Liberty to host Martinsville

-A A +A
By Mike Forster

A “must win” game four weeks into the season?

It looks that way for Liberty, when it takes on visiting Martinsville this Friday night.

Nobody associated with the Minutemen wants to start the district slate with a 2-2 mark (all remaining games for Liberty are Seminole skirmishes).

A win over Martinsville would give Liberty a 3-1 mark and accomplish the following:

—Put the Minutemen in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. It’s pretty much a given that five wins gets a team invited to the dance. Liberty would have to win two of its remaining six games to do that. Nobody, least of all Head Coach Chris Watts, wants to settle for a 5-5 season. Getting the playoff berth, though, is a minimum measure of success.

—Give the Minutemen momentum. With a string of games that lists Staunton River and Heritage right after Martinsville, Liberty could be riding high when it faces off against Brookville on Oct. 10. A stumble against any of these foes could put them in a bad frame of mind.

—Reestablish Minutemen Stadium as a place that means something. Last season, Liberty lost the homefield edge that it held for so many years. Last year, the Minutemen went 2-2 at home, shocking to the fans that had become spoiled with the team’s home supremacy. For much of this decade, Minutemen Stadium had been a place most feared to tread.

Last season, Liberty traveled to Martinsville to beat the Bulldogs 21-10. It was a cathartic victory after the Minutemen had taken a thrashing from Blacksburg. Could the Bulldogs provide the same salve this year? The guess here is that such comfort will have to be earned by the Minutemen.

Martinsville brings a much improved game to the fore this season from last year’s 4-6 model. A Division 4 team (take note, you playoff mathematicians), Martinsville possesses a rich football tradition, having won a pair of state titles, with multiple runner-up honors over the years.

After opening the season with a 44-21 loss to Gretna, the Bulldogs bounced back to smash Rustburg 42-22.

Last week, the Bulldogs dropped a 17-16 stunner at McMichael (NC). The decisive play proved to be a fumble by Martinsville on a third-and-goal in the fourth quarter.

Second-year Head Coach Matt Foutz has plenty of talent to work with. Chris Scott, Marquill Eggleston and Javon Tarpley provide a strong trio of runners out of the backfield. Scott had 155 yards against McMichael and 184 yards against Rustburg. Eggleston piled on three touchdowns against the Red Devils. Tarpley posted 86 yards in the North Carolina game.

Quarterback DeChane Hairston is a senior with a lot of experience as the signal caller. While the Bulldogs are not known for throwing the ball much, Hairston can lead a crushing ground game.

Up front, the Minutemen will have to contend with Ronwyn Pritchett, a big bruiser who is purportedly heading to play for Richmond next season.