By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY October 15, 2002 After three scoreless quarters in the mud, the Liberty Indians scored twice in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon to defeat the visiting Mustangs of Sussex County (N.J.) Tech, 13-0, in a non-league game.
Before the game, Libertys voice of football Harold Tighe whipped up the drizzle-soaked fans with some spirited Radio Days or was that Radio Daze comments from the overhead announcers booth.
The Indians improved their record to 3-3 on the season, while Sussex fell to 0-5.
As Liberty awaited the opening kickoff, Indians Assistant Coach Glen Rosenstein possibly one of the most vocal coaches in Liberty football history fired up the team by yelling Lets rock em baby, lets rock em . . . get down there and hit em hard!
Apparently Anthony Couitt was paying attention, as on the first play from scrimmage, he downed a Mustang running back for a 7yard loss.
Libertys opening drive was kept alive as quarterback Andrew Riegler converted a 4th-and-inches on a quarterback sneak.
As the game progressed, both teams exchanged punts on fourth down as mostly midfield drives stalled on the slippery field. However, neither side showed any willingness to throw in the towel and call it quits.
With less than a minute remaining on the first half clock, Libertys Pedro Mercado gained significant yardage on a kickoff return after momentarily bobbling the ball, which disrupted the rapidly closing Sussex defense.
On the following play, Riegler connected with receiver Matt Black, giving the Indians a first down at the Sussex 12-yard-line. A pass to Dan Atkins was ruled incomplete and with seven seconds left, Riegler spiked the ball to stop the clock.
Joe Colacurcios subsequent field goal attempt had the distance, but was wide to the right side of the upright.
In one of those situations that had more than a few fans scratching their heads, the refs said a whistle calling for a timeout had sounded before the snap, and Colacurcio had another chance at giving the Indians a halftime lead.
In a battle of wills in other words, whos going to get a case of the jitters first the opposing coaches called a series of timeouts to make the other guy lose focus.
After both teams ran out of timeouts, they finally stepped up to the line of scrimmage. A low snap was nabbed by Atkins before it got away from the holder, but he was crunched into the mud at the 25-yard line with one second remaining in the first half.
With about four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, Couitt took a handoff from Riegler and rushed to a first-and-goal at the Mustangs 4-yard line.
But Sussex defender Jon Koncevitz recoverd a Liberty fumble near the 2-yard-line. Deep in their own territory, the Mustangs failed to move the ball, and the Indians regained possession.
With 10 minutes in the final quarter and Liberty at the Sussex 45-yard-line, Chris Kusznir rushed for big yardage on successive first down carries. A 26-yard run and 22-yard rush put the Indians on the 1-yard line. Kusznir then charged through the Mustang defensive line to score the first touchdown of a long, hard afternoon in the mud.
Colacurios PAT was good, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead.
With 2:15 left on the game clock, Pedro Mercado intercepted a Koncevitz pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. (Koncevitz replaced Mustang starting QB Matt Sargent late in the game.)
Liberty turned over possession of the ball by fumbling five times during the course of the game, but managed to recover two of the errant balls.
Kusznir rushed six times for 68 yards, while Riegler completed 5-of-7 passes for 53 yards. Mercado and Atkins each picked off a Sussex pass; and Colacurcio was credited with 12 tackles and a PAT.
Both teams were fairly evenly matched, said Liberty Coach Mike Castelli, who noted his squads effort on defense. It was the first shutout our defense has pitched all year. The win was a credit to the defense and our defensive coaches, Glen Rosenstein and Mike Williams.
Sussex Coach Dave Wilson was unavailable for comment, as he did not return several post-game phone calls.