Patriots gear up for here and now

September 2, 2011

By Christina Lords

Liberty team looks to continue success of past seasons

Today, not tomorrow.

Those are the words the Liberty High School football team will live and die by to maintain the past several years’ momentum heading into the 2011 season.

Josh Gordon, right, Liberty senior running back, is at the head of a row of teammates in a dexterity running exercise during a Patriot preseason drill. By Greg Farrar

That phrase, or TNT, is something the team’s leadership said they’ve set in their sights to keep them explosive during every play of every practice.

“What’s nice about our school is that we’re not really known for having the top athletes or players, but we work really hard,” said Kevin Ahrens, a junior returning offensive and defensive lineman. “We bust our butt to get it done in the off-season, and we play as a team. That’s been our calling card.”

After losing in the quarterfinals of the post-season to Bellevue last year, Ahrens said the team is focusing on building on each successful play and picking up the pace on the defensive end of the ball.

Liberty coach Steve Valach said if the new team can learn to win and play in the moment, each of those minor successes would turn into larger ones.

“My hope would be that they gain positive experience, and for our guys who haven’t played a lot do play, that they gain confidence,” he said. “So much of being successful out there is believing in your ability to get it done.”

With a 20-6 record the past two seasons, Liberty must look to returning defensive and offensive senior linemen Anthony Olobia and Jalen Robinson, as well as Ahrens, to add protection upfront.

“My hope on both sides of the football is that our line can set the tone,” Valach said. “If you’re good up front, you always have a chance. It just makes you better all over.”

Team members will play a critical role in allowing new starting senior quarterback Jordan West to step into the place of former quarterback Trey Wheeler, Valach said.

“I would imagine the perception is, from the outside looking in, that Liberty’s down a little bit,” Valach said. “I just think we’re different. Sometimes when you have talented players, you definitely lean on them. When you don’t have them, you find where your strengths are, and you maximize those areas.”

West said he hopes to use people’s perceptions of how losing Wheeler will affect Liberty to his advantage.

“It’s like they don’t know what to expect, which I like,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard … going to a lot of camps and going to these work outs. I’m just very excited.”

Losing running back Chandler Jenkins and receiver Jake Bainton, who graduated last year, could also be seen as a void, he said.

“We love the fact that no knows what to expect of us, that there’s no expectations,” said Sean Komendat, a defensive linebacker. “We love that we can go out there and show what our class has to offer.”

Senior running backs Hamilton Noel, Josh Gordon and Connor Hudson, as well as junior running back Tynan Gilmore, will also be players to watch as the Patriots progress through the season, Valach said.

“Everyone thinks we have nothing because we lost those three guys, but they never saw our full depth last year,” said Shane Small, a defensive lineman. “We don’t really lose players, we just reload and keep going.”

The Patriots will face Skyline High School, an opponent they beat 39-34 in the first game of last season, at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 in Sammamish.

“For us, it’s not how good we are Sept. 2,” Valach said. “It’s how good we are in late October. How much better have we gotten? I think that will be the test of us.”

 

Liberty 2011 football schedule

 All games at 7 p.m.

Date Opponent

Sept. 2 at Skyline

Sept. 9 at Issaquah

Sept. 16 Sammamish

Sept. 23 at Mount Si

Sept. 30 Juanita

Oct. 7 at Lake Washington

Oct. 14 Mercer Island

Oct. 21 Interlake

Oct. 28 at Bellevue

Nov. 4 Playoffs

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