In a reprise of the 2022 state 1B football title game, defending state champion Liberty Bell High School met the Neah Bay Red Devils halfway in Oak Harbor on Saturday, to nearly the same result: A 50-24 win for the Mountain Lions.
Junior quarterback Lucien Paz stepped into the signal caller role for the first time as the go-to guy and the transition appeared to be mostly seamless. Statistically, Paz had a great opening day, completing 14 of his 23 passing attempts for 290 yards and six touchdowns. He was intercepted once. He also carried the ball 17 times for 91 yards rushing, for a total yardage figure of 382 yards.
“I felt pretty good, like we played well for the first game. A lot of things to work on, though, but we’ll get it done,” said the junior signal caller, while volunteering time on Sunday at the Winthrop Kiwanis Duck Days activity at Mac Lloyd Park in Winthrop. “There were a couple passes I would like to have back, but it was a good start.”
Neah Bay opened the scoring, taking the opening kickoff and marching downfield for the ice-breaking touchdown and a 6-0 lead at the 6:03 mark in the first quarter. The Red Devils were helped by a drive-extending encroachment penalty when an anxious Mountain Lion jumped across prematurely on a fourth down, three yards to go, the five-yard walk off giving Neah Bay a fresh breath of life on the drive.
The Mountain Lions responded quickly with a nifty drive of their own, culminating in an 8-6 lead after a successful conversion, which ended up being the score at the end of the first quarter. The Mountain Lions methodically built a lead of 30-12 by halftime. Touchdown passes of 44 and 50 yards to sophomore Remington Paz and a three-yard rushing touchdown highlighted the second-quarter outburst.
Neah Bay drew first blood in the second half, scoring on a six-yard touchdown run to draw a little closer at 30-18 with 6:00 left in the third quarter, but Lucien Paz hit for two more touchdown passes including one to Alex Ramsay-George late in the third quarter, running the score out to 42-18. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter to post the 50-24 final score.
Remington Paz got the 2023 campaign off to a pretty good start on the offensive end, gathering in seven receptions, four of those for scores, and 196 receiving yards. Ramsay-George hauled in two touchdowns and added 21 rushing yards on four carries.
Defensively, the Mountain Lions were led by the 11 tackles of Damien Spears. Remington and Lucien Paz added eight tackles each, and freshman brother Greyden came up with an intercepted pass and return of about 30 yards.
“It’s a great field and really cool facility,” Lucien Paz said after the game, referencing the artificial surface at the class 4A Oak Harbor stadium.
“Overall, it was a dominant outing,” said Liberty Bell Head Coach Jeff Lidey. “We picked up right where we left off last year. Lucien did great in his debut at quarterback against a stout Red Devil defense.”
Lidey was pleased with the effort, but sees room for improvement coming out of game one. “It wasn’t a perfect day, so we have some things to iron out,” he said. “We’re hoping to make the transition to 11-man this week and put forth a great game against Brewster.”
Friday night (Sept. 8) the Mountain Lions will briefly return to 11-man football as they travel to Brewster to take on the Bears in a renewal of a local rivalry that has taken a break for a few years during Liberty Bell’s rebuild. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.