Patriots prepare for playoffs despite 35-17 loss to Wildcats

November 7, 2014

By Sam Kenyon

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The Liberty High School Patriots fell to the Mount Si Wildcats, 35-17, in a game that dropped Liberty’s season record to 6-3. The game on Halloween, Oct. 31, was the final game of the regular season before Liberty heads into the 2A playoffs to face Fife on Nov. 7.

“It’s disappointing because it felt like we were in the game and we could win,” head coach Steve Valach said.

The Patriots scored first blood against the Wildcats with a touchdown run from junior running back Joe Cunningham in the first quarter. The touchdown came after an interception thrown by Mount Si quarterback Jonathan Hillel. The early touchdown was the only time Liberty had the lead. Later in the first quarter, Hillel punched through on a quarterback keeper to tie the game.

A few minutes later, at the start of the second quarter, Liberty junior quarterback Nate Solly threw an interception. Mount Si’s sophomore linebacker Cory Cotto returned it 40 yards for the Wildcats’ second touchdown.

Neither team scored again in the first half. Mount Si missed a field goal attempt several possessions later. On the final play of the second quarter, Solly threw another interception. But since the Patriots got the ball after halftime the picked-off pass had little impact on the game.

“I think we had opportunities,” Valach said. “Football is a game of momentum.”

At 6:56 of the third quarter, the Patriots’ junior kicker, Brandon Niblock, successfully sent a 40-yard field goal through the uprights, the longest field goal of the season.

On the following possession, Hillel threw his second touchdown pass, bringing the score to 21-10. But Liberty responded with an excellent drive using its strong running game.

“That’s kind of who we are, we run the football,” Valach said.

The Patriots ran in a touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter, bringing the score to 21-17.

Mount Si responded with another long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

There was a moment in the Patriots’ next possession that broke the game against them. They used their rushing strength to get to just outside field goal range, but the Mount Si defense held them to their fourth down. The Patriots decided to go for it on fourth and 3, but the Wildcats stopped them and took the ball.

“We were right there and we didn’t quite complete the play,” Valach said. “That’s football.”

The Wildcats converted that defensive stop into another final touchdown, bringing the score to 35-17 with seven minutes left.

For the rest of the game it appeared the Patriots had no more fight in them. The Wildcats broke through their defense for some big sacks. Neither team scored again.

Liberty faced one handicap in the game because several players were on the injury list. Without some of the first-string players on offense and defense, the team was weakened. Looking ahead to the team’s next game with Fife, Valach said he hoped the injuries wouldn’t linger.

“You never like to see guys get hurt,” he said.

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