By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY Saturday afternoon’s Section IX Class C gridiron battle between the Liberty Indians (4-4 overall, 4-2 Class C) and visiting Spackenkill was one of those memorable football games played in a pelting rain that wouldn’t quit and lots of mud that had everyone slipping across the field.
In the first 20 seconds of the game, Liberty’s Michael McLean set the tone for the afternoon by scoring on a 65-yard pass reception from quarterback Marshon Williams to give the home team a 6-0 lead.
Liberty went on to record a 33-6 victory.
On their next possession, the Indians offensive line, led by Nelson Saravia, opened up a hole for junior running back Jovaughen Clark, who picked up some good yardage by following his linemen.
But the drive was stopped as Spackenkill (2-6 overall, 2-4 Class C) took over on downs deep in its own territory.
Later in the quarter, Clark intercepted a Spackenkill pass near the goal line. With 2:20 to go in the opening stanza, Williams scored on a 3-yard QB keeper.
The two-point conversion attempt was stopped in the backfield, but the Indians had a 12-0 advantage.
In the second quarter, Liberty’s Akeem Granum took it down to the 16-yard line on a good run. Seconds later, Tompkins scored on a 13-yard rush after he momentary lost control of the ball only to land on it across the goal line.
On the conversion play, Williams reached the end zone on a QB keeper to boost the home team’s lead to 20-0.
In the third quarter, Granum scored on a 13-yard rush and Kris Merklin’s PAT kick put the Indians up 27-0.
Spackenkill got on the scoreboard when senior defensive back Mark Letus recovered a fumble and returned it 25 yards to cut the Liberty lead to 27-6.
Late in the fourth quarter, Granum scored on a 17-yard rush to close out the scoring.
With the win, Liberty earned the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Class C playoffs. The Indians are scheduled to square off against the second-seeded Sullivan West Bulldogs at 4 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 30 at Faller Field in Middletown.
When asked if the soaked field impacted his team’s play, Spackenkill Coach Don Neise replied, “Yes, but Liberty impacted it more.
“They came out to play and played hard,” he added. “Good luck to them in the playoffs.”
Liberty started out this gridiron season with an 0-3 record. But it looks like the team is peaking at the right time, as the Indians are literally pulling themselves out of the mud.
“The effort over the last few weeks has just been tremendous,” Coach John Wilhelm said. “We’re very, very pleased, very proud of the kids. It’s been a good year.”
After the game, the Liberty players celebrated by finding the deepest, dirtiest pool of mud on the field, diving into it and sliding around in pure joy.
Not to be outdone, the young ladies on the Indians’ cheerleading squad switched from their red and white outfits to jeans and T-shirts and frolicked in the mud as well.
Marcus Rawles paced the Spartans’ offense by carrying the ball 14 times for 30 yards.
Clark led the Liberty offense with 105 yards on four carries. Eddie Soto had nine carries for 26 yards and Granum rushed seven times for 36 yards.
Williams completed 3 of 5 passes for 148 yards, including the TD pass to McLean.
Tompkins led the Indians’ defense from his linebacker position with eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Saravia added six tackles and a quarterback sack.