By Frank Rizzo
LIBERTY November 28, 2000 The big question for the Liberty football coaching staff was how the team would respond to the loss of 13 seniors who had led the Indians to the Class D championship game twice, winning the title in 1999.
We lost the bulk of our starters and we didnt know if the juniors, who hadnt seen much playing time, would step it up, said head coach Mike Castelli. And they did. We played some good games and I was proud of the effort the guys and the coaching staff put in.
Castelli cited defensive coordinator James OConnor, whose charges were responsible for three shutouts and yielded one TD in two other games.
We werent as explosive offensively, admitted Castelli, though (quarterback Vince) Evans finally came around.
We kept the program on the winning track, Castelli added. If we keep the program winning, we will instill pride and more kids will keep coming out.
According to Castelli, Libertys enrollment is on the border of Class B classification.
Were only three (students) under right now. It will be a big leap if we do move up. he pointed out.
The Indians had a chance to make it to their third straight Class C championship game, but a 35-13 loss to James I. ONeill put them out of contention.
The Indians have now completed three straight winning seasons after five straight losing ones. Castelli took over in 1996 and slowly rebuilt the program, though his teams won just one game in his first two years.
Mike Poje led the rushing attack, gaining 509 yards on 78 carries (6.5 average) and scoring three TDs. He was a perfect 3/3 passing on the halfback option, with a touchdown to boot. Poje made 3-of-5 field goals attempted, with a long of 32. At linebacker, he led the team with 81 tackles and also added three interceptions and one sack.
Soph Joe Colacurcio ran for 356 yards on 72 attempts (4.9 average) and one touchdown while at linebacker he was credited with 36 tackles and one block.
Senior Nick Rusin added 339 yards on 74 rushes (4.6 average) and scored one TD.
Senior quarterback Vince Evans completed 44 of 104 passes (42 percent) for 489 yards and six touchdowns along with six interceptions.
His favorite receivers were senior tight end Todd Davis (14 receptions, 89 yards, three TDs), senior wide receiver Chris Winters (11-252-2 TDs), and senior wide receiver Tom Dittmar (9-152-2 TDs. Dittmar also had one interception from his cornerback slot).
Two standouts on the line were senior defensive tackles Matt Froehlich (36 tackles, two sacks) and Adam Birkett (34 tackles).
Senior defensive end Matt Finn added 34 tackles, three sacks, one fumble recovery for a TD and at fullback rushed for one TD.
Senior free safety Rudy Houghtaling was credited with 24 tackles and two interceptions.