Liberty has the only football team in Fauquier County with a losing record.
The Eagles are also the only county team that would miss the region playoffs if they began today.
So that means Liberty is the worst team in Fauquier, right?
Actually, I think they can become the best.
That might take an offensive commitment to a double-wing formation that Liberty used only sparingly in its first three games.
The Eagles featured it almost exclusively in the first half Friday against Broad Run and went blow-for-blow with the Spartans during the first and second quarters after ceding a touchdown on opening kickoff.
But then the Eagles switched to using more spread formations in the second half, which running back Martin Parker said was Liberty’s game plan heading into the contest. Broad Run subsequently went on a 31-10 run en route to the 52-24 victory
As displayed in that game, Liberty’s defense has struggled, allowing 146 points in four games. But Liberty’s offense should share some of the blame.
Liberty gave the Spartans good field position all night, and gift-wrapped a defensive touchdown. The Spartans began four of their 10 offensive possessions in Liberty territory and scored touchdowns on three of them (the game ended during the fourth possession).
That field position problem was a combination of Liberty punting from deep within its own territory, failing to convert on fourth down in its own territory and using pooch kickoffs. The Eagles’ offense could potentially help remedy that by relying more on the double-wing.
Obviously, though, Liberty coach Sean Finnerty knows better than I.
“We’re going to watch film and we’re going to see what puts us in the best position to win,” Finnerty said about the Eagles’ offensive formations. “We’ll decide if that’s something we need to go to long term. … It might be something that we’re going to stick with.”
Between 2002 and 2007 the Eagles used wing-T and double-wing formations almost exclusively. That allowed them to grind out sustained drives while also breaking big runs and play-action passes.
Those 2002-07 teams never allowed more than 118 points in an entire season of 10-12 games. Again, Liberty has allowed 146 points in four games this season.
Liberty uses quarterback Aaron Walters in the double-wing sets because of his ability to hand off the ball and then function as a lead blocker.
Then “we’ve got big linemen and they play smash mouth,” running back T.J. Hogan said. “You can’t ask for a better line.”
The Eagles couldn’t have asked for a much more challenging schedule either. Two of their three losses have come to Class 5A teams in Broad Run and Mountain View.
“Coach told us before the season started, ‘This year is going to be a hard year, so don’t’” get disheartened, Hogan said. “He scheduled the 5A teams for a reason: because he knew we could compete with them and it’d make us better.”
Kettle Run has played the county’s toughest schedule, which has kept them near the top of the Class 3A Region East rankings, but the Cougars have only a 2-2 record.
Fauquier High has the county’s best record at 3-2, but wins like a 21-20 come-from-behind victory over hapless James Wood don’t exactly inspire confidence.
So Liberty, despite its 1-3 record, could end up being the county’s best team by season’s end.
A victory this week against Sherando would even vault them up the Class 4A North rankings and make a playoff berth an attainable goal.