By Don Nelson
Welcome back to 11-man football.
After a year of eight-man ball, Liberty Bell High School returned to playing with a full-size squad at its home-field season opener on Friday (Sept. 2) against Brewster. The Bears weren’t particularly hospitable, taking a quick early lead and rolling to a 46–8 victory.
Except for an interception and a couple of badly handled on-side kickoffs, the Mountain Lions actually played reasonably well. But they couldn’t overcome Brewster’s speed and power, and although the Bears played with only about 15 players suited up they didn’t seem to suffer from lack of numbers.
“I thought the players had a great game for the first game of the season,” Liberty Bell coach Steve White said. “The score did not show the success that the boys had.”
Last year, the high-scoring Mountain Lions ran up an 8–1 record based on speed that took advantage of a wide-open field in eight-man ball. Against the Bears and three more defenders, Liberty Bell’s backs couldn’t turn the corners or burst through the middle as often.
Brewster started the scoring on Friday with a 27-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Connor Wiggs, after the Bears converted a crucial fourth-down play.
Liberty Bell went three-and-out on its first series, but Eden Davis recovered a Brewster fumble and the Mountain Lions took over. A personal foul call on Brewster gave Liberty Bell first-and-goal position at the 5-yard line, and quarterback Tanner White took advantage with a 2-yard keeper for Liberty Bell’s first touchdown of the year. White also ran in a two-point conversion, giving the Mountain Lions their only lead, 8–6.
With 10 seconds left in the first quarter, the Bears’ Jeff Sonneman — a problem all night for the Liberty Bell defenders — dashed 15 yards for a score, and the quarter ended with Brewster up 12–8.
The Bears added two more Sonneman touchdowns in the second quarter, the second one on a long run on the first play after Brewster recovered an on-side kick. Liberty Bell’s Seth Stevie picked off a Brewster pass with a little more than a minute left in the quarter to stop a drive, and the Bears took at 24-8 lead into the locker room.
Two more touchdown runs — a 60-yard ramble by Ricardo Gallaga and another keeper by Wiggs — put Brewster up 38–8 after three quarters. Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Gallaga romped for 40 yards and another score, giving the Bears a 46–8 lead.
Liberty Bell suffered a couple of tough breaks in the final quarter. One drive ended with Brewster intercepting a Tanner White pass in the end zone. Then White threw what looked to be a touchdown pass to Magnus Treise, but the play was called back because of a penalty. A desperation heave to the end zone by White with one second on the clock was unsuccessful.
“All the things that need to be worked on can be fixed,” coach White said. “We have a young team and a lot of excellent athletes. The players were where they were supposed to be, but struggled with blocking and tackling. This week the players will see a lot of the basics of tackling and blocking at practice.”
The Mountain Lions travel to Oroville this Friday (Sept. 9). Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Oroville defeated Manson, 51–31, in their season opener.