Liberty seeks uptick

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M-Men host Amherst following loss to Harrisonburg

By Mike Forster

  Liberty’s season began with a win.  Will it so end?

In between has been a lot of heartache and frustration for the Minutemen and their fans.  The team now stands 1-8 following a 41-20 loss to Valley District entrant Harrisonburg.

That game, which helped to showcase the future of Liberty football, was played in front of a sparse crowd in cold, drenching conditions.

The game took the same shape of many Minutemen contests this year.  At times Liberty looked sterling; at others, the team looked tarnished.

The M-Men gave up some easy points to the Blue Streaks in the early going, including via a big fumble recovery/return.

Still, early in the second quarter, the momentum seemed to swing toward Liberty.  That was largely due to a Matthew Smith six-yard TD run.

The Liberty defense seemed to hold Harrisonburg on its next possession.  On a third-and-19, though, Liberty was flagged for roughing the kicker on an incomplete pass.  Harrisonburg took advantage of the miscue, driving the rest of the way for the score to make it 22-6.  The Minutemen’s hopes of a comeback seemed paltry.

While the M-Men were able to pile up over 400 yards of total offense behind freshman quarterback Austin Porter, much of that went for naught.

The Minutemen were, once again, beset with buttery fingers.  They coughed up the ball a total of six times, losing possession on three of those occasions.  They also were picked off three times, for a total of six turnovers.

You don’t beat the defending Region III (Division 4) champions by turning it over that many times.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the long-range prognosis of the Liberty program.

Sure, the Minutemen were roughed up by Harrisonburg, but Liberty also had 10 players on the sidelines in various states of disrepair.  During the game, four more players were dragged off.  Still, as undermanned as they were, the M-Men showed flashes of brilliance.

Again, you don’t beat a team of Harrisonburg’s caliber without your two starting safeties (Breon Brawley and Josh Martin, both out with injuries).

“We had a lot of fresh faces out there,” admitted Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts.

“Still,” added the coach, “If we’d put a couple of drives into the  end zone...”

Who knows?

Now the Minutemen look to jump-start the 2012 campaign with a win over, of all teams, Amherst.

The Lancers have been the district’s dominant dog for half a decade and more.  This year, that run came to an end as Amherst dealt with an offense that, at times, seemed anemic.

Amherst stands 4-5, overall, but still has a very strong shot at a playoff berth in Division 4.  And, once the Lancers are invited to the dance, they are capable of creating all types of mayhem.

At Minutemen Stadium, it will be a game between two giants that are in the midst of rebuilding years.  Both are young; both have bright futures ahead.

Amherst has more to play for, so Liberty should be looser.  Our prediction is that this one will come down to who commits the fewest mistakes.