Liberty’s playoff hopes fade as injuries plague team

November 3, 2011

By Christina Lords

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Liberty High School coach Steve Valach certainly had higher expectations than to finish regular season play with just three wins. So did his players.

With a 33-0 loss on Oct. 28 against the Bellevue Wolverines, any hopes of a 2011 post-season faded.

“As a team, I still think we played well enough to grab that No. 3 spot for the playoffs,” Valach said. “Ability wise, we were good enough to do that. We just didn’t get it done.”

Jordan West, Liberty High School senior quarterback, leaps over a Juanita defender for a few more of his 26 yards on a third-quarter rushing play Oct. 21 against the Rebels. By Greg Farrar

After picking up a 42-7 victory against Lake Washington, the Patriots fell to Mercer Island, 32-10, on Oct. 14.

The two key losses for the Patriots were their Sept. 23 matchup against Mount Si and their Oct. 21 home game against the Interlake Saints, Valach said.

Liberty was up 13-0 at the half and gave away 16 unanswered points in an overtime loss to the Wildcats. The Patriots made two 14-point surges in the second and fourth quarters of the Interlake game, but couldn’t overcome the Saints in a narrow 33-28 loss.

“In a lot of ways, it was a very frustrating season,” Valach said. “We talk about it’s all about us, it’s all about us. And for us, it wasn’t about getting beat, it’s that we were the ones losing the game.”

The Patriots went 3-6 on the season.

Part of the team’s difficulties was related to several key injuries to critical players in the Liberty lineup.

Senior running back Hamilton Noel was sidelined after a separated shoulder injury at the Mount Si game.

“Hamilton is the heart and soul of our team,” Valach said. “He didn’t always say much, but he would always lead by example. He’s definitely a good player.”

Senior running back Tei Staladi sustained a cracked collarbone injury late in the season.

“It’s part of the game, and it seems like sometimes part of having a good season means good fortune when it comes to injuries,” Valach said. “It definitely impacts you in terms of momentum and continuity.”

Despite Liberty’s shutout against Bellevue, the team’s coaching staff respected the way the Patriots played, he said.

“They fought four full quarters in that game,” he said. “We were down to our No. 6 running back. I was just proud of how they fought and they scrapped and they played hard. As a coach, it was actually really satisfying.”

Liberty will play in a crossover game against the Ingraham Rams at Liberty on Nov. 4.


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