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Liberty upsets Sherando in Region II Division 4 football playoffs

Friday, Nov. 9 | By Jeff Malmgren
The Liberty Eagles found what they'd been missing the past eight years against the Sherando Warriors.

Rodman Munson and Ian Vowels.

Those two Liberty juniors scored the first receiving touchdowns of their varsity careers Friday, which helped the Eagles defeat Sherando, 27-10, on the road in Stephens City during the quarterfinals of the Region II Division 4 playoffs.

Munson and Vowels each caught first-half touchdown passes from Eagles quarterback Tyler Longerbeam, which proved to be the deciding points.

Rodman began the action with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter by catching a 35-yard touchdown pass from Longerbeam to give Liberty a 6-0 lead (missed extra point kick).

"When I caught the ball, I cheesed all the way to the back of the end zone. I had a huge smile on my face," Munson said of his first touchdown. "My Dad and my brother have both been waiting for this moment. That was the best feeling ever."

Adding to his jubilation, with the eventual victory, fifth-seeded Liberty (7-4) advanced to play in the semifinals next weekend at No. 1 Briar Woods (11-0), which beat Powhatan, 34-7, Friday. Sherando ended its season with a 6-5 record.

"If we play like we did this game and last game, we can do something with this," Longerbeam said of the Eagles continuing their recent success deeper into the playoffs. "Our team's special."

Liberty began the season with a 4-4 record, but has gone 3-0 since losing that eighth game – a 14-6 loss to Sherando on Oct. 19.

"That 4-4 hit us in the face," Munson said. "We woke up and realized it's probably one of the … slowest going Liberty teams in a long time. We knew we had to get it going. You always think deep down that you can come back from anything."

The Eagles also ended a six-game losing streak against Sherando that spanned back seven years.

"We've been hunting for those guys since 2005," Rodman said. "It's been a long time. Payback during the playoffs."

When Liberty suffered its latest loss to Sherando on Oct. 19, its passing game struggled despite the Warriors' focus on stopping the Eagles' typically strong rushing game. Liberty adjusted Friday.

"The plan was to come out and drop a bomb," Longerbeam said. "We were mainly supposed to pick apart their defense with the pass.

"I knew I had to step up," he said. "Game's on me and the linemen. The linemen, this is the best blocking I've ever had."

Longerbeam finished with 127 passing yards and helped the Eagles recover from a 10-6 deficit after Sherando's Tylar Clowser made a 25-yard field goal and George Aston scored on a 7-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Liberty countered that with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Longerbeam to Vowels, and a 2-point conversion pass from Longergeam to Garrett Watts, which gave the Eagles the lead for good at 14-10.

"Tyler being a shorter guy, it's not easy staying in the pocket," Liberty coach Sean Finnerty said. "He's gotten much better. He's not bailing. He's not holding the ball too long. … He really delivered the ball real well tonight."

The Eagles expanded their lead to 17-10 at the end of the first half on a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Morris, to 24-10 with 11:39 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Aristotle Howard and to 27-10 with 2:49 left in the fourth on a 31-yard field goal by Morris.

Sherando, meanwhile, moved the ball well between the 30-yard lines, but rarely converted those drives into points.

"Offensively I thought we had a good rhythm," Warriors coach Bill Hall said. "We were able to move the ball, but we needed to be able to come away with more points in the red zone."
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