Liberty Bell High School blanked Muckleshoot Tribal, 62-0, in the 2022 opening round of state 1B football playoff action on Friday (Nov. 11) to advance to the quarterfinals this weekend.
The Mountain Lions will face the No. 4-seeded and undefeated Mossyrock Vikings on Saturday (Nov. 19). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Tenino High School, southeast of Olympia. Tickets are available at wiaa.com.
Against Muckleshoot, Liberty Bell dominated from the opening series, taking the initial kickoff and using only two plays to travel 50 yards. The opening touchdown came on a 45-yard pass from Riley Lidey to Sawyer Crandall with only 23 seconds having run off the game clock. Merek Johnson scampered in for the 2-point conversion and it was 8-0 before people had a chance to lay down their blankets on the frosty aluminum seats at the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee.
Muckleshoot’s first try with the ball ended with a three downs and punt, which Liberty Bell’s Remy Paz returned to the Kings’ 25 yard line. A 15-yard run by Remy Paz, a personal foul facemask penalty against Muckleshoot, and an 8-yard pass to Crandall from Lidey put the Mountain Lions in the end zone for a 16-0 lead only 6:15 into the game.
Crandall, who doubles on defense and also handles the kicking chores for Liberty Bell, recovered his own on-side kick and the Mountain Lines were in business again on the Muckleshoot side of midfield at the 47 yard line. Lidey dashed for 25 yards to the Kings’ 22 and Lucien Paz did the rest on a 22-yard jaunt for Gang Green’s third touchdown before the halfway mark of the opening period. Brother Remy took the handoff on the extra point into the end zone and with 8:03 left in the first quarter, Liberty Bell was up 24-0. The Lions added one more touchdown to close the first quarter leading 30-0.
Lidey and Crandall hooked up for the third time with a 10-yard touchdown pass for a 38-0 lead early in the second quarter. The ensuing kickoff was an on-side attempt that was recovered by Lucien Paz at the Muckleshoot 47. Merek Johnson capped that drive with a 5-yard touchdown run that ran the score to 44-0, invoking the 40-point running clock mercy rule only halfway through the second quarter.
As if that wasn’t enough for the hapless Kings, quarterback Martin Reyes had a decent return up the middle of the field when he fumbled the ball. Mountain Lion defender Brody Barnhart jumped on the ball and the Mountain Lions were again set up with great field position.
In a Mountain Lion effort that was nearly flawless, the one conspicuous goof happened when Lidey tried to thread the ball to a not-so-open Beau Tanguy. Muckleshoot intercepted the underthrown pass and intercepted it the Kings’ 14 yard line and returned it 6 yards.
The Kings put together their best drive of the day with Reyes hitting freshman receiver Mikey Anderson, who sprinted 43 yards to the Liberty Bell 37 yard line. A short gain, an incomplete pass and a 9-yard sack of the quarterback by Lion senior Connor Arndt found the Kings at fourth down and 19 yards to go. Reyes took the snap and pitched out to running back Chris Vaomu, who took the ball as if running the old Southern Cal Student Body right play. Vaomu pulled up to pass, overthrowing his receiver into the arms of Remy Paz, and that was the end of the only credible scoring threat. The teams went to the half with a 44-0 score.
Liberty Bell Coach Jeff Lidey was impressed by his team’s effort. “It was better than expected,” he said as he headed toward the locker room. “Our guys are playing really well and not falling into the chippy nature of the game,” indicating there was some chatter going on but the Mountain Lions weren’t responding to it. “Our guys are doing a good job of not falling into it.”
There were a couple of personal fouls called. One was for unsportsmanlike conduct directed at a Muckleshoot player long after the end of a play had ended early in the fourth quarter, indicating it was probably for something that was said instead of for rough play.
“We played well on both offense and defense,” coach Lidey said after the game. “They stayed with it and stayed away from responding to the other team. Our kids showed some great sportsmanship and restraint out there.”
With the win, the Mountain Lions will travel as the No. 5 seed to meet the undefeated Mossyrock squad, which has won all 10 of their regular and post-season games. They average 47.6 points per game while holding their opponents to 18.5 points per game.
Offensively, they rely mostly on their running game, averaging 248 yards per game. It’s a balanced rushing attack, with senior Sage Griesen averaging 56.3 yards per game, sophomore quarterback Eaton Kolb at 51.6 yards per game and senior Keegan Kolb averaging 41 yards per game.
Keegan Kolb averages about 70 receiving yards per game in the passing game, while Eaton is the leading passer with 14 touchdown passes on the year, averaging just under 7 attempts and 5 completions per game. He been intercepted only once on the year.
The key for a Liberty Bell win will be their ability to keep the Vikings’ offense off the field by controlling the clock with an efficient offensive effort. When Mossyrock has the ball, preventing the big running play by controlling the line of scrimmage and not allowing Viking runners to get to the sidelines will be imperative. The Vikings’ season offensive effort has been about two-thirds rushing the ball and one-third passing.
Mossyrock has a similar looking season record of routs over the small-school teams in western Washington. Common opponents include Muckleshoot Tribal and Concrete, blowout wins for both programs. Mossyrock took a 44-point lead to halftime and went on to win at Concrete on Sept. 2, 60-6. The Mountain Lions took only a half to send Concrete home with a 56-12 loss, the halftime margin was also 44 points. The 62-0 score for Liberty Bell on Saturday compares to a Sept. 15, 58-16 win for the Vikings over the Kings.
• The Mountain Lions came out of the first round with no injuries and the return to duty of Damien Spears and Zack Baldwin. Both were on the sidelines in full gear but saw minimal, if any playing time. Senior Connor Arndt also returned to the lineup the previous week after a couple of games on the sidelines and has had an immediate impact, specifically bolstering an already stout defense.
• In the first three playoff games against Waterville-Mansfield, Inchelium and Muckleshoot Tribal, the Mountain Lions have outscored their opponents 220-12.
• A win on Saturday in Tenino could offer the Mountain Lions a second shot at the No. 1 Odessa Tigers in the semi-finals. Odessa, which plays Naselle in Moses Lake on Saturday, knocked Liberty Bell out of last year’s tournament and handed the Mountain Lions a 42-22 loss in the first game of this season.
The other side of the bracket has No. 6 DeSales and No. 3 Liberty Christian playing at Hanford High School in Richland, while No. 7 Wellpinit travels all the way to Forks to take on No. 2 Neah Bay.
• Former Liberty Bell science teacher Lisa Monahan and son Eamon dropped by Saturday to watch Eamon’s childhood buddies on the gridiron. The Monahans have settled in the East Wenatchee area where both Jeff and Lisa are still teaching.
Boosters at the End
The Liberty Bell Booster Club will be barbequing hot dogs and bratwursts, and pouring hot beverages on Riverside Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 26, for the annual Christmas at the End of the Road celebration in Winthrop for most of the afternoon and into the evening until the fireworks show at 6 p.m. Monies raised go directly to support Liberty Bell student activities.