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Cavs top Liberty in regular season finale

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By Mike Forster

Judging from the reaction of the crowd at Sabre Stadium and from the jubilant Forest players, one might have thought that it was the Cavs that were advancing to the playoffs.

For the Cav faithful, who had endured a season of disappointment, Forest?s drubbing of Liberty in the regular season finale seemed to be the desired salve.

For the many Liberty fans who had made the short jaunt to Forest, the loss meant that they would be putting some miles on the family roadster. In addition to falling to arch-foe Forest, the Minutemen lost home field advantage for the opening game of the VHSL playoffs.

The Cavs opened up on all cylinders in the second half, turning a scoreless tie at the halftime mark into a rout of the visitors.

The 28-0 Forest win was keyed by a number of drivers. First, unlike during the majority of the season, every bounce seemed to go Forest?s way. ?It seems like we got all of our season?s breaks in this one game,? noted Forest Head Coach Don Rice. ?Our record this season isn?t indicative of how we can play...We just never caught the breaks.?

Second, without a healthy Derek Comer at quarterback, the Minutemen were unable to kick in their air attack when they most need it. Of course, with the way the Cav defense was playing, there is no guarantee that would have made a difference. Tyler Bowyer, a sophomore, stepped in and did a nice job in leading the Liberty ground game, and picked up a couple of nice runs himself.

Third, the Cav defense came up big. Both Mark Carter and Brandon Beemer scored touchdowns on opportunistic plays, with Carter picking off a pass in mid-stride and Beemer stripping the ball from Liberty?s Fuquan Goode in a pile-up. Each raced to the end zone untouched. ?This wasn?t a letdown for us,? said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts. ?(Forest) has got a good defense which has played well all year.?

Fourth, Liberty proved to be too prone to accidents and mistakes to have a shot in this one. In all, the Minutemen gave up seven turnovers during the course of the game, including two fumbles when they were knocking on the end zone door in the first half. On the other hand, Forest coughed up the ball only three times, twice by fumble and once by a Ryan Webb interception. ?We put the ball on the ground, and that?s something you can?t do in a defensive game,? observed Watts.

Finally, Forest quarterback Craig Banks put together a beautiful game, including long scoring strikes to Brandon Harrison (40 yards) and Colby Rhodes (37 yards). ?(Banks) played the game of his life,? observed Rice. Both of his touchdown tosses were perfectly thrown and caught in-stride by the speedy Harrison and Rhodes. Banks had another excellent pass during the Cavs? very first series. This one went to a diving Carter for a 33 yard pick-up.

?They were manning up on us, so we went with the play action,? explained Rice.

While it didn?t result in a touchdown, tight end Dustin Engledove had the catch of the game. Sprinting downfield and under tight coverage by Liberty?s Webb, the big guy reached up for a one handed catch of a Banks bullet. The play put the Cav crowd into delirium. ?Engledove is a (Division 1) tight end,? declared Rice.

The Cavs even showed off an international flair as Jonas Nancke, an exchange student from Sweden, scored his first point in American football. Nancke, a left-footer, nailed the final PAT for Forest. Rumors of a lutfisk post-game dinner in his honor proved to be unfounded.

The Cavs were motivated intrinsically, according to Rice. ?We were playing for pride and the Bedford County championship. Our seniors were not going to end the year with a loss.?

Nor were they going to end it by disappointing teammate Brandon Klacynski. The senior donned the pads for his final game, knowing he wouldn?t play a down, thanks to a severe ACL injury. Nonetheless, hobbling out on crutches, the feisty Klacynski served his role as captain, taking care of the midfield activities while his mates got fired up.

For the Minutemen, losing this game and, with it, home advantage, didn?t seem to be as important as gearing up for the playoffs. The team wisely rested Comer, though he did play a couple of series in the second half. ?Derek will start (against Botetourt),? said Watts. ?I?m proud of Tyler (Bowyer), though. He got put in the fire.?

Watts also noted, ?We need to play four full quarters with the same (high) intensity.?

Liberty?s ability to do just that will be strongly put to the test this Friday. From this point forward, any letdown most likely means the Minutemen will hang up their helmets for the season.

So, the Minutemen get a playoff berth and the Cavs get a nice memory for the end of their season. Senior stalwarts Beemer and Chris Bowyer had banner days from the defensive line. In addition to Beemer?s touchdown, Bowyer seemed to be everywhere. He seemed especially peeved that Liberty?s quarterback had the nerve to share the same last name with him. Seemingly, all night, the PA stated ?Bowyer tackled by Bowyer.?

Linebacker Dylon Higley played nearly the entire game with an ankle sprain, hardly able to walk at the midpoint of last week. He came through admirably, though he was spelled at times by a very competent Yale Burch.

At game?s end, the Cav faithful flooded the field in a gleeful state. Players were hugged and photos were taken. While the season will not be a memorable one for the Cavs, there is little doubt that this particular game certainly will be so. Now it is time for the Minutemen to make their memories.