Liberty knocks off James Wood

By JIM LAISE Special to The Winchester Star  
Oct 7, 2018
BEALETON — James Wood dominated the offensive statistics, but failed to hold onto a six-point, early second-half lead and fell to Class 4 Northwestern District 4 foe Liberty 32-23 Friday night.
It was the first district win for the Eagles (3-3 overall, 1-1) while James Wood (2-4, 0-2) remains looking for its first league victory of the season.
Nonetheless, Colonels second-year coach Ryan Morgan said he was proud of his team.
“I just told them [in the post-game huddle] that this was probably the best we’ve played this year,” Morgan said. “We had two wins, but I thought we were sloppy in both of those. This was our best effort of the year.”
Speedy running back William Crowder accounted for 85 yards on the ground, including one score, and caught four passes for 132 yards and another touchdown to lead the Blue and Gold offense.
The Colonels ran 15 more plays (68-53), out-passed their opponent 214-136 and earned seven more first downs (23-16) yet could not overcome the Eagle onslaught after taking a 23-17 lead with 10:50 showing on the third quarter clock.
In all the visitors — on the Eagles’ homecoming night — had possession of the ball for 27 minutes, 48 seconds, to Liberty’s 19:56.
But JW turned the ball over three times to Liberty’s one, threw two interceptions to none for the home team and was sacked three times. James Wood also had three sacks.
Quarterback Carson Hoberg (12 of 26, 214 yards) started the second half swimmingly when he found Crowder on a screen to the right which the Wood running back carried home for a 75-yard score. The kick failed, but the Colonels went ahead 23-17 with 10:50 to go.
Liberty returned the favor as quarterback Raymond Morton (7 of 19, 136) plunged over from the 1. The two-point conversion by Eagle wide receiver Michael Chiccehitto made the score 25-23 with 6:35 showing in the third frame.
It proved to be the magic number for Liberty.
A bad pitch on the part of Wood was recovered by Liberty. On the ensuing play Morton found wide receiver Justin Lawson for a 48-yard scoring throw (Lawson also had a 61-yard rushing touchdown). It was followed by the PAT for a nine-point decision at 32-23 with 5:09 showing in the third.
Now, the Colonels had to gamble.
“Usually when we have to throw it that late we’re in trouble. We’re pretty much a run-first team,” Morgan said.
On fourth-and-16, Hoberg was sacked.
However, on the second play from its scrimmage line, Liberty handed the ball back on a fumble.
On fourth-and-10 from the 20, again Hoberg was sacked on the Colonels’ first possession of the fourth quarter.
A bad snap resulted in a loss of nine for the Colonels further along in the period. On fourth down, the quarterback’s pass was tipped incomplete in the end zone.
The Colonels squandered a poor Eagles punt when Hoberg again was picked with 1:47 to go.
Liberty then ran out the clock.
“We made some key defensive plays in the second half to save it, but James Wood’s a good team,” Liberty coach Sean Finnerty said. “They’ve got two running backs [Crowder and Sam Adkins] who can play for anybody,”
Liberty scored on the game’s first play for scrimmage when Lawson took an inside handoff on a jet-sweep right and sprinted 61 yards. The kick was good, and the homecoming-celebrating Eagles led 7-0 after just one play.
But James Wood’s Crowder answered. From midfield, he motored all the way to the end zone. The pass for two points failed, but the Colonels were on the board, trailing 7-6 with 10:06 left in the first quarter.
Liberty ate clock and produced a 17-play drive which resulted in a Luke Payne 20-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 4:33 showing in the first quarter. The Eagles converted a fourth-and-two play and a third-and-one.
James Wood answered to end the first quarter when Colonel Sam Adkins rumbled around left tackle for a 19-yard touchdown.
Crowder converted the two-point conversion and the Colonels had their first lead of the night at 14-10 with 36.5 to go in the first.
Liberty then scored when Morton jaunted around end for nine yards. The PAT put Liberty back ahead 17-14 with 4:02 showing in the second.
Behind three, Wood began a half-ending drive on its 43. Liberty penalties moved the ball to the 22 and from there sophomore kicker Chris Garcia Ortega had plenty of room on a 39-yard field goal as time ran out to make it 17-17.