After trailing by only 4, Liberty allows 31 second-half points to Broad Run
Martin Parker had 178 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns Friday, but it wasn't nearly enough in a 52-24 loss to Broad Run. -- Photo By Rick Wasser
While the Liberty Eagles are rigid and exploitable defensively, they’re emotionally resilient.
Even after Liberty lost to the Briar Woods Spartans, 52-24, Friday and dropped to 1-3, the Eagles refused to wallow in despair.
Liberty senior running back Sean Carter met his teammates at the locker room entrance in Ashburn and slapped as many hands as possible when they passed, saying the season “Ain’t over. Let’s go.”
Eagles coach Sean Finnerty asserted their challenging schedule has limited Liberty’s wins but will soon reap benefits. Junior running back Martin Parker said Liberty just needed to “pick up the little mistakes, and we’re good.”
In short, the Eagles still expect to qualify for the Class 4A North Region tournament, even after the loss to Broad Run (4-1).
“They’re very positive,” Finnerty said of the Eagles. “They know that there’s enough power points left on our schedule to get to the playoffs.
“Nobody’s freaking out in there,” he said of the locker room. “I’d put our schedule against any [Class] 4 team that we play.”
Optimism alone won’t get Liberty into the playoffs, though. Something needs to change for the Eagles, especially defensively — Liberty is allowing 36.5 points per game.
“We just need to work on our passing defense. The run defense is there,” said junior linebacker T.J. Hogan, who led Liberty with 13.5 tackles. “And we missed a lot of tackles.”
The Eagles’ loss to Broad Run could have been more lopsided had the Spartans not had three touchdowns negated by penalties. They eventually scored touchdowns on two of those possessions though.
Quarterback Brady Reitzel finished with 190 yards on 14-for-21 passing against a Liberty Cover 3 defense that tried to eliminate deep passes, often unsuccessfully. It didn’t help that the Eagles played without starting outside linebacker Jaquan Sinclair, out with hip flexor injury during practice last week.
“One of the best linebackers around and he’s not there on the strong side of the defense,” Finnerty said. “We missed a couple things just with inexperience.”
The Spartans had four offensive plays of more than 24 yards and also scored a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown. Those “big plays” trumped a more-efficient Liberty offense and strangled all momentum the Eagles gained midway through the game.
Liberty scored 17 consecutive points in little more than four minutes to close to 21-17 early in the third quarter, but Broad Run countered with 24 points in less than 12 minutes.
“You’ve got to eliminate the big play and eliminate the turnovers,” said Finnerty, whose team lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs three times.
The Eagles opened the third quarter with a 33-yard field goal by Tommy Smith with 10 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the period, but then Broad Run drove 60 yards after a Liberty pooch kickoff and scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Reitzel to Travis Fulgham for a 28-17 lead midway through the third.
Liberty defensive back Garrett Utterback leapt to catch the ball in front of Fulgham, but it ricocheted off his hands and over his head to the Spartans receiver.
“We needed to get a stop right there,” Finnerty said. “That was a huge score and after that things kind of fell apart. Right now, those are the plays that we’re just not making,” he said.
About five minutes later, Sammy Sergei kicked a 32-yard field goal. The Spartans scored twice in 15 seconds early in the fourth quarter.
Da’Qwan Earl capped a 45-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 8:42 left in the fourth. Then the Eagles tried to run a double reverse on the first play of their ensuing possession, but botched the handoff between Martin Parker and Garrett Watts.
Defensive end Chris Coggins scooped up the loose ball after both Liberty players collided and fell to the grass. He returned the ball 13 yards for a touchdown to give Broad Run an insurmountable 45-17 lead.
Broad Run appeared on pace for an even more lopsided victory after taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Corey Hilberath returned Liberty’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, giving the Spartans a 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game.
The Spartan scored twice more in the next nine minutes.
The Eagles, however, entered the second quarter (and halftime) trailing only 21-14. Parker broke a 54-yard run late in the first quarter, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by T.J. Hogan.
Broad Run muffed the ensuing pooch kickoff and then Aaron Walter, who started as Liberty’s quarterback for the first time this season, threw a perfect 34-yard play-action touchdown pass to Parker with 2:33 left in the first quarter.
In fact, Liberty had more yards of offense than the Spartans in the first half, 220-136. The Eagles had much of their first-half success using a tight, double-wing formation with Walters at quarterback. They switched to a spread formation with Garrett Watts at quarterback at the start of the second half.
“I think we could have [continued to have success in the tight formation], but without getting stops on the defensive side, all that does is maybe keep that score a little closer,” Finnerty said. “I wanted the ‘W’ and I knew we had to score.”
Martin led the Eagles with 135 rushing yards on 13 carries and 34 receiving yards on his one reception, helping compensate for the loss of Sinclair at running back.
“Starting running back was hurt. I had to step up for the team,” Parker said. “Glad I was there.”
Hogan added 55 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Walters threw for 41 yards on 2-for-5 passing and Watts threw for 44 yards on 2-for-4 passing.
Receiver Chuck Davis led Broad Run with 105 yards on five receptions, and Reitzel also stood out.
“He’s a competitor,” Finnerty said of Reitzel. “It looks like he’s going to run and he’s able to step back and make a good throw with our coverage coming up.”
Earl finished with 149 rushing yards on only 12 carries, while receiver Tyriek King had 54 yards on four receptions.
- - - - -
Broad Run 52, Liberty 24
LHS 14 0 3 7 – 24
BRHS 21 0 14 21 – 52
BRHS: Corey Hilberath 98 kickoff return (Sammy Sergei kick), 11:44.
BRHS: Brady Reitzel 8 run (Sergei kick), 7:04.
BRHS: Justin Robinson 7 pass from Reitzel (Sergei kick), 3:47.
LHS: T.J. Hogan 2 run (Tommy Smith kick), 2:44.
LHS: Martin Parker 34 pass from Aaron Walters (Smith kick), 2:33.
LHS: Smith 33 field goal, 10:41.
BRHS: Travis Fulgham 25 pass from Reitzel (Sergei kick), 7:36.
BRHS: Sergei 32 field goal, 2:32.
BRHS: Da’Qwan Earl 7 run (Sergei kick), 8:42.
BRHS: Chris Coggins 13 fumble recovery return (Sergei kick), 8:27.
LHS: Parker 48 run (Smith kick), 8:07.
BRHS: Earl 63 run (Sergei kick), 7:53.
LHS: Parker 13-135, Hogan 17-55, Walters 4-11, Sean Carter 6-10, Garrett Watts 2-7.
BRHS: Earl 12-149, Hilberath 9-36, Jashawn Banks 9-19, Reitzel 8-18.
LHS: Watts 2-4-0 44, Walters 2-5-0 41.
BRHS: Reitzel 14-21-0 190.
LHS: Ian Vowels 1-41, Parker 1-34, Hogan 1-7, Garrett Utterback 1-3.
BRHS: Chuck Davis 5-105, Fulgham 4-54, Earl 1-12, Robinson 3-10, Hilberath 1-9.
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