Hazen, Liberty squads among league leaders

October 7, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Greg Ericksen, Liberty senior running back, eludes Mercer Island senior cornerback Payden Bjornestad, for a 56-yard touchdown run in the Patriots 35-14 win over the Islanders. By Greg Farrar

Greg Ericksen, Liberty senior running back, eludes Mercer Island senior cornerback Payden Bjornestad, for a 56-yard touchdown run in the Patriots 35-14 win over the Islanders. By Greg Farrar

While not as catchy as Muhammed Ali’s title bouts the “Thrilla in Manila” or “Rumble in the Jungle,” the “Battle for Newcastle” is set for Oct. 10.

That’s when the city’s two high schools renew their rivalry for the first time in four years. Both teams enter the game among the leaders in their respective conferences — Hazen is 3-1 in the Seamount League, while Liberty is 2-0 in KingCo 3A and 3-1 overall. 

Hazen coach Scott Leick said the team’s strong chemistry has been the key to its early success.

“The guys have been working hard and playing as a team,” he said. “The defense has played amazingly well and we have been able to get off to quick starts in the games, including a 31-yard fumble recovery against Evergreen on the first play of the game and an opening drive on offense for a touchdown against Highline.”

 

Trey Wheeler, (left, 7), Liberty sophomore quarterback, runs for a first down during a Patriot scoring drive Sept. 5 against Ballard.  By Greg Farrar

Trey Wheeler, (left, 7), Liberty sophomore quarterback, runs for a first down during a Patriot scoring drive Sept. 5 against Ballard. By Greg Farrar

Liberty has also gotten off to a good start.

“I attribute our early success to good senior leadership and good team speed,” said Liberty coach Steve Valach.

With Issaquah High School moving up to play in the 4A league, Liberty no longer has the Eagles on its schedule.

“While we’re no longer playing Issaquah, it’s only natural that we play Hazen,” Valach said. “A lot of our kids are looking forward to the Hazen game, having played 5-Star football (a youth tackle football league in the Renton Highlands) with and against many of the Hazen players.”

Leick said it’s exciting to play Liberty again.

“Since we are so close to each other, it is a natural rival,” he said.

On Oct. 3, Hazen plays Lindbergh at Renton Stadium and Liberty plays at Juanita.

Here’s a look at how the Highlanders and the Patriots seasons have unfolded:

Week one

 

 Travis Johnson (above, 14), Hazen sophomore quarterback, throws a pass Sept. 26 in the first quarter against the Renton Indians. By Greg Farrar

Travis Johnson (above, 14), Hazen sophomore quarterback, throws a pass Sept. 26 in the first quarter against the Renton Indians. By Greg Farrar

Hazen: The Highlanders opened their season with a convincing 33-0 shutout against Evergreen. Hazen opened the scoring on a 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Matt Hu. James Holland scored on touchdown runs of 17 yards and 11 yards and Tyler Searles caught two touchdown passes from Travis Johnson to lead Hazen. 

Liberty: Senior running back Greg Ericksen scored three touchdowns in leading the Patriots to a 43-7 rout of the Ballard Beavers in its Sept. 5 season opener at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. Ericksen scored on runs of 10 yards and 21 yards and an electrifying 65-yard pass catch and run. Sophomore quarterback Trey Wheeler completed 8 of 12 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Week two

Hazen: Holland rushed for 152 yards on 20 carries, including touchdown runs of 2 yards and 37 yards as the Highlanders got their second straight shutout victory in downing Highline 21-0. Elias Lunsford scored on a 1-yard run for Hazen’s other touchdown.

Liberty: Woodinville scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to spoil Liberty’s Sept. 12 home opener, 34-17. Two late drives by Woodinville senior quarterback Tim Ip sealed the win for the Falcons in what was a close game up until halfway through the fourth quarter. 

Week three

Hazen: Holland rushed for 101 yards and scored two touchdowns in leading Hazen to a 22-12 victory against Foster at Neudorf Memorial Stadium in Tukwila. Defensive tackle Courtney Sanders scored a safety to open the scoring. Johnson connected with Arjuna Bridges on a 10-yard scoring touchdown pass in the first quarter.

Liberty: Ericksen pounded out 137 yards on eight carries as Liberty downed Mercer Island 35-14 in a KingCo 3A Conference opener for both teams. Wheeler tossed two touchdown passes for the Patriots, who outscored the Islanders 28-0 in the second half. Senior linebacker and co-captain Malcolm Dike had two interceptions for Liberty.

 

Week four

Hazen:  Renton crushed Hazen 54-0 putting an end to the Highlanders perfect start of the season. Ronnielle Battles returned a first-quarter punt 95 yards for a touchdown, and the Indians scored on an interception and a fumble recovery for touchdowns. Hazen had allowed only 12 points in its previous three games.

Liberty: Liberty jumped out to a 27-0 lead after the first quarter and coasted afterward in a 55-21 win against Sammamish. Sophomore running back Chandler Jenkins rushed for 103 yards and three scores on nine carries for the Patriots.

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