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Liberty's Paul Libbee bringing down a Glenelg player in a 2A West regional playoff game.
Liberty's Paul Libbee bringing down a Glenelg player in a 2A West regional playoff game. (Bill Ryan/ For Howard County Tim / Carroll County Times)

Liberty coach Larry Luthe said Paul Libbee wants him to pass along one piece of advice to any future Lions players — don’t wait until senior year to play football.

That’s exactly what Libbee did when he decided to try out for the team this fall after some coaxing from assistant coach Brad Schwartz. Libbee had already befriended a good amount of current Lions players and said he had nothing to lose, so he gave it a shot.

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Libbee has made quite a statement for the Lions (8-3) as a first-year player. The senior receiver has 17 catches for 428 yards and five touchdowns through 11 games. Libbee averaged 24 yards per reception, one of the highest in Carroll County among regular wideouts.

Libbee was Liberty’s third leading receiver going into last week’s Class 2A West playoff game against Glenelg.

“We knew he was very athletic the first time we went to 7-on 7s,” Luthe said. “We could see he had great hands, he’s very athletic. It took him a while to figure out what the heck was going on and he’s never heard the way we call plays or our terminology.

“Once he figured it out, he was fine.”

It’s the first time in school history the Lions have won two postseason games in the same year and advanced this far into the playoffs.

Libbee’s athleticism was on display last spring as a member of the Lions’ baseball team when he earned Times second-team all-county honors. Libbee batted .359 six doubles and 10 RBIs.

Libbee’s contribution to the Lions’ offense gives the team an additional weapon on the receiving end. Luthe said opponents can’t just guard the team’s top receivers like Peyton Scheufele and Mike Spitz. Teams are forced to watch both sides of the field, and Luthe said a lot of that has to do with Libbee’s efforts.

Luthe’s son Ryan, a first-team all-county pick in 2018, passed his No. 7 jersey on to Libbee before he graduated, and Libbee said his experience with the program has been positive.

“Passing on the legacy,” Libbee said with a smile.

“It was a lot of studying in the beginning,” he added. “In the beginning, I had no clue. It was a lot of studying and repetition of getting to know how the offense runs and how the defense runs.”

Luthe said Libbee quickly adjusted to the routine surrounding the Lions’ program and the Lions are one of two Carroll County football teams still standing in the postseason. The Lions are coming off a thrilling 35-38 victory over Glenelg, a 2A state finalist in 2018, to capture their third playoff victory in program history.

The Lions won their first postseason game in 2014, but lost in the first round in their last three appearances since.

The Lions (7-3) got touchdowns from Nate Kent, Tommy Nelson, Peyton Scheufele, and Mike Spitz, and a 29-yard field goal from Sean Disbrow, in the team’s second postseason win of all-time.

Libbee hauled in a 44-yard pass from senior quarterback Nate Kent against the Gladiators in the second half to help set up a go-ahead touchdown connection between Kent and Scheufele three snaps later to give the Lions a 27-21 lead.

The Lions drove the ball 75 yards on 10 plays, and Kent connected with sophomore running back Tommy Nelson for a TD early in the fourth quarter. He followed that up with a successful two-point conversion pass to Scheufele to put the Lions up 35-28.

The victory set up a state quarterfinal matchup at Elkton (11-0) on Friday at 7 p.m.

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“It’s been great,” Libbee said. “There’s a lot of seniors that help me out and they’ve made me feel welcome from the beginning. I’m just excited to get out here with the team and I’m excited to play another game.”

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