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Minutemen head to Magna Vista

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Face potent air attack in playoff opener

By Mike Forster

 

Magna Vista translates from the Latin as "great view" or "great vision." 

The Magna Vista team which Liberty will face in its playoff opener should provide the Minutemen with a great view into whether they've got what it takes to make a deep playoff run.

During the course of the regular season, the Minutemen have pretty much been the ones who have determined the fate of games.  

When they have played their best football, such as during big wins against Buckingham County and Amherst, the M-Men have been devastating.

When they have been prone to errors or have been unable to deliver at critical times, they've taken it on the chin.

Liberty may get scant respect coming into the playoffs.  After all, the Minutemen didn't even earn a home opener.  They're a less-than-impressive tenth seed in 3A-West.  The team has not earned the elan of programs such as Amherst and Brookville, having last won more than a single playoff game in one season in 2005.

But, this team also has a lot of plus signs hanging around it.  For starters, Liberty could as easily be 9-1 as it is 7-3 (which it is).

The Minutemen were stopped against eventual Seminole champ Heritage by the guys they see when they look in the mirror:  undone by a trove o' turnovers.

Against Brookville, they needed to make a single play to run out the clock, but faltered, giving the Bees new life.

Glass was really the only game where they seemed overmatched.

Magna Vista will be a tough contest.  The 9-1 Warriors seem to be the real deal.  What's of greater concern is that the Magna Vista passing game is the real deal.

"They can score on any play," noted Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts.  "Which is true of a lot of the teams we've played [this season]."

Quarterback Shoalin McGuire has thrown for 1,729 yards thus far.  He's also got a nifty 58 percent completion rate.  As Liberty's Achilles' Heel this season has been its pass defense, the sophomore slinger is likely licking his chops.

McGuire likes to throw to Bryce Harkins (44 receptions) and George Ramey (24 catches, four touchdowns).

The Warriors also have a solid rushing attack, led by Jacquez Hairston (151 carries for 911 yards).

While Magna Vista has run a balanced attack from its shotgun-spread, we suspect the Warriors will be more pass-happy against Liberty, given the strength of the Minutemen rushing defense.

"We have to make plays," noted Watts.  "But first we have to be in position."

Defensively, Magna Vista may have the finest pass defense in the area.  That crew is led by JaiQuan Harrison, who has had six interceptions, including a 60 yard return for a touchdown in last weekend's 54-0 win over Bassett.

Other defensive standouts for Magna include linebacker Chanco Estes and 275-pound defensive end Xavier Greenfield.

"I still don't feel we've played our best four quarters," said Watts.  "Now is the time.

"It's put up or shut up time."