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Big game: Liberty heads to JF Friday night

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Much on line in county clash

By Mike Forster

  Liberty will head to Jefferson Forest's Sabre Stadium on Friday night with plenty on the line.

First, it is likely that the winner of this game will earn itself a trip to the post-season.  Of course, there will still be three games to go, but five wins should be enough in Div. 3 (for Liberty) and six should do the trick in Div. 4 (for Forest).

Second, the winner gets bragging rights as the best in Bedford County.  Both teams previously defeated Staunton River.  While there is no trophy associated with that title, you can bet the winner will be sticking out its collective chest.

Third, these teams aren't playing merely to make the playoffs.  The goal is to make deep runs in the post-season.  A team helps its chances of doing so by getting as high a seeding as it can.  A team does that by winning games such as this one.

Finally, what kid doesn't want to win in front of the monster crowd that is expected at Sabre Stadium.  By the way, come early if you want to get some decent seating or a prime spot along the rim of the bowl.

Does the game matter in the district race?  Both teams are, mathematically, in the hunt for a Seminole District title.  Realistically, Jefferson Forest (2-1 district, 5-1 overall) has a slim chance, while Liberty (1-2, 4-2) has astronomical odds of gaining the title.

Still, finishing in the top half of the best district in the state is a significant accomplishment.

Following last weekend's tilts, JF seems to have all of the momentum in its favor.  Still, JF Head Coach Don Rice is wary of the Minutemen.  "I have tremendous respect for Liberty," said Rice.  "They have good athletes and are strong up front.  It will be a very good Seminole District game."

"We're in the same situation that we were after the Heritage game," said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts.  

After that defeat, his charges bounced back to crush Rustburg.  Can the Minutemen do the same to JF, following the Brookville defeat?

"We have to be responsible," said Watts.  "And we have to trust the guy lined up next to you to do his job."

Liberty will also likely trust sophomore sensation Matthew Smith to generate some big breakout runs, as he did against Rustburg.

Jefferson Forest, for its part will rely on the two-headed running attack that is David Aveson and Jesse Stevens.

The strength of both teams' running games and defensive secondaries mean that this game will likely be played out in the rushing arena.

Key questions that should be answered over the course of the game:

-Which inside linebacker is tougher:  JF's Garrett Neal or Liberty's Hunter Taylor?

-Will JF's larger offensive line or Liberty's more nimble defensive line prevail?

-When it comes time to pass, who will have the more precise arm:  Liberty's Austin Porter or JF's Ryan Crist?

-Which big-play guy will come through:  Liberty's Tre'von Lightfoot or JF's Dominique Royal?

Stay tuned, friends.