynamic duo of Tre Watson and Nolan Washington as the Lancers took a 17-0 lead into halftime. The second half was a different story.The Patriots scored three touchdowns in the final 13 minutes in an incredible come-from-behind effort to beat sixth-ranked Kennedy 21-17 Nov. 14 at Highline Stadium in Burien. Kennedy, which plays its home games at Highline Stadium, was making its 16th state-playoff appearance in the past 17 years. Two years ago, Kennedy lost in overtime to Bellevue 21-14 for the state title.

The Lancers finished the season 9-2.

The Patriots (9-2) advance for a rematch on the road against top-ranked Bellevue (11-0) Friday in the quarterfinals. Bellevue defeated Lindbergh 35-6 in its playoff game Nov. 14. For Liberty, it will be payback time as the Patriots seek to avenge last month’s 24-7 loss to the Wolverines.

Liberty coach Steve Valach said the team showed a great deal of composure to come back in the second half against Kennedy.

“I told the team at halftime, ‘We don’t need Superman,’” he said. “I was really proud of our defense, especially our defensive tackles Dan Eck and Josh Spurgeon. We knew the key against them was to contain their big play guys and that’s what we did. The longer we play, the better we get.”

With 1:10 remaining in the third quarter, senior running back Greg Ericksen scored Liberty’s first touchdown on a 27-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Trey Wheeler.

Kennedy mustered only 7 yards on its next possession and punted. With the ball on Liberty’s 49-yard line, Ericksen rushed for 13 yards on a crucial third down play with 10:30 remaining. A few plays later, Wheeler scored on a 21-yard touchdown run to make it 17-14. Wheeler finished with 11-of-24 passing for 138 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Kennedy was stymied on its next possession as Liberty’s defense came up big again, forcing the Lancers to punt. On its next possession, Liberty used a series of passes, runs and a trick play in a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive that used almost six minutes.

During the drive, Wheeler was sacked for a 10-yard loss. Wheeler, also the Patriots’ punter, threw a 21-yard pass to senior wide receiver Richard Crespo on fourth-and-20 from the 50-yard line. Ericksen rushed for 69 yards on 15 attempts and gained 22 yards on the winning drive. With 1:30 remaining, Ericksen scored on a 6-yard run up the middle to put Liberty ahead for the first time.

Senior defensive back Taylor Hamman sealed the victory when he intercepted a pass by Kennedy’s Jason Thompson with 42 seconds remaining.

Liberty’s junior offensive tackle Troy Solly is listed as doubtful against Bellevue after he suffered an ankle injury in the closing seconds of the game. Sophomore running back Marcel Bell, who did not suit up against Kennedy after injuring his hamstring during practice last week, should be back this week, Valach said.

“Friday night will be interesting,” he said. “Bellevue plays terrific defense and forces lots of turnovers. Our ability to move the ball consistently and take care of the football will be the difference.”

Fans at the Liberty-Kennedy game were treated to a brief fireworks display before kickoff. 

Kennedy scored on its first possession when sophomore kicker Thomas Morrell connected on a 25-yard field goal. Watson scampered 25 yards around right end to make it to put Kennedy up 10-0 with 5:44 remaining in the first half. 

Washington scored on a 4-yard run with 27 seconds remaining to put Kennedy up 17-0 at halftime. Watson ran for 115 yards, 102 in the first half, on 18 attempts. Washington finished with 87 yards on 10 carries.

In this season of great expectations, the Patriots have found strength in an African humanist philosophy that focuses people’s allegiance and relations with each other, Valach said. 

“Ubuntu literally means I am because we are,” said Valach, of the word that has its origin in the Bantu language of southern Africa. “It isn’t about one guy. It isn’t about a superstar. It’s about a group of 55 guys who believe.”

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