ELDERSBURG — Liberty entered its regular-season finale with more than possession of the Freedom Bell on the line.
With a win at home against rival Century, the Lions would give themselves a chance at a postseason berth. Liberty responded to the pressure and dominated the Knights 49-13.
As the Lions raced off the field to sound the bell for the second consecutive season, news from Frederick County made the victory sweeter. Walkersville defeated Middletown, allowing Liberty to secure a Class 2A West playoff spot in consecutive seasons, and the third time in four years.
The Lions (8-2, 5-1 county) came out with purpose on the defensive side of the ball. Liberty allowed Century (4-6, 2-4) no room and swarmed the line of scrimmage each play. The Knights didn’t gain a first down until there was 45 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I was so happy for the seniors, they just have really come together and last year’s class was special, but this is a first,” said Lions coach Larry Luthe. “we always talk about what mark you’re going to leave on the school and we have never won the [Freedom] Bell back-to-back years and that is the seniors’ mark they’ve left on Liberty High School.”
While the defense went to work, Liberty’s offense got better as time elapsed in the first half. The Lions were forced to punt after just three plays on their opening drive, but later in the first quarter they started to find a rhythm.
On fourth down, senior quarterback Nolan Karfonta kept the ball on a read option and weaved his way down to the Century 2-yard line. Two plays later Blaine Roach broke through the offensive line for the 1-yard score.
Karfonta wasn’t done gaining big chunks of yards on the ground. On Liberty’s next possession Karfonta again kept the ball on a read option and this time he took it all the way into the end zone. And 35 yards later the Lions were ahead 14-0 in the opening quarter.
As the defense kept Century scoreless, the Lions continued to grow their lead. Karfonta added another rushing touchdown in the second quarter from nine yards out. After two rushing touchdowns Karfonta started to connect on big plays through the air and later in the second quarter he found Noah Rohrer for a 31-yard score. It was the first of his three passing touchdowns on the night, all of which went to Rohrer.
“The line was blocking great and my receivers were getting open for me and Brad Scwartz, our head offensive coordinator, was making some great calls,” Karfonta said. “It’s incredible, back-to-back playoff runs and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Karfonta finished with 259 passing yards on just 12 completions. Despite a big first-half lead Liberty kept the pressure on to secure the victory. Rohrer notched 153 yards on just four catches as his speed in the open field was too much for Century to contain.
Quarterback Collin Ende would find the end zone twice and finish with 193 passing yards, but the Knights couldn’t find any offensive success while the game was still in reach. Jalen Stanton and Kevin Pearson each finished with 73 receiving yards and a touchdown to lead Century.
Liberty will likely travel to Damascus next week for the Class 2A West semifinal.
“We knew it was a big rivalry game and we’d have to stay close and disciplined, we stayed together as a family and we got the job done, we did what we were supposed to do,” Rohrer said.