Photo courtesy of Al Camp, Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle
Liberty Bell’s Tanner White, No. 5, and Seth Stevie, No. 4, wrap up Brewster’s Gio Nila.

Season opener goes down to the final seconds

By Rick Lewis

The Liberty Bell High School Mountain Lions opened the 2017 prep football season under new head coach Bob Bucsko last Friday (Sept. 1) at rival Brewster, and took the Bears right down to the last play before dropping the North Central Washington B League contest, 14-6.

It was a tightly fought battle, with defense controlling most of the game on both sides of the ball.

Neither team was able to get totally untracked in the first half.

Indeed, it wasn’t until the second quarter when Brewster finally crossed into Mountain Lion territory. Liberty Bell had one scoring threat early when the Mountain Lions drove to the Bear 14-yard line. A couple of false start penalties, followed by a holding penalty, snuffed out any chance for a score, and the two teams traded small drives and punts for most of the rest of the first half.

“We hurt ourselves a couple of times,” lamented Bucsko, pointing to several unforced errors.

Liberty Bell made one more run at the end zone late in the second quarter, taking the ball at midfield and driving to the Brewster 20. Quarterback Tanner White’s pass sailed out of bounds at around the 10-yard line as the clock ran out though, and the teams went to halftime tied at 0-0.

The Mountain Lions struck pay dirt first, taking advantage of a Bear fumble recovered and returned to the Brewster 14 by Seth Stevie. Two plays later, White dropped a pass in the left flat to Quinton Knox and the fleet-footed sophomore turned it up the field, sprinting to the end zone untouched, putting Liberty Bell ahead of Brewster for the first time in recent memory.

Owen Hevly’s extra point kick was blocked, and with 8:03 to go the Mountain Lions had a 6-0 lead. That margin would remain intact until Brewster’s Gio Nila scored the first of his two touchdowns with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, and the score was tied at 6-6.

Brewster kicked off and the Mountain Lions took possession of the ball at about their own 25-yard line with thoughts of starting a drive that would carry into the fourth quarter. However, White’s tailback pitch went awry and the Bears recovered the ball on the Liberty Bell 25 with about a half-minute left. The Bears ran once and the clock ran out with the scoreboard still knotted at 6.

Bears go up by 8

The fourth quarter opened with Brewster pounding the ball inside and marching down the field. Nila scored from 4 yards out with 10:10 remaining. Brewster quarterback Connor Wiggs took the ball on a dive play and stretched the ball across the goal line, the two-point conversion making the score 14-6.

The Mountain Lions had one last gasp, holding Brewster to a “three-and-out” and taking the ball on the Bear 43 with 3:50 remaining in the game. Stevie had runs of 2 and 21 yards to get the ball to the Bear 20, then fell on an errant pitch for no gain.

White found Knox for a passing gain down to the Brewster 4-yard line and it looked like, with 1:53 to go, Liberty Bell was set up for something good. Instead, the penalty bug bit again.

A delay-of-game 5 yarder, and then a holding call on a running play where Stevie found the end zone, sent Liberty Bell back to the 16-yard line. On third down and goal, White found Brady Moriarty headed toward the right corner of the end zone and sent the ball that direction. A Brewster defender caught up and got his hand out just enough to distract Moriarty, the ball falling off his fingertips as he stretched out in an attempt to make the catch. Then, Brewster freshman defensive guard Antonio Talavera rushed through and sacked White on fourth down, and that was the ball game.

White finished the game connecting on 10 of 19 passes for a total of 114 yards. He was not intercepted. Stevie lead the ground attack, rushing for 61 of Liberty Bell’s 84 yards on five carries. He also had 58 punt return yards, forced a fumble and recovered the Brewster fumble that led to the lone touchdown. Quinton Knox led the receivers with three receptions for 45 yards and the one touchdown.

“They knew they were in a fight,” said Bucsko after the game, referring to the Bears. “It was a heck of a ball game and I thought we played well. They [Brewster] certainly knew we were here. I really thought we were gonna score there,” he added, referring to the last drive.

Brewster moves to 1-0 in league play and 1-0 overall. The Mountain Lions are 0-1 and face another tough test this Friday as they entertain the Oroville Hornets at Mountain Lion Field. Oroville dropped its first game Friday to Manson, 26-0. Friday’s kickoff is at 7 p.m.