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Liberty falls to Glassmen

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Defensive lapses do in M-Men

By Mike Forster

 

It could have been theirs.

It should have been theirs.

But in the end, it went to Glass.

Liberty overcame the loss of its offensive leader only to be undone by defensive lapses, falling to E.C. Glass to the tune of 35-26.

The defeat, at Lynchburg's City Stadium, leaves the Minutemen with a mark of 4-2 and drops them to 12th in the 3A-West rankings, putting the team's hopes of a home playoff opener in jeopardy.

Its two district losses make winning a share of the Seminole that much more difficult.

It didn't have to be this way.

Even after starting quarterback Austin Porter's hamstring injury (early in the first quarter) forced him out of the remainder of the game, the Minutemen showed grit.  At least on offense.

With seldom-used (at quarterback) Treon Brawley pressed into signal-calling duties, things seemed bleak for the Minutemen.  When early mistakes translated into a 21-7 halftime lead, they seemed even bleaker.

But, Brawley led the team on a pair of scoring drives immediately after the intermission.  Keeping things somewhat simple, the M-Men had Devin Carper and Matthew Smith churning up large chunks of real estate.

"I'm extremely proud of how we responded to losing (Porter)," said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts, noting that the last time Brawley had taken a snap at quarterback was during a pre-season scrimmage.

The first drive was helped, in large part, by a 53-yard sprint by Carper off left tackle.  That set up his own one-yard plunge to paydirt.

The next time Liberty got the ball, Glass was fed a steady diet of Carper and Smith.  The 65-yard drive ended with Smith dashing into the end zone from two yards away.

Suddenly, it was a 21-19 game.

That situation changed after exactly ten clicks of the game clock.  That's how long it took Jarvis Brown to take Lukas Bodenstein's subsequent kickoff and gallop 90 yards through a phalanx of red, white and blue arm tackles.

Liberty responded with a 51-yard drive that took a mere eight plays to find Smith in the end zone once more.

At this point, both defenses stiffened until the Minutemen yielded an 82-yard drive that proved to be the stake through the heart for them.

Tyqion Stokes and quarterback Donnie Morgan inflicted the vast damage during the drive which:

a) gave Glass a nine-point lead, making it a two-possession game for Liberty

b) ate up valuable time, meaning Liberty got the ball back with 1:25 left in the game.

When you're primarily a running team and you've got your number two quarterback throwing the ball, it's a tall order to make up nine points in that amount of time.

As it turned out, Stokes made a quick end of things, picking off Liberty's first pass attempt following the kickoff.

And that, my friends, was that.

 

So what?

Liberty shot itself in the collective foot by spotting E.C. Glass two quick touchdowns, one on a long drive and the other coming after an errant Liberty snap resulted in a turnover.  "We were chasing those points all game," noted Watts.

While the coach seemed proud of his offense, he also seemed equally perplexed by the play of his defense, which yielded nearly nine yards per rushing play (32 carries, 270 yards) to the Hilltoppers.

"We have to make a play," he lamented.  "We let (Glass quarterback Donnie) Morgan run for too much."

What seemed like a turning point for the team didn't bear fruit.  On a Liberty punt, the ball struck a Glass player.  Liberty recovered, only to have the refs rule the ball hadn't passed the line of scrimmage.

Watts had an animated conversation with the refs, who eventually saw things his way, giving the ball back to Liberty.  But three plays later, the M-Men punted again.

Rued Watts, "We won that battle, but lost the war."