By Mike Maltais
The Liberty Bell High School varsity football team let a 20-20 halftime tie game get away from them at Manson on Friday (Sept. 26), as the host Trojans outlasted the Mountain Lions, 46-35, in the two teams’ first league meeting of the season.
Liberty Bell found the end zone first with a touchdown by Derek Alumbaugh and extra point kick by Charlie Thornton-White midway through the first quarter, but barely had time to celebrate its 7-0 lead before the Trojans answered with a kickoff return touchdown on the next play to knot the contest , 7-7.
Later in the quarter a personal foul by the Mountain Lions advanced Manson 15 yards down to the 16 yard line, deep in Liberty Bell territory. On the next play a potential scoring pass by the Trojans was intercepted by Chip Jones to stop Manson’s drive.
Manson was again threatening in the second quarter after three consecutive first downs put the Trojans on Liberty Bell’s 4 yard line. This time it was a heads-up fumble recovery by freshman defensive lineman Eden Davis that turned the tide for the Mountain Lions.
On the next play a pass by quarterback Jones fell incomplete, so the scrambling senior then ran a keeper 96 yards on second down to put the Lions up, 14-7, with over nine minutes left until halftime.
It took less than a minute for Manson to respond with its second TD, but the extra point was blocked and Liberty Bell led, 14-13.
The Mountain Lions extended their lead by seven points when Jones found junior wide receiver Thornton-White with a pass that set up a second TD run by Alumbaugh. A two-point pass-play conversion attempt fell short when Manson’s defense batted down the pigskin.
After Manson gave up the ball on downs, the Mountain Lions took possession deep in their own territory. Jones connected on a pass to sophomore Michael Hafsos, but the Trojan defense forced a fumble and recovered the ball in good scoring position. On the next play Manson scored, kicked the extra point and went to the locker room with a 20-20 tie.
In the second half of the game Manson proved to have a little more in the tank as they answered the Mountain Lions touchdown for touchdown and then some.
“Their special teams made the difference in the game,” coach Brian Wilbur said of the Trojans, who racked up 14 points off two Liberty Bell kickoff returns.
Jones had a huge second half that included a third and short, 30-yard carry for a TD, another 90-yard run that scored, and a two-point conversion.
“We mixed things up a bit,” said Wilbur of the offensive strategy that set up Jones for his 90-yard TD. “We put Garrett Jensen in the backfield and the Manson defense focused on him.”
While the Trojans were tackling the 400-pound junior outside linebacker, Jones pulled an end-around and found daylight all the way to the end zone. But in spite of a 500-yard rushing night, the Mountain Lions couldn’t contain the Trojans’ offense.
Wilbur highlighted the performance of Thornton-White for shouldering the kicker position in place of Jorge Lara. He also had special praise for freshman Finlay Holston.
“We had a player go down and Finlay stepped in and did an outstanding job,” the coach said. Holston, who serves as the backup quarterback as well as wide receiver, was recognized for his ability to fill in at any position.
The Mountain Lions will host Brewster at 7 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 3).