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Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Liberty had its chances against Brookville, but fell to the homestanding Bees, 28-14, in front of a packed Beehive.
That crowd (at least the Brookville part of it) was sent into an early delirium when Deshon Foxx returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
“That kickoff return got us in a hole,” said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts.
The Bees made it 14-0 early in the second half when Kendall Becraft threw a 24-yard strike to a fully extended Travis Riley, in the end zone.
Riley simply could not have been covered any better by Liberty’s Quintell Starks. The pitch was just perfect.
What had not been perfect was Liberty’s first-half performance in the red zone.
The Minutemen ably worked their way into striking distance, only to be undone by miscues and misfortune.
As a result, Liberty came up empty in those three tries.
“You just can’t do that against a good football team,” rued Watts.
The coach wasn’t rueful for long. After the halftime homecoming festivities, a different-looking Liberty team emerged.
The Minutemen threw bruising Thomas Clark at the Bee defense. Clark’s punishing runs had the Brookvillians tightening up on D. Then, Liberty used the old trickeroo: a halfback option pass. Anthony Reynolds threw a beaut of a bomb, which Starks pulled in. Starks then played pinball wizard with a trio of Bee defenders, before finally succumbing at the two.
From there, Reynolds punched it in, to cut the Bee lead in half.
After punishing hits by Josh Smith, Matt Kerr, Doug Schaeffer and Clark froze the Bees on their next possession, Brookville lined up to punt.
The snap sailed over the head of Bee punter Shane Wood, who was mobbed on the eight yard line.
Clark bulled for six yards before Kody Outhong hit paydirt on the quarterback sneak.
The packed Liberty stands went berserk, as silence settled over the Brookville side.
Becraft wouldn’t let that stand for long. Following the kickoff, the sophomore quickly hit Guy Morris for an 11-yard pickup.
Then he found Foxx for 18.
Liking that, he tossed a swing pass to Foxx who caught it in stride, taking off like a bullet for the end zone.
The tie score had held up for exactly two minutes and thirty-six seconds.
Making matters worse for the Minutemen, they fumbled on their next possession.
“We had all that momentum, put it on the ground and gave them a short field,” lamented Watts.
Brookville recovered, with Michael Carwile doing the honors.
It took Becraft exactly one play to find Holton Walker all by his lonesome, in the Liberty end zone.
Brookville 28, Liberty 14.
It would stay that way until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The litany of red zone miscues was not pretty.
On Liberty’s first drive, Bee Dustin Maner stepped in front of Kerr to pick off an Outhong pass in the end zone.
On the Minutemen’s next possession, they drove to the Brookville 18, before the Bees sacked Outhong on third down and forced him to hurry his throw on fourth down.
Just before halftime, Liberty drove to the Brookville seven yard line before fumbling the ball away, with Bee Korren Kirven recovering on his own three yard line.
From there, the Bees ran out the clock.
“We didn’t get done what we needed to on offense,” stated Watts.
He’ll get no argument from this quarter.
Meanwhile, holding Brookville to 28 points doesn’t seem too glamorous, until you realize the Bees have averaged over 49 points per game.
“This was a maturing game for us,” said Brookville Head Coach Jeff Woody. “Now we have defeated a formidable opponent.
“We’ve put ourselves in the driver’s seat, but we need to get better every week. We can’t sleep.”
There was probably little sleep for Liberty that Friday evening. And what little there was, most likely was fitful.
The team would like another shot at the Bees, no doubt. To do that, though, there is a great amount of lifting still ahead for these Minutemen.