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Jefferson Forest marched into Bedford for the first time in three years, having hosted the Liberty Minutemen the past two seasons.
The result was similar, however, as the Cavs took a convincing win, 30-14, giving them a three-game winning streak over Liberty.
Behind the inspirational running of Forest tailback Desmond Goode, the Cavs turned the tide on a Liberty team that had clawed its way back into the contest early in the second half.
That comeback was made necessary by the Cavs pitching a 16-0 shutout in the first half, rocking the Minutemen onto their heels
The first play from scrimmage, a 52-yard play-action connection from Liberty quarterback Tyler Bowyer to Kordero Thompson, pointed to this one being a wild one.
The zaniness continued when Tyler Rosser got a mitt on Josh Logan’s field goal attempt following Thompson’s grab.
It continued when Rashad Hall’s 27-yard dash set up Rosser’s bruising dive into the end zone for the first points of the half.
It carried through when JF quarterback Hunter Hannell calmly led a 68-yard drive that culminated in Rosser banging into the end zone with 19 ticks left on the clock, posting that 16-0 lead.
Liberty roared to life in the second half, when Bowyer found Carlton Payne in the end zone with a 40-yard strike on a post pattern. Payne used his 6’ 6” length to out-duel defensive back Colby Rhodes to make the grab. That touchdown was set up by an Anthony Reynolds interception of a Hannell pass.
Reynolds stoked the fires further when he took Josh Storm’s punt on his own 32 yard line, punched through the middle of the JF coverage unit, shed two arm tackles and blitzed down the right sideline to make it 16-14.
With the Liberty faithful in full-throated roar and with the Cav fans sitting on their hands, things looked bleak for JF.
One of the Cavs decided it was a good time to take a swing at a Liberty player, making things worse.
Forest got flagged for an illegal procedure call, further exacerbating the situation.
At that point, Goode took charge. After JF receiver Mark Carter coaxed a pass interference call, the Cavs found themselves on their 33-yard line.
Goode went off tackle, then employed a mix of speed, strength and agility to shake off at least four would-be Minutemen tacklers to go the 67-yard length to the end zone. The line deserves credit for punching the original hole. It also deserves credit for moving downfield quickly on the chance that a secondary block might be needed (it was). But take nothing away from Goode. His run was nothing short of magnificent.
“We made (Goode) look like an All-American,” said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts, of the tackles he shook.
Now, the Forest defense did what it does best: Stops teams cold.
On the ground, linemen Teron Slaughter, Chip Taylor and Zack Cox seemed to be especially effective at penetrating the Liberty front.
Linebacker Jeff Brown seemed to be everywhere and in on every tackle.
Those guys, with a strong supporting cast, were able to neutralize the Minutemen’s latest weapon, big Brandon Sparrow, as well as Tank Tanner and the swift Thomas Clark.
When Liberty went to the air, following the Goode touchdown, Carter and Brandon Harrison were there to provide stellar coverage.
Liberty’s best scoring opportunity came late in the third period when Bowyer laced one toward Payne on the five yard line, a 37-yard launch. Harrison, however, got a hand into the mix, disrupting the path of the ball just enough to put it out of Payne’s reach.
Goode would be the one to put the game out of reach, however. Following a nice seal block by pulling guard Chris Foster, Goode dashed 56 yards down the left sideline for the score that sealed the game.
While Goode was ably assisted by his mates, including a nice downfield block by Harrison, he was equally assisted by the Liberty defenders, who opted to try and push the fireplug out of bounds, rather than tackling him.
His touchdown made it 30-14, and the stout JF defense ensured there would be no more scoring in this affair.
Given the rivalry and that this- was the regular season finale, the crowd was surprisingly moderate-sized.
Those that did come saw two teams battling for pride, the county championship and third place in the Seminole. As things turned out, the result had no impact on VHSL playoff seedings.
-JF’s Storm added a 42 yard field goal. He also took a shot from 50, which fell short. Note, however, the confidence that would have a high school kicker try from such a distance.
-Goode picked up 199 yards for the evening, while Rashad Hall earned 120, himself.
-Liberty was limited to 61 yards on the ground, while getting 100 in the air.
-Each team had three turnovers: two fumbles and one interception.
-JF’s third-place finish and Liberty’s fourth-place are both one-spot improvements over last year’s results (see below).