ELDERSBURG — For the first time in 30 meetings, Liberty and Westminster needed overtime to determine a winner.
After a back-and-forth battle, and a 34-yard field goal from Liberty kicker Sean Disbrow, Westminster needed a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win the game.
Senior running back Nate Mattingly punched in a 1-yard touchdown to secure the 34-31 victory, and the Carroll County Athletic League title for the Owls. The Owls rushed the field to celebrate with their teammates as they won their sixth straight game.
Mattingly rushed for 100 yards (unofficial) and three touchdowns, and junior running back Erick Stranko rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
The Owls (6-2, 5-0 CCAL) took the opening kickoff and used a 9-minute drive to find the end zone when Stranko rushed in for a 1-yard score. Liberty was called for holding on the first play of its opening drive, and the Owls’ defense forced them to punt the ball away.
There were 13 seconds left in the first quarter when Mattingly broke through the Liberty defense for a 42-yard touchdown. Senior kicker Evan Warren’s extra point gave the Owls a 14-0 lead.
Liberty didn’t go scoreless for much longer, and senior quarterback Nate Kent found Mike Spitz down field for an 82-yard touchdown 14 seconds into the start of the second quarter — Disbrow’s extra point was good.
Warren attempted a 49-yard field goal about halfway through the second quarter, but it came up short, and the Lions took over on downs.
Kent completed five passes for 76 yards at the end of the second quarter, and topped it off with a 4-yard connection with senior Chris Smith to tie the game at 14-14. Westminster answered right back with a 4-yard rushing touchdown from Mattingly, his second of the night, and Warren’s extra point gave the Owls a 21-14 lead at the half.
Kent threw his third touchdown pass of the night with 9:29 left in the third quarter — a 57-yard connection with sophomore Tommy Nelson — and Disbrow cleared an extra point to tie the teams up once again.
Westminster used 11 plays on its next drive to find the end zone with a a 6-yard touchdown from Stranko, but Kent connected with Paul Libbee for his fourth passing touchdown of the night less than 3 minutes to make it 28-28.
Liberty and Westminster both dropped their first two games of the season, but won five straight to set up Friday’s county championship game. The Owls lead the all-time series 25-6 and won six straight meetings prior to 2018, when the Lions won 28-20 to secure the county title.
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Kent, the reigning Times Player of the Year, completed 20 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Spitz caught nine passes for 192 yards for the Lions (5-3, 4-1).