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Mountain View swamps Liberty, 39-21, in Bealeton opener

Saturday, Sep. 21 | By Cody Sealey
Liberty's Nelson Hogan fights his way for a touchdown Friday during a 39-21 loss to Mountain View. --Photo by Rick Wasser
The Eagles had no answer for Elijah Burress.

Mountain View's junior quarterback picked apart the Liberty secondary, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns in his team's 39-21 victory in Bealeton.

The Eagles' inability to stop the aerial assault in their home opener was a source of frustration all night long. But turnovers also contributed to Liberty's record falling to 1-2. On a positive note, Liberty did hang with a strong Division 5 program for much of the game.

“Mountain View has fast kids and our corners were giving them too much space and they were able to take advantage of it,” said LHS coach Sean Finnerty, who said the secondary needs to improve with another tough opponent looming this coming Friday at Broad Run. “We mixed coverages all night. We just need to get better in the secondary.”

Mountain View senior wideout Quinton Gray was Burress’ favorite target, amassing 54 yards and hauling in two of Burress’ three TDs.

While the Burress/Gray combination hurt the Eagles through the air, LHS kept the Wildcats contained on the ground. Mountain View’s senior tailback Gordon Collins could not get anything going consistently.

Only five of Collins’ 20 carries were longer than five yards. Collins finished the night with 131 yards, a total which would have been lower if it wasn’t for a dash of 60 yards in the second quarter.

“That was a good running back we held under wraps for the most part,” said Finnerty. “We just needed to be better through the air.”

While Burress was having a night to remember, Eagles quarterback Garrett Watts had one to forget. Watts' first pass attempt was picked off by Dontey Branch, setting the tone for the evening offensively.

Watts was intercepted four times and as he struggled offensively, it allowed the Wildcats to lock in on the Eagles running game.

Liberty's three-pronged running attack had a solid night as Jaquan Sinclair, T.J. Hogan, and Martin Parker all rushed for more than 50 yards. Despite racking up yardage, the Wildcats kept the Liberty backs out of the end zone, adding to the offensive frustration.

“We were off tonight throwing the ball. It made us one dimensional. When you face a team like this, you can’t be one dimensional,” said Finnerty.

Even after the poor showing through the air Finnerty still believes his team has a quality passing game. “We can throw the ball well but we didn’t do it tonight,” said Finnerty.

Both teams went back and forth scoring in the first half as the Eagles got on the board first when Watts kept the ball on an option play for a 10-yard score. The Wildcats would score two touchdowns before Hogan tied the game on 31-yard run after breaking five tackles and carrying most of the Mountain View defense with him in the process.

“I just didn’t stop,” said Hogan. “Coach always tells us to run hard and the line was blocking great tonight.”

A minute after the Hogan score, Mountain View added another touchdown but a missed extra point made it a 20-14 game.

With 3:51 left in the first half, Liberty started a 14-play drive and with eight seconds left they were at the 2-yard line. Trying to take the lead going into halftime, Sinclair took the handoff but was stopped short as time expired.

“We called a power play and I honestly thought he was in, but the refs never made the call,” said senior fullback Sean Carter.

After being stalled before halftime, Liberty suffered more heartbreaking turnovers after intermission.

Mountain View scored in the third quarter to push its lead to 27-14.

Hoping to set his team up with good field position, Martin Parker took the ball on the kickoff but coughed it up. Wildcat freshman Jacob Clark recovered the ball and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown, pushing Mountain View's lead to 33-14 after another missed extra point.

“That was a really bad turnover, it gave them momentum,” said Carter. “It was the biggest play in the game.”

Both teams would score again, producing the final score of 39-21.

“We can’t turn the ball over to a good team. We turned the ball over five times and you can’t give a team like this extra chances,” said Finnerty.

“Mistakes happen,” said Watts. “We made a few mistakes tonight and they were crucial.”

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