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It means sustaining long drives.
It also means holding onto the darn thing.
Liberty had little trouble with the former but was done in by the latter. As a result, the Minutemen saw their season come to a close on the chilly fields of Rockbridge County.
After allowing the Wildcats to ring up a blitzkrieg-like 17-0 advantage in the early going, Liberty fought back to make it a game. Still, it was too much to overcome, as the Cats took the win, 52-40.
That 17-0 edge was fed, in large part, by three early Liberty fumbles The Minutemen fumbled the ball six times, losing it on four occasions. Additionally, the Cat defense picked off three passes in this bevy of booted opportunities.
"That first quarter killed us," said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts. "I don't know if we were gun-shy, but we sure shot ourselves in the foot."
Indeed, after Rockbridge took the opening kickoff and drove 66 yards for a touchdown, Liberty showed shakiness.
On the ensuing kickoff, Liberty fumbled the ball. Fortunately, Minuteman Devin Carper pounced on it. On the third play from scrimmage, however, the M-Men coughed it up again. This time, Wildcat Grayson Coleman collected the loose ball. Five plays later, Cat quarterback Porter Abell danced into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
On Liberty's next play from scrimmage, they butterfingered the ball again. This time, Richie Tomlin made the recovery. That boot was parlayed into a field goal. It was 17-0 and the halfway point of the first quarter hadn't been reached yet.
Liberty had touched the ball six times and fumbled on three of them. This one had all the makings of a long night for the several hundred Minutemen fans who'd made the arduous haul to Lexington.
Things seemed especially dreary when the Minutemen had another boot, this one on the second play of their next series. Fortunately, Matt Smith recovered, keeping Liberty's chances alive.
The M-Men made the most of that opportunity, as quarterback Austin Porter led a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with the sophomore signal caller diving into the end zone on a 12-yard dash. Porter showed resounding resiliency as he absorbed at least three resounding shots on his way to paydirt.
On Liberty's next possession, Dustin Hiner chomped up 55 yards of turf on three carries, bringing Liberty within striking distance. Porter did the striking, scoring on a short quarterback sneak.
Suddenly, it was 17-13, and time for Rockbridge's Abell to show why he's heading to the University of Richmond next year. After Cheyenne Pooley's interception of a Porter pass, Abell struck with a 54-yard scoring strike to an all-alone Colton Wilson.
But Liberty's big playmaker Tre'von Lightfoot wasn't about to let the Cats carry momentum into the half.
With 90 seconds remaining in the half, Lightfoot took a swing pass in the flat from Porter. He then jetted 64 yards, diving just inside the pylon to cut the Cat lead to 24-19.
Whoops! Abell wasn't about to let Liberty go to the half with Big Mo on its side. He did most of the carrying on a 64-yard scoring drive, which he punctuated with a 12-yard bullet of a pass to Cameron Wood. 31-19.
Liberty started the second half by fumbling the kickoff. Fortunately, big man Chris Crock had the wherewithal to nimbly pounce on the loose ball.
Then Porter, who Rockbridge Head Coach Jason White called "an even better person than he is a football player," got rolling. He led Liberty on two drives that netted a Liberty touchdown (Dustin Hiner's one-yard plunge) and kept the Cat offense off the field: It was limited to one three-play set over the third quarter.
At 31-27, the game seemed to be in Liberty's grasp. Then, another bounce went Rockbridge's way. A pitch to Pooley bounced off the Cat's hands, hit the turf and bounced right back to him. He ambled for big yards before being brought down. Liberty was flagged for a horse collar tackle and Rockbridge was suddenly on the M-Men 30. Six plays later, Porter shimmied into the end zone.
Liberty lineman Josh Quick was heard bellowing, "Take it to the house, Matthew," prior to the ensuing kickoff.
Quick got his wish, if not his guy, as Lightfoot did, indeed, take it to the house. The senior's return of the kick to payolla-land, cut the Rocky lead to 38-33.
But that darn Abell guy did it again. His 52-yard jaunt through the 4-hole, set up Omar White's touchdown. Wilson then put it to bed, for all intents and purposes, with his interception of a Porter pass which bounced off a gaggle of players.
Both Liberty and Rockbridge were playing for a shot at payback.
The last time each of these teams made it to the playoffs, their hopes were dashed by losses to Brookville. Rockbridge fell to the Bees last year in the Region III semifinals. Liberty was felled by the Brookvillians in 2009 in the Regional final.
So, both teams knew that they'd likely get a shot at Brookville if they could get past the formidable obstacle opposite them on the sidelines of the Rockhouse.
Of course, Rockbridge faces quite an obstacle in Brookville. The Rockies are the second seed in Region III (Div. 3), while Brookville is #1.