Minutemen advance to Region III final

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Reynolds runs wild in win over Alleghany

By Mike Forster

It’s nice to have that homefield advantage.

Therefore, the Minutemen ensured that nobody left early.

Indeed, everybody stuck around to see Liberty rebound from an Alleghany comeback.

In the end, Liberty topped Alleghany by the score of 24-13.

A game that could have been iced before halftime, though, became a nail-biter.

Here’s the skinny.

Liberty showed early domination in this one.

That’s early with a capital “E.”  Anthony Reynolds broke free on the Minutemen’s first play from scrimmage, bolting 77 yards off the left side to draw first blood.

The second time Liberty got the ball, it took all of five plays to score, as Reynolds, fullback Thomas Clark and quarterback Kody Outhong all churned out big yardage over the 74-yard drive.

At this point, folks began trying to recall what the details of the mercy rule were.

After the Liberty defense kept the normally potent Alleghany passing game bottled up, the Minutemen took over on their own 27.

From there, Outhong led his Minutemen on a methodical 14-play drive, which featured Thomas Clark fighting for a first down on a fourth-and-two from the Alleghany 39 yard line.

Josh Smith also had a nice 14-yard pickup.

Outhong connected with Breon Brawley on an 18-yard pass play to put the ball on the 17.

Reynolds fought his way to the 12.

It was Clark to the four.

And that’s where the Minutemen coughed it up.

Maurice Nelson made the recovery for Alleghany, keeping the Mountaineer hopes alive.

While quarterback Seth Bradley couldn’t get much mojo going for the ‘Neers, they were at least only down 12-0 at that point.

Alleghany punted from its own end zone.

Liberty took over on its 46 yard line.

And promptly fumbled.

This time Bradley took advantage of the gift.

He rifled passes to Lucas Kirby and Ashby Taylor.

With Alleghany on the Liberty 26, Bradley scrambled right.  Then left. Finally, he found Kirby all alone in the end zone, a beneficiary of some Minutemen over-pursuit.

Kirby fell to his knees to haul in the toss.

Liberty 12, Alleghany 7 would stand through halftime.

Alleghany seemed to be the team with all the MO, opening powerfully with its first possession of the second half.

Halfback Steven Gibson found his sea legs, and peeled off big runs through the gut of the Liberty defense.

On a fourth-and-goal from the three, Bradley called his own number and sauntered into the Liberty end zone for a 13-12 lead.

To Liberty’s credit, nary a head was hanging low after that score.

Quintell Starks returned the ensuing kickoff to his own 44 yard line.

On the first play from scrimmage, Reynolds turned on the jets and blew past the ‘Neer defense to reestablish the Minutemen lead, 18-13.

It would not be relinquished again.

“I saw that we were losing and said, ‘That’s not going to happen’,” said Reynolds.

The last score came on an 85-yard drive that ate up a lot of clock and ended with Reynolds diving for the end zone pylon, to cap a 12-yard jaunt.

The cherry would be applied via a monster hit by linebacker Clark.  That hit caused a fumble that Jerry Thompson recovered on the Liberty 37.

From there, Liberty ground out the last five minutes of the game.

“That was a tough one,” said Clark afterwards.  “But, it’s crunch time.”

Added center Taylor Kennedy, “We had to keep playing the whole game.”

He didn’t seem to mind, though.  “The backs came back to the huddle after each play and thanked us.”

They should have, considering the line enabled the backs to rush for an impressive 519 yards.

Still, what matters is the number on the scoreboard.  This time, the Minutemen would prevail, only after giving Alleghany life when none was merited.

Fortunately, Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts has blonde hair, which nicely masks some of the grays he picked up in this one.

Game notes

-Kennedy and Outhong have been a center-quarterback combination since they were six years old, according to Kennedy.  “All along, we’ve thought about a state championship,” he added.

-Those 519 rushing yards were posted in large part due to contributions by Reynolds (253), Outhong (93), Clark (120).

-In spite of Reynolds’ prodigious output on offense, Watts stated that he was more impressed with the safety’s play on defense.  He’ll get no argument from this newspaper.

-The crowd size was surprisingly low, given the importance of this game.  A $7 ticket price (mandated by the VHSL) was thought to be the proximate reason for the low turnout.