Friday night’s battle lived up to “Game of the Year” hype.
Fourth-seeded Liberty (4A North) traveled to Culpeper with six wins and a loss to 5A Broad Run.
Host Eastern View, seventh in 4A North, entered 7-0.
Both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks, excellent running backs, powerful linemen and stingy defenses.
So the game came down to which team would flinch first.
That proved to be the Cyclones, who gave up three interceptions – two that resulted in scores as the Eagles won, 41-37.
Martin Parker snagged the picks from Cyclones quarterback Josh Stallings.
“We kept putting pressure on Stallings and Martin had great spots,” Eagles Coach Sean Finnerty said.
The first interception came in the opening quarter as Stallings threw into the end zone. Parker grabbed the errant pass and returned it to the 24.
Liberty couldn’t score on that series but Parker would give his team more chances.
The second interception, later in the first period, resulted in the Eagles’ first score. Parker grabbed the pass at Liberty’s 49 and returned it to Eastern View’s 24.
After an offensive facemask penalty — one of 10 flags on the Eagles — Liberty took six plays to cover 39 yards. Quarterback Aaron Walters took it in from the 15.
The extra-point attempt failed for a 6-0 Eagles lead.
Parker’s final interception gave the Cyclones their first loss of the season.
After giving up a 9-yard TD to T.J. Hogan just seconds into the final period, Eastern View kept pressure on the visitors.
The Cyclones picked up 30 yards in seven plays. On third-and-11 from their own 46, Stallings faced a heavy Liberty rush and threw up the gopher.
Parker grabbed his third interception at the 15.
“We had stopped their run, so they had to pass,” Parker said. “I saw a coach motion from the sidelines, and I put my eye on Stallings. He flipped his hips and opened up to pass. I played on him.”
Eleven plays and five minutes later, Walters scored from the 2-yard line for a 41-27 Liberty lead.
“I’ve never been involved in a game where the same player got three interceptions,” Walters said. “Each one was a huge momentum shift.”
The Eagles offense benefitted from great line play.
“It was push, push, push on the line,” said senior Liberty lineman R.J. Proctor, who has committed to the University of Virginia. “We could see the defensive line falter beginning in the second quarter and they were tired in the third. We overpowered them the rest of the way.”
The Cyclones mustered one more drive, scoring with 21.9 seconds left when Stallings ran in from the 24 on fourth down and 23.
An onside kick went just nine yards, sealing the Eagles’ win.
Trailing 13-0 late in the first half, Eastern View came back to score twice in the final 3:26, for a tie at intermission.
All-state running back Kendrick Kube, who finished with a game-high 250 yards, broke outside for the Cyclones first score with 1:30 left in the second quarter.
Walters then threw an interception to freshman D’Ago Hunter at the Cyclones’ 41.
Kube and Stallings alternated runs for 16 yards. Three plays later, Stallings threw a 17-yard pass to Will Harrison. After a Liberty sack, Stallings found all-State receiver Jacob Settle in the end zone for a TD as the half ended.
Eastern View outgained Liberty, 481 yards to 432.
Hogan and Walters rushed for 150 and 133 yards, respectively.
Stallings ran for an even 100 yards.
Kendrick got injured three times in the game but came back after the first two. The senior remained sidelined after the final ankle tweak with less than a minute to play.
“Too many mistakes and Liberty made us pay for them,” Cyclones Coach Greg Hatfield said. “Their backs and line are pretty dog-gone good.”
Scoring summary First quarter Liberty – Aaron Walters 15-yard run. (Kick failed, 1:58).
Second quarter Liberty – Walters 24-yard run. (Tommy Smith kick, 3:26). Eastern View – Kendrick Kube 43-yard run. (Kick failed, 1:30). Eastern View – Jacob Settle 34-yard pass from Josh Stallings. (Will Harrison kick, 0:00.0).
Third quarter Liberty – T.J. Hogan 1-yard run. (Smith kick, 7:12). Eastern View – Kube 11-yard run. (Harrison kick, 4:47). Liberty – Anthony Spagnoletti 53-yard pass from Walters. (Smith kick, 3:04). Eastern View – Kube 12-yard run. (Harrison kick, 0:19.9).
Penalties/Yards Liberty — 10/91 Eastern View — 16/105
Fumbles/Lost Liberty — 2/0 Eastern View — 2/0
Rushing Leaders Liberty — Aaron Walters 14 for 133, Martin Parker 9 for 36, TJ Hogan 23 for 150, Brent Smith 2 for 22. Eastern View — Kendrick Kube 28 for 250, Josh Stallings 24 for 100, Justin Pollard 3 for 3, Team 1 for minus 7.
Passing Leaders Liberty — Aaron Walters 1 of 3, 53 yards. Eastern View — Josh Stallings 12 of 22, 138 yards, 3 interceptions.
Receiving Leaders Liberty — Anthony Spagnoletti 1/53 yards. Eastern View – Will Harrison 5/51, Luke Easter 3/18, Jacob Settle 5/69.