Liberty's Nick Henderson and Jack Bulakites chat with us post-game.
It took an extra day for Liberty to be crowned Carroll County Athletic League champion — and make a little county history in the process.
The Lions held on to defeat Century 7-0 and win its second CCAL championship in three seasons. Liberty (6-0 in the county) also became the fifth team in Carroll history to go 10-0 in the regular season.
The annual regular-season finale was halted midway through the third quarter Friday night because of inclement weather. The game resumed Saturday with the visiting Lions leading by one score.
Wide receiver Chris Darminio caught a 31-yard pass from quarterback Nate Kent as time expired in the first half Friday. Darminio was surrounded by a trio of Knights when he came up with the ball in the end zone. Sean Disbrow kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead before the game was later suspended.
In the end, that one play was all the Lions needed.
“It’s a great feeling,” running back Nick Henderson said. “That’s the first time in Liberty history we’ve gone 10-0 and it says something about being bigger than yourself that will last forever and it feels great knowing you’re proud of something so successful.”
The Freedom Bell, the annual trophy awarded to the winner of the rivalry game, went to Liberty at the conclusion of the game. Jack Bulakites, a Liberty junior, said this win over Century was the “sweetest” in his three years on the varsity team.
“I enjoyed every second of it,” Bulakites said about playing in Friday’s slop. “Honestly, I had a lot of fun out there. It was definitely bad conditions, hard to cut and it was basically just like you had to do a lot of dives, a lot of runs and not a lot of passing, but I had fun.”
The game resumed with the ball in Century’s possession on third-and-18 from the Lions’ 15-yard line. Knights senior quarterback Brett Kropinski found Brandon Will for a 10-yard pass, but it wasn’t enough to garner a first down.
The Lions were hit with a false start penalty on third-and-7 and were forced back five yards and eventually had to punt the ball away.
Century senior receiver Jalen Stanton later fumbled a punt from Liberty, and it was recovered by Bulakites with 1:48 left in the third quarter. The momentum shifted back to the Lions as they picked up yardage, thanks to runs from Kent and Henderson.
Knights senior Aaron Wolcott came up with a big stop on Liberty’s Michael Spitz on third down, and Disbrow came on for a 37-yard field-goal attempt.
Disbrow’s kick fell just short, and the Knights took over once more.
Kropinski connected with Will and Stanton, and running back JT Schneider ran the ball on a series of plays for the Knights in the fourth.
Both team’s defenses forced three-and-outs late in the fourth quarter and Kropinski was sacked to turn the ball over on downs to secure the victory for the Lions.
This was the 16th all-time matchup between Century and Liberty. The Knights (6-4, 4-2) lead the series 9-7, but the Lions have now won the last three matchups.
Century was left waiting for playoff bonus points to determine whether the Knights qualify for the Class 2A West playoffs.
Liberty will face undefeated Oakdale (9-0) in the first round of the 2A West playoffs next week.
“I don’t think we played very confidently today,” Lions coach Larry Luthe said. “We played great defense and I think we had a great stand down at the end … it seemed like we took a couple punches but we never got knocked out. At the very end, we were able to stand up and turn them over on downs and at the end of the game we were able to get a key first down to put the game away. With the footing and what we do, the field wasn’t really conducive to our style.
“They’re a good football team, they're very well coached, they run their offense very well and I thought they played hard for all 48 minutes.”