Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

BREAKOUT ATTEMPT: Liberty tailback Nick Rusin, with ball, tries to break past two Highland defenders in Saturday’s 12-6 win by the Indians. Left guard Jason Grossman (66) blocks a Highland player as Matt Froehlich (69) looks on.

Indians Clip Highland,
Even 'C' Record

By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY — September 19, 2000 -- The defending Section IX—Class C football champs proved they are still contenders for this year’s run at the title.
In their home opener on Saturday afternoon, the Liberty Indians defeated the Highland Huskies 12-0, thus evening their league record at 1–1. Liberty is 2–1 overall.
On Saturday, Liberty was led by Mike Poje, who scored two TDs and rushed 13 times for 83 yards and led his team on defense with 10 tackles and an interception.
Liberty’s opening drive went 88 yards, highlighted by a Poje-to-Chris Winters 48-yard pass play on the halfback option.
With 5:49 remaining in the first quarter, Poje punched it over from the 2 to give the hometeam a 6-0 lead. The Poje PAT kick was wide of the post.
Although the Indians moved the ball well, they gave up the hard earned yardage on “mental mistake” penalities.
However, thanks to QB sacks by Poje and Matt Finn and a couple of fumble recoveries, they kept the Huskies at bay.
In the fourth quarter, Chris Winters knocked the ball loose from a Highland runner, and the ball was recovered by Jason Grossman to set up the winning TD.
Liberty QB Vince Evans quickly completed two passes to move deep into Huskie territory: a toss to Nick Rusin followed by a completion to Todd Davis at the Highland 3.
Poje took it into paydirt at 8:31 from the 1 to give Liberty a 12-0 lead. A 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Highland got on the scoreboard with 1:41 remaining on the game clock as halfback Joe Whalen rammed it across from the 1 despite a determined home team goal line stand which stopped several scoring attempts dead in their tracks. The PAT came up short.
“I thought Highland’s biggest mistake was that they looked past us,” said Evans. “They forgot that we’re the defending Class C champions, [and] that’s the same mistake a lot of teams are making.”
According to Evans, he thinks the Indians are the “best conditioned team in the section” but they made a lot of what he called “mental mistakes” in their game against Highland.
“If we can’t start focusing on playing ball and keep our heads in the game, we’re not going to to able to pull off wins like this,” he added.
Liberty coach Mike Castelli thought it was a hard hitting game. “We ‘out-physicaled’ them, but our mental mistakes hurt us a lot,” he said.
Castelli noted the Indians lost 13 seniors to graduation last year, including “Our Big Three” (Evan Mullen, Chris Sinceno and Matt Stoddard).
“A lot of people weren’t really expecting us to be competitive this year, but we’ve got a gritty bunch of kids,” he said. “We have to work on the mental aspects of the game.”
Winters had eight carries for 39 yards and added an interception. Joe Colacurcio picked up 34 yards on nine carries, while Nick Rusin was 11/33.

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