Liberty Bell High School’s return to 8-man football began inauspiciously in the season opener last Friday (Sept. 6), as the visiting Bridgeport Mustangs wasted little time in jumping to a quick 12-0 lead in the first quarter.
But gradually the Mountain Lions began to find their footing and played the visitors even the rest of the game. However, the two-touchdown deficit, penalties and several lost fumbles were too much for the home team to overcome, as Liberty Bell fell 32-20.
Senior Magnus Treise was a standout on both sides of the ball for Liberty Bell, carrying 18 times for 144 rushing yards and a touchdown, and ringing up 14 tackles and a sack on defense. Mountain Lion freshman quarterback Riley Lidey was 7-13 passing for 170 yards and threw a touchdown pass to junior Tyler Darwood.
Lidey scored the Mountain Lions’ other touchdown on a run. He also picked off two Bridgeport passes as a defensive back. Darwood nearly matched Treise on defense with 13 tackles.
It wasn’t one of those 100-point shootouts that are common in the 8-man game, but both teams showed flashes of solid and occasionally explosive football.
The Mountain Lions last played 8-man ball in 2015, a single season in which they generated an 8-1 record and averaged 53 points per game. After three years of class 2B 11-man ball in which Liberty Bell won a total of six games, the school district and athletic staff decided that 8-man play would give the school time to rebuild its program.
The Mountain Lions started the new year with a new head coach, former assistant coach Jeff Lidey. He replaced Bob Bucsko, who retired but was on the sidelines last Friday helping out.
The Mustangs’ star, junior quarterback JJ Flores, started the first-quarter scoring with a 35-yard romp to the end zone. A few minutes later, Flores scored on a short run to put Bridgeport up 12-0, which is how the quarter ended.
Liberty Bell countered with its own drive in the second quarter but was stopped on downs inside the 10-yard line. The Mountain Lions got their first points when the Bridgeport center hiked the ball out of the end zone for a safety, making it 12-2 at halftime.
A lost fumble stymied Liberty Bell’s progress early in the third quarter. The Mountain Lions finally found the end zone with about two minutes left in the quarter when Riley Lidey outsprinted the Mustangs’ defense on a 15-yard touchdown run. But Bridgeport answered with a long kickoff return and scored on a passing play with 34 seconds on the clock, and the third quarter ended with Liberty Bell trailing 18-8.
The fourth quarter was barely under way when Lidey lofted a deep pass to Darwood, good for 47 yards and a touchdown. That made it 18-14. Bridgeport countered with a 13-yard touchdown pass to make the lead 24-14.
Liberty Bell wasn’t done. After a long kickoff return left them in good position, Treise broke loose for a 23-yard touchdown run. The Mountain Lions were within four points, at 24-20, with about five minutes left.
It didn’t take long for the Mustangs to up the ante, as they scored less than two minutes later on a 9-yard run and managed a 2-point conversion, for a 32-20 cushion.
Liberty Bell quickly mounted what might have been a difference-making drive, including a long completion from Lidey to junior Quinn Wengerd that put the Mountain Lions inside Bridgeport’s 10-yard line. Treise bulled his way nearly to the end zone, but fumbled the ball forward just before crossing the goal line — a touchback that gave the Mustangs the ball.
Not for long. Lidey picked off his second pass of the night with a little over three minutes to go, but the Mountain Lions lost their third fumble and Bridgeport closed it out.
“We missed a lot of tackles. We had them in their own backfield numerous times tonight but just couldn’t bring their runners to the ground,” coach Lidey said after the game. “We will be focusing on tackles this week and holding on to the ball — turnovers killed us.”
Liberty Bell begins a slate of three consecutive road games Friday (Sept. 13) with a visit to Waterville/Mansfield. The Mountain Lions play at Odessa on Sept. 20 and at Entiat on Sept. 27 before returning home to face Pateros on Oct. 4. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Liberty Bell will have another shot at the Mustangs. The Mountain Lions will play at Bridgeport, the only team they face twice in the nine-game season, on Oct. 25.
Bridgeport 12 0 6 14 32
Liberty Bell 0 2 6 12 20