In this first round playoff matchup the Liberty Patriots matched up with the Archbishop Hannan Hawks to decide who will face former state champions St. Thomas Moore. The game started with the ball in the hands of the Archbishop Hannan offense. After only three plays the Patriot defense forced a punt to give their offense possession. Starting with good field position, this strong Patriot offense came out a bit slow. Looking at third and ten just outside of field goal range, Khylan Gross threw up a pass which was intercepted by Braden Neal giving the Hawks the ball back still early in the first quarter. Starting from midfield, the Hawks looked to have momentum in their favor to start this drive. However, the Patriot defense stood strong. The Hawks were passing on third and six when Devin Wilson broke up the pass to force another punt.
Liberty was now starting with the ball on their own 25 looking to get a solid drive going. However, on the second play of this drive a strip sack from Wade Rist set up the Hawks offense on Liberty’s own 20 yard line. Archbishop Hannan did not waste this field position, scoring on an 8 yard qb option for Billy Colomb. The score now 7-0 with 4:58 still left in the 1st quarter, Liberty was looking to get on the board. Just 5 plays into the ensuing drive, Kaleb Jackson broke through the A-gap without a defender near him. With Jackson’s break away speed, it was a foot race to the endzone which Jackson easily won.
After a couple back and forth possessions we skip ahead to early in the second quarter where the Archbishop Hannan offense looked like it was going to be in scoring position after a 23 yard run from Josh Alonzo setting up their offense on Liberty’s 44 yard line. Just three plays after this long run, Lester Jones made a commanding sack to fend off Archbishop Hannan’s long drive and secure a possession for the Liberty offense. After coming up with this big stop, the Liberty offense took advantage of their possession. Just six plays into the drive, Khylan Gross couldn’t find any of his receivers, the pocket broke down, and with the assistance of a block from Arnell Duncan, he made one defender miss and took it the distance making the score 14-7 with just over 7 minutes left until the half.
Later in the second quarter, Liberty was driving looking to make it a 2 score game, when Braden Neal stripped the ball from Kaleb Jackson giving Archbishop Hannan possession before the half. With only 4:40 left on the clock the Hawks used every second of the remaining clock, mixing run plays, screens, and qb options until 17 seconds were left on the clock. At this time, they elected to throw up a fade to Brennan Obey. He made a great play on the ball and came down with the leaping grab. Now 6 seconds left on the clock, Liberty took a timeout to review their defensive gameplan. However, it did not matter, Josh Alonzo punched it into the end zone from 2 yards out, tying the score at halftime making the score 14 all at the half.
From the looks of the Liberty sideline at halftime, you would assume that the three turnovers they had in the first half was the touchdown differential. After an uncharacteristic first half, the Patriot offense came out with something to prove. Needing only 2 plays to get 40 yards, the Patriots were asserting their dominance from the get go. Seven plays later, Liberty was able to get into the end zone to make the score 21-14 still early in the third. On the ensuing Hawk drive, Liberty forced a three and out and was able to get the ball back around midfield. On just the first play of the next Liberty drive, Kaleb Jackson broke open a 50 yard run for a touchdown. Late into the third quarter, Liberty was able to force another punt. With only 44 seconds left on the clock starting from midfield, the Patriots were able to get into the endzone in only 17 seconds on a 27 yard pass from Khylan Gross to Brandon Davis.
Starting the 4th quarter, Archbishop Hannan had the ball in their hands down 34-14. On the ensuing possession, the Hawks were able to get into the endzone. However, this 13 play drive killed a lot of clock time virtually putting this game out of reach. Toward the end of this game, Liberty was able to get another touchdown on a delayed handoff to Kaleb Jackson. Archbishop Hannan was also able to get a late touchdown to make the score 40-28 to end the game.
Liberty proved to be the stronger team in the end, however, Archbishop Hannan was consistently successful with their screen plays throughout the game. The Patriots will look to clean up these problems before St. Thomas Moore comes to Olympia Stadium next Friday.