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The football gods smiled benignly upon the Minutemen.
Then, they got nasty.
As a result, Liberty saw its dreams of State football glory come crashing down on its own turf.
The M-Men were treated to a sad spectacle as Brookville carted off the Region III trophy to its Hive. That’s where the Bees will host Richlands in a State semifinal matchup on Saturday.
Brookville is in that position courtesy of the 26-9 win over Liberty.
“I’m proud of the effort,” said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts. “But you want to be going on to the next week.”
Initially, everything seemed to be pointing toward Liberty’s playing next week.
Boreus, Greek god of the north winds, made for conditions that were less than optimal for the pass-happy Bees.
Fortuna, the Roman god of lucky bounces, came through in a big way during the game’s early going.
That’s because Liberty racked up a 9-0 lead.
First blood was drawn when Liberty opened the game with an impressive drive.
Anthony Reynolds stunned the Bees on the first play from scrimmage. The senior took a Kody Outhong pitch on the left side. Tackle Michael Bowyer cleared a lane, and Reynolds bolted for 35 yards to the Bee 45 yard line.
An Outhong-to-Doug Schaeffer pass picked up another 15 yards.
Thomas Clark ran it down to the 15.
At that point, though, the Bee defense stiffened, as Outhong’s pass attempts to Matt Kerr and Derek Anderson fell incomplete.
Reynolds booted a 32-yard field goal, though. The wind held the ball up just enough to give the folks who had packed the Liberty stands pause. The ball dropped just beyond the crossbar.
Brookville did little with its first possession. Liberty did just as little the next time it had the ball.
After stifling the Bees again, however, Liberty got that nod from Fortuna.
On second-and-ten from his own 30, Reynolds broke loose on a sweep to the left side. He cut back against the grain when he was hit from the side by a Bee defender.
The ball popped loose into the waiting arms of Clark, who was running escort.
The senior swifty never broke stride, chugging into the end zone from fifty yards out.
In spite of the missed PAT, Clark’s touchdown put the M-Men up 9-0.
Brookville showed that it had some life, as Deshon Foxx returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield.
Showing a mix of Kendall Becraft passes and Benjamin Simmons runs, the Bees worked the ball down to the Liberty three yard line.
Thomas Schacter, however, cleaned Becraft’s clock on a sack, dropping him for a nine-yard loss.
Brookville settled for a 33-yard field goal from Alan Guiterrez.
Liberty settled for a moral victory.
And morale was never higher a four minutes later.
That’s when the fates turned their backs on the Minutemen.
The turning point
Here’s what happened.
On second-and-ten from their own 20, the Bees sent Foxx, Dustin Maner and Travis Riley wide left in a trips look.
Those three set up a screen for Simmons out of the backfield.
Liberty’s Clark sniffed it out the whole way, nailing Simmons after he caught the ball.
Said ball popped loose.
Liberty middle linebacker Michael Bowyer scooped up the free ball and rumbled the twenty yards into the end zone.
After plowing through Bees Christopher Higgins, Brett Thomas and Becraft on the goal line, Bowyer triumphantly ran to the Liberty bench.
The scoreboard read Liberty 15, Brookville 3.
Reynolds would not get a shot at the PAT, though.
Bowyer would not have a story to share with his grandchildren some day.
Rather, it’s all as if it didn’t happen.
That’s because the game officials huddled after the play.
Seems one of them saw the play as an incomplete pass. That is, Simmons didn’t have possession.
Therefore, he couldn’t have fumbled.
The Liberty bench was incensed.
The crowd (at least on the Liberty side) roared its disapproval).
The very next play, Becraft passed to Holton Walker. That one appeared to be an actual incompletion, apparently hitting the ground before Walker had full possession.
The zebras ruled it good.
First down, Brookville.
The refs flagged the Liberty bench, warning it to cool down.
It did, but there was plenty of emotion tinging the air.
With 19 seconds remaining in the half, and wanting to get the momentum back, Liberty tried a long pass from its own 35.
Bee Christopher Anderson, alas, came down with the catch.
With eight seconds left, Becraft had one shot. He converted, tossing a 44-yard pass to Travis Riley in the Brookville corner of the end zone to give his team a 10-9 halftime lead.
No way out
The loss of spirit and emotion on the Minutemen side of the stands was palpable.
Instead of leading 16-3, the M-Men were down in this one.
It didn’t get any better.
“We lost momentum at the half,” assessed Coach Watts. “But give credit to Brookville. They took advantage of the situation.”
Said Brookville Head Coach Jeff Woody, “Uncle Mo(mentum) jumped on our side.”
Following the break, Brookville’s offensive and defensive lines seemed to get the edge in the battle of the trenches.
In fact, the Bees took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in 12 plays to make it 17-9.
“That felt good, having Uncle Mo hang out a bit longer,” added Woody.
Foxx, running out of the wildcat, dashed in from three yards out.
“You feed your horse,” said Woody, of Foxx. “We lean on him and really rely on him.”
The final blow to Liberty’s hopes came at the start of the fourth quarter.
After recovering a Brookville fumble, the M-Men were in striking distance, on the Bee 25.
Liberty was unable to move the ball, however, and turned it over on downs.
Three plays later, Foxx took an inside handoff and seemed to bog down in the midst of the Liberty defense.
The shifty Bee never had a knee down on the turf and, while everyone else on the play seemed to let up, Foxx used the hiatus to break free for a 59 yard touchdown to ice the game.
With Outhong out of the game, tending to a bad wing, Coach Watts turned to Reynolds and Schacter to pick up quarterbacking duties.
But, against a very stout Bee defense, neither could get much going.
As the final seconds of the game ticked away, Schacter was sacked in his own end zone for a safety.
“I put Thomas in a position he hadn’t been in all year,” noted Watts, of the difficult spot Schacter found himself in.
Alas, Chronos, the Greek god of time, could wait no longer for a Liberty comeback.
With that, the clock wound down on the Minutemen’s season.