Liberty eyes KingCo playoffs in 2008

September 3, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Richard Crespo, Liberty senior wide receiver, hauls in a pass during Patriots team football practice. Photo by Greg FarrarRichard Crespo, Liberty senior wide receiver, hauls in a pass during Patriots team football practice. Photo by Greg Farrar

 

An experienced squad of more than 20 seniors will lead the Liberty High School varsity football team this fall, said Coach Steve Valach.

With the split-up of the KingCo conference and the larger schools playing in the 4A category, the Patriots will no longer play Issaquah and Skyline in league action. But for the next two years, Liberty will renew an old rivalry, when it plays Hazen High School for the first time since 2004.

Liberty will see the return of six starters on offense and four on defense. The Patriots were 4-4 in KingCo league play and 5-5 overall last season.

“We think we’re a playoff team with our experience and attitude,” Valach said regarding the team’s chances of garnering one of the three KingCo playoff berths.

Among the top returning starters is senior running back Greg Ericksen, who ran 600 yards last year. Ericksen rushed for 264 yards in Liberty’s 21-13 win against Rainier Beach.

“He’s one of the top 10 runners in the league, and he really found his niche,” Valach said.

A trio of running backs will also see plenty of action, including sophomore Chandler Jenkins and seniors Turner Chatterton and Alec Ernst. Chatterton rushed for 223 yards, and Jenkins ran for 133 yards last year.

Quarterbacking the offense is senior Taylor Hamman, who played wide receiver last year for the Patriots. Sophomore Jake Baiton will back up Hamman and play wide receiver.

Senior Ca Do, a three-year starter, anchors the offensive line. Joining Do on the line will be sophomore Kylan Marlow; juniors Josh Spurgeon and Alex Kaser; and seniors Tyler Phillips and David Thomas.

Returning on the defensive line are Do, Phillips, Marlowe and Spurgeon. Senior Malcolm Dike returns at linebacker, and back in the secondary are Ericksen, Chatterton, Ernst and senior Joseph Yea.

The Patriots open the season Sept. 5 against Ballard at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.

“We’ve never played at Memorial Stadium, at least in my 10 years here,” Valach said of the nonleague game. “It should be pretty exciting.”

Bellevue High School will once again be the team to beat in the conference followed by Mount Si, which has several players returning, Valach said.

On Oct. 10, Liberty renews its rivalry with Hazen. Liberty defeated Hazen 49-21 in the 2004 meeting of the two schools located in the Renton Highlands. The preceding year, Liberty shut out Hazen 33-0.

“Scheduling Hazen just makes a lot of sense,” Valach said. “The kids grow up in the same area and know one another. It’s the neighborhood match up.”

Valach said he has been impressed with the team in preseason workouts, including the squad’s annual hike up Mount Si held Aug. 18.

“The Mount Si run is certainly a great team building exercise,” he said.

Earlier this summer, about a dozen players grunted, wheezed and sweated though a 90-minute yoga session at Hot Yoga in downtown Issaquah. The studio was heated to 105 degrees for the session. The intense heat allows for greater flexibility and removes toxins from the body, said Bonnie Dike, a yoga instructor at Hot Yoga.

Bonnie’s son Malcolm is a seasoned veteran when it comes to yoga.

“We hope the extra flexibility and focus will give us an edge,” he said.

Valach said he’s an optimist and a realist when it comes to the Patriots’ chances in 2008.

“I know we’re not loaded with 300-pound linemen, and coaches at Pac 10 schools are not pounding on my door to contact players,” he said. “But this is a close-knit team that has really good team speed and a great work ethic.”

Patriots Schedule
All games start at 7 p.m. unless noted
Sept. 5 -at Ballard
(Memorial Stadium)
Sept. 12 – Woodinville
Sept. 19 – at Mercer Island
Sept. 26 – Sammamish 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 – at Juanita
Oct. 10 – Hazen
Oct. 17 – Interlake
Oct. 24 – at Bellevue 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 – Mount Si

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