Face Neah Bay on Saturday
The Liberty Bell High School football team took another step into history after routing the No. 1 seeded Odessa Tigers, 70-24, in a state 1B semi-final game on Saturday (Nov. 26) in Moses Lake.
No. 5-seeded Liberty Bell will now take on the No. 2 seed Neah Bay at Mount Tahoma High School this coming Saturday (Dec. 3) for the state 1B Gridiron Classic championship, after the Red Devils similarly dispatched Liberty Christian (Richland), 82-24.
It will be the first ever appearance for a Liberty Bell football team in a state championship football game. The school has won seven team state titles, two in wrestling and five in cross country, to go with a number of individual titles over the years.
The Mountain Lions used both speed and power to upend Odessa, which came into the game with a 10-0 record and ranked No. 1 most of this season. In the first game of this season for both teams, the Tigers prevailed, 42-22, over an incomplete Liberty Bell team on the Tigers’ home field.
“We were missing four or five key players that day,” said Mountain Lion Coach Jeff Lidey. “Our young kids played hard and gave it a great effort, but came up short.” That game was highlighted by a vigorous late-game comeback by Liberty Bell.
In the rematch, things were different pretty much right from the outset as Liberty bell had its full roster suited up and healthy.
The Mountain Lions took the opening kickoff and marched the ball methodically down the field, finishing the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Riley Lidey to receiver Sawyer Crandall. Lidey scampered in for the two-point conversion and an early 8-0 lead. Still only halfway through the first quarter, Lidey found an open Remy Paz for a 5-yard TD, the conversion made it 16-0. Odessa managed a late first quarter score when Tiger quarterback Collin Martin took the ball to the house from 13 yards out, the score 16-8 at the end of the opening frame.
The Liberty Bell coaching staff thought a win was a possibility. What might not have crossed their minds was that their charges would put the game out of reach before halftime. Remy Paz hauled in the second of his four touchdown catches on a 13-yard pass from Lidey. Merek Johnson gathered in a short flare in the left flat and sprinted down the Odessa sideline untouched for a 56-yard touchdown. Paz entered the end zone a third time on an 18-yard strike from Lidey, and the senior quarterback then called his own number for a 17-yard touchdown scramble. Odessa sandwiched one score and the teams went to halftime with the underdogs up 42-16.
It was more of the same in the second half, with Connor Arndt and Lucien Paz each nabbing touchdown passes from Lidey, and Remy Paz running his touchdown total on the day to six with two via the ground. Lidey had a hand in eight of the 11 Mountain Lion touchdowns, seven passing and one on a scramble.
Lidey completed 15 of his 26 attempts, covering 324 yards and the seven scores. Lucien Paz led the Mountain Lion ground game, gaining 125 yards on 11 carries. Brother Remy carried the ball 14 times for 93 yards.
Liberty Bell won the ball control game, holding a 2-1 edge in time of possession, 27-12 in first downs, and fewer penalties. The Mountain Lions led the Tigers in passing yards 345 to 108 and rushing yards 240 to 168 for a total yard advantage of 585 to 276.
“We thought if we could manage their rushing attack and force them into passing, we could have a chance to win the game,” Lidey said. “We did that and it worked well for us.”
Next: Neah Bay
Neah Bay is 11-0, romping through their regular season schedule unscathed. Their closest games this year were 38-point wins over 2021 state runner-up Quilcene, 38-0, and Naselle, 58-20. After a first-round bye, the second round of the state tournament saw the Red Devils wallop Wellpinit, 66-14.
Offensively, sophomore Jodell Wimberly carries the mail for Neah Bay, averaging almost 190 yards rushing per game. He has 22 touchdowns to his credit, 20 of them running the ball. Senior quarterback Julian Carrick is also a threat to run, averaging 101 yards per game. Carrick threw for nine touchdowns on only 26 passing attempts all season, completing 16 for a total of 457 yards with only one interception. The yardage totals aren’t impressive at 57.1 per game, but with the Red Devil running attack, there is no need to risk putting the ball up in the air.
When they do throw, sophomore receiver Adan Ellis appears the favorite target, accumulating an average of 40.6 yards per game. Ellis has been the recipient of six Carrick TD throws this year.
For the Mountain Lions, it will be the second week in a row facing a formidable rushing attack.
“It’s going to be kind of familiar to us,” Lidey said of the Neah Bay rushing game. “Each of our last three opponents have depended heavily on the run game. If we can control their running back and quarterback, and maybe force them to rely more on the passing game, we might have a shot at this thing.”
The 1B Gridiron Classic Championship kicks off at noon on the field at Mount Tahoma High School in the South Tacoma area. The game will be broadcast live on the subscription streaming service NFHS. The cost for one month is around $11.
A sendoff at Liberty Bell is scheduled for 8:25 a.m. Friday, starting in the Lions’ Den gym with a pep assembly prior to the team departing for Tacoma. They have an afternoon practice planned for Auburn High School.
Tickets for the title game are $16 for adults; $11 for seniors, students and active military. According to the WIAA, there will be no cash sales for entry into the contest. Tickets must be purchased online at https://wiaa.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=332 . There will be the opportunity to purchase tickets at the venue using your phone, and staff will be present to assist people through the process.
More information is available at Liberty Bell High School, (509) 996-2215.