Crist-al clear win

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Jeff Forest goes to the air to top Staunton River

By Mike Forster

  Liberty got its season off on the right foot.

The Minutemen overcame the first-game jitters and some fumblin' fingers before topping Blacksburg, 26-12.

The win broke a losing skid that encompassed the final nine games of the 2011 season.  Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts was only focused on the road ahead, eschewing the opportunity to revisit last season's forgettable campaign.

"We needed one," said Watts of the victory.  "We're off to a good start.  Now we're working on a second."

Indeed, the M-Men are off to a good start.  Against Blacksburg, Liberty looked solid on a number of fronts.  In particular, the defense looked as stout as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, holding the Bruins to eight three-and-out series in the game.

Additionally, the Minutemen defenders became a bunch of ball hawks, nabbing four interceptions.  Those INTs were made by Montana Willis, Cody Massie, Chase Key and Tre'von Lightfoot.

That last pick was converted into six points as Lightfoot used both of his light feet to scamper 70 yards into the end zone, killing any hopes for a Bruin revival.

Things didn't look so rosy at the onset of this contest, though.

Liberty fumbled away the ball on its first two possessions.  But the Bruins were able to do little with those gifts, as the defense, led by linebacker Hunter Taylor, held them scoreless.

The third time the M-Men go their mitts on the ball, senior Key made the most of it.  The fullback dove through the two-hole on the option, scampering 25 yards to paydirt.

On the next possession, Liberty quarterback Austin Porter kept on the option, dashing around right end on a 75-yard touchdown.

That gave Liberty a 14-0 halftime lead, which became tenuous when the M-Men fumbled deep in their own zone early in the second half.

Blacksburg was held to a 39-yard field goal off the foot of very promising kicker Carson Wise.

On the ensuing kickoff, Liberty return man Matt Smith showed that he's more than just a power runner.  Smith outran the entire Bruin coverage team in posting a 100-yard touchdown.  With Smith's (and the rest of the return team's) effort, the M-Men's lead grew from 11 to 17 points, and the game seemed well in hand.

"That was the turning point," noted Watts.

It was, however, until Liberty fumbled, yet again.  By the way, the M-Men had six fumbles for the evening.

This time, the Bruins picked up another field goal off the foot of Wise.  That was a major moral victory for the M-Men defense, given that the Bruins had a first-and-goal from the five.

That defense, led by Jamaal Preston's two sacks and tackling machines Dustin Hiner and Taylor rose to the challenge.

"We had eleven guys going to the ball, just like we wanted," Watts said.

But, the D did slip once.  The Bruins had an 85-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, making it 20-12.

That's when Lightfoot took all the air from the Blacksburg balloon with his Pick-Six.

"I felt confident in our defense," said Watts.  But (our line) was getting tired, and our pass rush lost effectiveness."

Mr. Lightfoot changed that.


Game notes

-Liberty nearly scored toward the end of the first half.  Porter led a 60-yard drive to near the goal line, but just ran out of time to put it away.

-Liberty's six fumbles included two on punt returns.

Smith (tailback) and Porter (quarterback) added over 100 yards each on the ground.

-Blacksburg now stands 0-2.  Liberty is 1-0.