Liberty grabs share of Seminole, top seed with win over Heritage

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Defense carries day for M-Men

By Mike Forster

They don’t all have to be pretty.

Liberty showed that it is an indiscriminate winner, taking the good and the bad, as long as it translates into a win.

For the ninth time this season, the Minutemen came away victorious, topping Heritage at City Stadium, 24-7.

The M-Men, looking a bit rusty from their bye week, relied on a swarming defense to subdue the Pioneers.

How good was the defense?  Well consider this:

-In the first half, the Pioneers were held to -8 yards of total offense.

-For the game, the Minutemen yielded a total of 102 yards (65 passing and 37 rushing).

-The lone Heritage touchdown came after a Liberty fumble set the Pioneers up at the Minutemen 15.

That level of defense isn’t a brand new development.  For the season, the Minutemen have yielded 11.7 points a game.  “That is the lowest in my 21 years (of coaching),” said Liberty defensive coordinator Stewart Grant.

For the entire regular season, the Minutemen allowed an average of 181 yards per game.  Keep in mind that such an impressive stat came over a slate that included seven (eventual) playoff teams.

The Minutemen offense did enough.

Anthony Reynolds drew first blood as he darted into the end zone for a seven-yard score.

His tally had been set up by a fine punt return by Thomas Clark.  

Clark got some glory for himself in the second quarter, when he rambled for a 29-yard touchdown.

Josh Smith would wrap up the Liberty scoring in the first half, as he capped a scoring drive with a two-yard dive.

The second half seemed it would be more of the same.

The Liberty defense stood strong on Heritage’s only real drive of the evening.

The Pioneers came up short on fourth down, turning the ball over to the M-Men.

Liberty returned the favor, only in quicker fashion.

A fumble on Liberty’s first play from scrimmage gave the Pioneers a first-and-ten from the Minutemen 15.

Quarterback Jevonte Parrish found J.R. Randolph in the end zone for a 12-yard strike.

Any hope that gave the sparse Heritage crowd was quickly extinguished, as Reynolds took off on an 88-yard return of the ensuing kickoff.

That’s how dreams are dashed.

While the clock wound down on this one, Heritage fans were left to check tweets and twits to find out how Turner Ashby did against Harrisonburg.

With TA falling to the Harrisonburgers, 42-13, Heritage was able to back into the final playoff slot in Division 4.  

So, it wasn’t too bad of a night for Heritage.

The upshot

The win did two things for Liberty:  gave it a share of the Seminole title and gave it the top seed in Division 3.

“The Seminole championship is nice,” said Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts.  “It’s good recognition for what the kids have done.  But getting home field advantage is big.”

The advantage starts with a bye.  Next Friday, Liberty will host the winner of the Alleghany-R.E. Lee game this Friday night.

Should Liberty win that tilt, it will host the Regional finals.

Region III hosts Region IV in this year’s state semifinals.  So, should the Minutemen advance that far, they’ll host.

“As long as we win, we’re staying home,” said Watts.  “We’re in control of that.”

Watts and crew will be heading up to Alleghany this Friday night; another advantage of being the top dog in the VHSL standings.

While Alleghany and R.E. Lee are slugging it out, the Liberty crowd can scout to its heart content.

-By the way, Reynolds’s two touchdowns gives him 102 points scored for the season.

-Finally, Heritage rushed  for 39 total yards, 31 of which came on a single run by DeShawn Wooten.