By Don Nelson
Liberty Bell High School started the football season with a 70-point game, ended it with a 72-point game and threw in another 70-point performance for good measure on its way to an 8-1 record in the Mountain Lions’ first year of playing eight-man football.
The Mountain Lions doubled up Waterville, 72-36, on Friday (Nov. 6) at home, the second time Liberty Bell beat the Shockers this season. Because Liberty Bell is not in a league, it had to cobble together a schedule that also included two games against Yakama Nation. The Mountain Lions aren’t eligible for the playoffs.
Liberty Bell played like it was in a bowl game on Friday, amassing exactly 600 yards of total offense — 459 on the ground and 141 through the air.
Freshman Enrique Whites once again showed off both quick moves and un-catchable speed as he ran for 176 yards on six carries — nearly 30 yards per carry — and scored five times.
Sophomore Seth Stevie toted the ball 15 times for 131 yards, scoring one touchdown and three two-point conversions.
The Mountain Lions’ third triple-digit rusher was junior quarterback Derek Alumbaugh, who carried for 106 yards on 10 carries, with one touchdown and one two-point conversion. Senior Jacob McMillan added two two-point conversions on the ground.
Alumbaugh completed just three of six passes for 128 yards but two of them went to senior Andrew Reggiatore for touchdowns. Reggiatore caught three passes for 124 yards.
Backup quarterback Tanner White connected on one of two passes, finding freshman Brad Moriarty for a 17-yard touchdown strike that was Liberty Bell’s final six-pointer of the season.
On defense, McMillan led the way with 13-1/2 tackles, many of them resounding enough to be heard (and possibly felt) in the stands. Reggiatore had 6-1/2 tackles and a fumble recovery; Alumbaugh totaled nine tackles; Whites picked off a Waterville pass; and junior Michael Hafsos recovered an onside kickoff. Freshman Alex Garcia-Lopez registered four tackles, including a crunching takedown on a kickoff that had his teammates yelling his name.
Waterville actually scored first and jumped out to a 14-8 lead in the first quarter. The Shockers wrapped two touchdowns around Liberty Bell’s first possession, which resulted in a touchdown in just three plays as Whites punched it in from 6 yards out and Stevie added a two-point conversion. The quarter ended with the Mountain Lions giving up the ball after failing to convert on a fourth-down play.
The second quarter was all Liberty Bell, beginning with Whites’ interception at midfield. He finished the Mountain Lions’ drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, and Alumbaugh’s two-point conversion made it 16-14 — a lead Liberty Bell would not again relinquish.
The home team recovered the onside kick, and Whites then romped 45 yards into the end zone to push the lead to 24-14 with Stevie’s two-point conversion.
Alumbaugh connected on his first touchdown pass to Reggiatore, a 55-yard bomb, with 5:46 left in the half. Waterville answered with another score to pull within eight, 30-22, and left only 40 seconds on the clock.
That was more than enough. Liberty Bell needed only three running plays to score, capped off by Stevie’s touchdown from the 10-yard line with eight seconds to spare. Stevie’s two-point conversion sent the Mountain Lions into halftime with a 38-22 lead.
Liberty Bell scored its second touchdown in less than a minute of playing time when Whites bolted 57 yards for a score on Liberty Bell’s first play of the second half, and suddenly it was 44-22. Waterville wasn’t done. The Shockers scored at the midway point of the third quarter to make it 44-28.
Whites cut loose with a 63-yard run that would have been a touchdown if not called back because of a holding penalty. After Stevie ran for a first down on a fourth down play, Alumbaugh found Reggiatore behind the Shocker defenders again for a 48-yard touchdown pass. The quarter ended with Liberty Bell up 50-28.
The Mountain Lions stifled a Waterville drive early in the fourth quarter, and on their next possession Whites outlegged everyone to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown, making it 56-28.
Waterville didn’t fold, responding with a touchdown run and two-point conversion to make it 56-36. But that was it for the Shockers.
The Mountain Lions finished things off with a 41-yard touchdown run by Alumbaugh and a two-point conversion, and Tanner White’s scoring pass to Moriarty with 22 seconds left in the game. McMillan added a two-point conversion to make it 72-36.
Seniors Reggiatore and McMillan were carried off the field after the game on their teammates’ shoulders. Senior Gavin Wengerd, who suffered a broken ankle earlier in the season, cheered from the sidelines on crutches.
After the game, coach Steve White told the squad that they were laying the groundwork for a revived football program that could return to 11-man play with enough participation and commitment. Liberty Bell switched to eight-man ball this year because in the past couple of years player turnout has been low, injuries took their toll, and the team wasn’t competitive against some of its larger opponents.
As for next year, White said it’s uncertain whether Liberty Bell will continue to play eight-man ball or return to 11-man play.
White said Liberty Bell built a strong foundation this year and that he was pleased with the progress the Mountain Lions’ younger players made this year. He noted that the unsung heroes of Liberty Bell’s scoring binges were the offensive linemen who created the openings. “They don’t get a whole lot of recognition,” he said. For the season, the Mountain Lions averaged 53.4 points per game, while holding opponents to 26.4 points per game.
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