By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY October 30, 2007 What’s wrong with this picture?
A local high school football team wraps up the regular season with a 6-2 record and does not qualify for postseason play.
Another team finishes with a 3-5 record and earns a berth in the Section IX Class B semifinals.
That’s the scenario that unfolded on Sunday afternoon for the Liberty Indians as they shut out the Peekskill Red Devils, a Section I independent team, 41-0. The non-league game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday at Peekskill, but was switched to Liberty because heavy rains the previous day created horrible field conditions in Peekskill.
Because Section IX playoff rules differ from the rules in Section I, a couple of teams with 6-2 records (Liberty and Highland) get to sit out the sectionals, while two teams with 3-5 losing records (O’Neill and Burke) earned berths in the sectional semifinals.
Asked about the discrepancy in regulations, Liberty Coach Jim O’Connor replied, “You don’t even want to get me started… we lost those two non-league games [to Highland by three points, and O’Neill by five points], so this team is a combined total of eight points from being undefeated this year.
“Those games have got to count for something,” he added. “We can’t beat Ellenville, a small ‘D’ school and New Paltz, a large ‘B’ school and not get a chance to go to the sectionals. It was very frustrating for us to come this far and be eight points from undefeated and not go to the sectionals.”
O’Connor said he’s going to wage a campaign off the gridiron to see if the sectional rules can be more equitably aligned to even out the playing field.
In Sunday’s game, the Indians scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Dustin VanLieu took it across the goal line both times, first from 2 yards and then on an 8-yard run.
The first PAT misfired, but in the wake of second TD, Liberty picked up two points on a conversion pass to Justen Mills.
At 6:40 in the second quarter, Liberty’s Ryan VanLieu picked off a Red Devils’ pass and returned it 21 yards for a TD.
Trevor “The Tank” Tompkins’ extra-point kick sailed through the uprights and Liberty was up 21-0.
On Peekskill’s first snap after the score, Ryan VanLieu shattered the Red Devils defensive line and sacked Peekskill quarterback Seregy Coppizo.
“Keep going, D-line, that’s how to do it,” yelled O’Connor as he paced the sidelines.
At 8:27 in the third quarter, Ryan VanLieu took it around the left end for a TD, and Tompkins’ PAT kick made it a 28-0 ball game.
Later in the third quarter, after the Indians sacked Coppizo to stop a Peekskill (0-8) drive, quarterback Joseph Ruiz threw a 50-yard TD pass to Tompkins, who followed up his score with a successful PAT to extend the Indians’ advantage to 35-0.
On the second play of the final quarter, Liberty faced a fourth-and-goal. Ruiz connected with Rubio on a TD pass as the scoreboard displayed 10 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the game.
The PAT was blocked, but Liberty walked off the field with a 41-0 victory.
Liberty offense stats: Tompkins seven carries for 118 yards, Ryan VanLieu eight carries for 79 yards, Dustin VanLieu six rushes for 40 yards.
Tompkins paced the Indians’ defense with 17 tackles and two sacks. Dustin VanLieu each made an interception and Mills had three sacks.
“We heard Liberty was a good team, and it’s amazing they can’t go to the playoffs,” Peekskill Coach Aaron Wright said.“I think they would definitely have done some damage in the playoffs, they’re a quality team.
“It’s unfortunate that Section IX doesn’t do the same thing that Section I does,” he added. “And that’s take the four best teams at the division regardless of the numbers, and let them play. 1 plays against 4, and 2 plays against 3, and let that decide the outcome.”
O’Connor’s short take on the season?
“These kids turned the program around by being dedicated and working on their skills,” he commented.
Sunday afternoon’s victory was the last game wearing the red and white uniform of the Liberty Indians for 11 seniors: Pedro Alvarez, Shane Fitzsimmons, Justin Katz, Fred Kelder, Justen Mills, Abimelec Rubio, Joseph Ruiz, Trevor Tompkins, Brian Williams, Jesse Williams and Roland Yosufuf.
“It was a great season, and you couldn’t ask for a better win in our last game against a Section I team,” Ruiz said.