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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

LIBERTY’S PEDRO MERCADO looks for running room as Eldred defenders Rick Daboul (52) and two teammates close in for the tackle.

Eldred Barely
Beats Liberty

By Ted Waddell
ELDRED — October 1, 2002 – It was a barnburner of a football game on Saturday afternoon.
With the score knotted at 14-14 and only five seconds left in the game, visiting Liberty attempted a field goal. But Eldred’s John Martin blocked it to force overtime.
After Liberty had taken a 17-14 lead on a field goal in the extra stanza, Eldred’s Vin Reilly won the game with a 2-yard touchdown run.
With the 20-17 win, Eldred improved its record to 2-2 on the season. Liberty dropped to 2-2.
“This kind of football is what football in America is all about,” said Eli Kosanovich, one of those guys in the striped shirts who’s been officiating high school varsity football for 21 years. “This is the real thing.”
At 2:23 in the first quarter, Liberty’s Matt Black picked off a Brian Daboul pass and ran it back 60 yards for the first touchdown of the afternoon. The PAT sailed through the uprights to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Daboul rebounded from the pick to score the tying touchdown. He elected to run a QB sneak up the middle at 10:13 in the second quarter. A successful Eldred PAT evened the score at 7-7.
On the opening drive of the second half, Liberty’s Pedro Mercado picked up significant yardage for a first down on the Eldred 36-yard line.
A backfield fumble by Liberty on the next play allowed Eldred to take over at 8:32. About four minutes later, with the Indians apparently expecting a QB sneak, Reilly sprinted around the end for some yardage.
He scored on a 4-yard run with 2:25 left in the third quarter. With the subsequent PAT kick, Eldred took a 14-7 lead.
Early in fourth quarter, Riegler got trapped in the backfield, but managed to elude the grasp of some determined would-be sackers to pick up a couple of yards. Minutes later, he almost got short-circuited again, but took it around the right side to complete a get-rid-of-it-or-get-pounded pass to Black for a first down down at the Eldred 10-yard line.
At 7:49, Riegler completed a 12- yard TD pass to Black. The PAT tied it up 14-14.
Late in the fourth quarter, Liberty took over deep in Eldred territory after a bad snap on a Yellowjackets’ punt attempt.
With seconds left on the game clock, Couitt broke it around the left side for a first-and-goal at the Eldred 5-yard line. Riegler tried to sneak it around the left side, but was stopped at the 1-yard line by a fired up Eldred defense.
With just five seconds left on the clock, Liberty Coach Mike Castelli decided to go for a field goal instead of a last ditch TD.
Eldred’s Martin used his 6-3 frame to full advantage as he blocked Joe Colacurcio’s field goal attempt, forcing the game into overtime.
After the game, Martin showed he was well-versed in famous sports quotes as he talked about blocking Liberty’s field goal.
“It was ‘Déjá vu all over again’,” he said, quoting New York Yankee great Yogi Berra.
Last year, Martin blocked an Indians’ attempt at a game-winning field goal to set up a victory for Eldred.
On the opening play of OT, Riegler took it around the right side for a first down. On the next play, he was crunched by Eldred’s Corey Proscia.
Couitt took it to the 6-yard line. The Liberty drive for paydirt was stopped as a Riegler pass to Kusznir came up short. The Indians tried a fake, and Eldred got called on a penalty.
On the next play, Colacurcio’s field goal got clear sailing as it flew through the uprights, giving Liberty a 17-14 lead.
On Eldred’s OT possession, Reilly picked up a few yards on the second play of the drive.
On the next snap, he crashed around the left side for a first down at the Indians 10-yard line.
On third down, Reilly smashed to the 2-yard line and on the final down of the drive took the football across the goal line to give the Yellowjackets the 20-17 win.
Reilly and Kyle Schneider each gained over 100 yards on the ground for Eldred. Reilly rushed 24 times for 145 yards, while Schneider carried 25 times for 133 yards.
Liberty’s rushing numbers: Mercado had four carries for 62 yards, Couitt 13–42 yards, Riegler 5-33 and Chris Kusznir 3-19.
“It was another hard-hitting game that went down to the wire,” said Castelli. “I thought we played well in the fourth quarter. We scored the tying touchdown, got the turnover and went down to their goal line.”
“Something just didn’t click, and our field goal was blocked,” he added.
Colacurcio’s take on the game?
“It was rough,” he said. “They moved the ball on us pretty good with their powerhouse backfield.”
Daboul, a sophomore in his first year of varsity competition, said that Liberty is such a good team he “almost had a heart attack” watching the game unfold while on the sidelines.
“We’re surprising some people,” Daboul said. “They didn’t think we’d win any games this year, but we’re showing those guys.”
Reilly said it felt “pretty good” to win the game for Eldred, but credited the left side of the line with making the play.
“We played a great, hard-hitting team,” said Reilly. “They never, never gave up, but neither did we. We’ll never give up!”
“The kids listened to what we had to say, they had a good practice all week and they did what we told them to do,” Eldred Coach Frank Kean said.
“They told me they were going to win it in overtime, and they went out and did it,” Kean said after leading his charges in the Lord’s Prayer following the game. “I was always taught that even though it’s fun out here on the field, the Lord always comes first.”

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