Injuries plague the Patriots after stumbling out of the gate

October 4, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Scott Coburn
Robbie Thomas, Liberty High School senior quarterback, drops back to pass during Liberty’s 25-22 victory over Hazen High School on Sept. 7.

After a rocky 2-3 start to the season, Liberty High School coach Steve Valach said his team needs to focus on taking care of the football and staying healthy, with just four games left in the regular season.

The Patriots opened their season with a 41-14 loss to a talented Eastside Catholic team.

“Eastside Catholic was a good football team,” Valach said. “From what I saw, their team is going to make a playoff run.”

Liberty won their next two games, defeating Hazen, 25-22, and Interlake, 14-7.

Receiver Tynan Gilmore was the standout of the Sept. 7 contest against Hazen, when he scored three touchdowns and led the defense with seven solo tackles.

“He’s such a dynamic player,” Valach said. “He’s a smart football player. He’s one of those guys that you don’t really know how fast he is, but he just makes people miss. He caught the ball well and he had some great tackles.”

The game against Interlake was a team win, Valach said, with solid contributions from everyone.

The Patriots then fell to the Juanita Rebels on Sept. 21 after a close game, with a final score of 21-28. At halftime, the score was tied at 14, but Liberty took a hit when three key starters — including quarterback Robbie Thomas — were knocked out of the game with injuries.

The injuries continued to pile up through the week, as the shorthanded Liberty squad lost to Lake Washington, 38-7, on Sept. 28.

Key Liberty starters, including Thomas, linebackers Alex Batali and Matt Maggard and cornerback Ashby Brown, were among those sidelined by injuries.

“We’re a very thin squad in terms of numbers, which in the sport of football is tough, because guys start going down and all of the sudden, you just don’t have a lot of depth,” Valach said. “So, that’s made it challenging.”

To date, Valach said he has been impressed with the play of Gilmore, defensive lineman Max Hill and Scott Dean, a linebacker and receiver.

Hill has been a disruptive force for the Liberty defense. During the Interlake game, Hill led the team with four solo tackles, four assists and a quarterback sack.

Dean has also been steady, with solid play on both sides of the ball.

Coming into the season, Valach stressed the importance of fundamentals for his young Patriots squad, in particular, taking care of the football. Yet, turnovers continue to be an issue for Liberty and have been important factors in each of the team’s losses, Valach said.

Now, the team will focus on staying healthy, taking care of the football and just enjoying the sport, as the season continues, Valach said.

“It’s a fun group to coach and you couldn’t ask for anything more in terms of that,” Valach said. “They are giving what they’ve got and getting banged up. Guys are heartbroken that they’re getting injured. It’s a physical sport, and sometimes you have years like this and it’s our turn.”

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