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Football Player of the Year: Liberty’s Nate Kent used ‘competitiveness’ to help Lions find success

Liberty senior Nate Kent is the 2019 Carroll County Times Football Player of the Year.
Liberty senior Nate Kent is the 2019 Carroll County Times Football Player of the Year. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Nate Kent likes to stay busy in the offseason.

The Liberty senior devotes himself to improving upon every little thing he can to perfect his game, whether it’s throwing or watching an extra piece of film. He has been surrounded by football for as long as he can remember and grew up attending Liberty’s football practices with his father, Jeff, the former Lions’ coach.

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Nate Kent attended Westminster for two years prior to making the transfer to Liberty as a junior in 2018, where he helped lead the Lions to their first undefeated regular season in program history and was named the Times Football Player of the Year as a result.

Kent dominated the county’s passing game for a second straight season this fall with 142 completions for 2,330 yards and 23 touchdowns en route to being named the Times Football Player of the Year for a second year in a row. He also contributed to the Lions’ running game with 161 carries for 870 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

“I got more comfortable with my teammates and our coaches from this year to last year,” Kent said. “Our coaches always put us in the best possible scenarios we can be in. We knew what we had this year and obviously the first two weeks were rough, but we trusted our coaches and that’s where it took off.

“I got more confident with the receivers and our offense was a strong suit, just everyone putting everything in. We had nothing to lose.”

The Lions finished the season 8-4 after dropping their first two games of the season against Linganore and Walkersville, and Kent said the coaching staff challenged the team to take an extra stride to do something different every year.

“That’s what we’ve done,” Kent said. “In 2018, we made it to the playoffs again but we wanted to do something different and went undefeated. This year with those first two games under our belt, our team captains and seniors came together and were like ‘We want to do something different’ and we got better in practice.

“It ultimately led to us being the first team in Liberty history to win two playoff games.”

Liberty did indeed capture two postseason wins for the first time this season after defeating Oakland Mills and Glenelg to earn a spot in the Class 2A state quarterfinals, where the Lions saw their season end at the hands of Elkton.

The Gladiators were the 2A state runner-up in 2018, and the Lions had to go on the road to pull out the 35-28 win against a tough Howard County opponent. Kent threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns against the Gladiators, and rushed the ball for 86 years and a score as well.

This was the Lions’ fourth straight playoff appearance and seventh overall, but they had lost in the first round each of the last three years after winning their only postseason game in 2014.

Liberty’s crosstown rivalry game against Century came in Week 3 this year, and the Lions routed the Knights 35-9. Kent said this is where the Lions took their biggest stride of the season and they rattled off four straight wins to set up the Carroll County Athletic League title game with Westminster on Oct. 25. The Owls edged the Lions 34-31 in overtime.

“The big thing about Nate is his competitiveness,” Lions coach Larry Luthe said. He didn’t have a favorite target, he spread the ball around to a lot of people and did a good job of distributing the ball. He ran when it was necessary and was good with his reads for the most part. He made good decisions with the ball and involved all of his teammates and to me, that’s a huge part of our offense in making sure all weapons see the ball.”

The Lions had numerous playmakers score in a variety of games this fall, and Luthe said part of that is a testament to Kent’s ability to make sure all of his teammates are involved on the field.

Luthe was an assistant to Jeff Kent, who coached the Lions from 2006 to 2012. Kent led the program to its first playoff berth in program history in 2007. Luthe’s son Ryan and Nate Kent played football together when they were younger — and as Liberty teammates — but Luthe could sense Kent’s competitive nature from the start.

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Liberty will graduate 16 seniors in the spring, and Kent will be one of them. He said his two years spent with the Lions were the best of his life, and he will miss the brotherhood he formed with this squad.

“Adversity is going to come in the classroom and on the field,” Kent said. “That’s not just me, that’s our whole team. Everyone faces adversity and we can bounce back from that. That’s why football is such a great game, it teaches you so much…”

“It’s all about toughness and not denying the abilities I’ve been given.”

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