Turnovers doom Eagles in 39-21 home loss to Wildcats
Mountain View's Jacob Clark (13) grabs Martin Parker's fumble on a kickoff in the third quarter. Clark ran 24 yards for a score and put the Wildcats up, 33-14.
Liberty receiver Garrett Utterback does whatever he can to prevent Dontey Branch from intercepting the Eagles' second play from scrimmage.
Senior Quinton Gray picks off this pass intended for Eagles receiver Ian Vowels. Gray finished with three interceptions on defense and 118 receiving yards with two scores.
That’s a very good team and I think we can play with them if we don’t turn it over.
— Liberty Coach Sean Finnerty
Liberty’s opening drive provided an omen for Friday night’s game against visiting Mountain View.
On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Garrett Watts was intercepted by Wildcats defensive back Dontey Branch.
The Eagles turned over the ball five more times in a 39-21 loss.
“That’s a very good team and I think we can play with them if we don’t turn it over,” Liberty Coach Sean Finnerty said.
Despite the interception, the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. After each team traded punts, Liberty hit the scoreboard.
Watts’ 10-yard touchdown run capped a six-play, 90-yard drive. Junior Martin Parker’s 72-yard run on third down set up the score.
Again, Mountain View’s offense stalled. The Eagles (1-2) gained a first down as the first frame ended and punted.
The Wildcats’ offense awoke in the second quarter. Senior tailback Gordon Collins rushed for a 2-yard score with 9:09 left in the half.
Three plays later, Watts threw his second interception to senior Quinton Gray. Gray returned the ball to Liberty’s 47-yard line.
Burress found a wide-open Dallin Biorn for a 39-yard score on a busted coverage. The pass gave Mountain View (3-1) a 14-7 lead with less than two minutes after Collins’ run.
The Eagles answered with a six-play, 64-yard drive to knot the score again.
A Matt Nailor 28-yard rush on a fake punt put Liberty at the Wildcats’ 31-yard line. After a Watts incompletion, junior T.J. Hogan’s determination paid off.
Hogan broke eight tackles and powered his way over the goal line. The incredible run gave Liberty momentum.
Burress quickly took it away. On the first play of the next drive, he found Collins for a 39-yard pass. Then, he hit Jamil Collison-Colie for 20 yards.
After a 10-yard completion to Gray, Collins ran in from four yards out.
The drive took four plays and lasted just 59 seconds.
Watts led the Eagles’ offense down the field on the next drive. He threw for 46 yards and ran for 13 more, chewing up the last minutes of the half.
At the 2-yard line, he threw incomplete with five seconds left. Rather than take the three points, Finnerty elected to go for it.
Junior Jaquan Sinclair was stopped at the goal line as time expired.
“I thought I was in but I guess I wasn’t,” Sinclair said. “We were supposed to go off the guard but I took it out too wide.
“I was just too eager to score.”
Finnerty stood up for his play call.
“I’d make the call again,” he said. “I have faith in my guys up front, we just didn’t run it tight enough. I’m going to be aggressive in that situation….Eight out of 10 times, we score there.”
He said he knew his team would get the second-half kickoff, which made the decision easier. Finnerty also dismissed any notion that the play gave away momentum.
The visitors disagreed.
“After that stop, we felt like we had good momentum and we picked it up in the second half,” Burress said.
Mountain View Coach Lou Sorrentino described the stop as “huge.”
On that opening possession of the second half, Liberty punted after three plays.
Burress again went to work, completing three passes to Gray – including a 4-yard score – in a 63-yard drive.
“We try to work on routes whenever we can to make it work,” Gray said. “As you can see, it seemed like it was tonight.”
Down 26-14, the Eagles needed a score. Instead, they gave one to the Wildcats.
Parker fumbled the kickoff. The ball popped into Mountain View freshman Jacob Clark’s hands. Clark ran 24 yards for a score.
In just 13 seconds, the Wildcats took complete control of the game.
Late in the third quarter, Watts found Garrett Utterback for a 15-yard touchdown. The score trimmed the deficit to 33-21.
Collins’ returned the next kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown. However, a holding call took the score off the board.
Burress and Gray quickly regained the six points. On a slant route, Gray went 63 yards for a touchdown.
He finished with 118 of Burress’ 244 passing yards.
“He never gave up,” Hogan said of Gray. “I’m not going to lie, he broke through a lot of our tackles tonight and he was a lot faster.”
Watts would throw interceptions on each of Liberty’s final three drives. One was deflected on a pitch-pass into Kirron Sleydin’s arms.
Gray got his second interception and nearly scored, before fumbling out of the end zone for a touchback. Despite another chance, Watts threw it to Gray again.
“Garrett was off tonight,” Finnerty said. “He didn’t throw it well. When you play a good team, things have to go your way and they sure didn’t.”
Despite the turnovers and 18-point final deficit, the Eagles looked for positives.
“The kids did it for me,” Finnerty said when asked for a silver lining. “I was so proud of them afterwards, they stood up and said we’re fine. This one’s over.”
Sorrentino also mentioned pride in his team’s post-game huddle. Then, he mentioned next week’s game against rival North Stafford – the Wolverines ended Briar Woods’ 32-game win streak on Friday.
It all came after a Wildcats’ assistant led the team prayer.
“Lord, it is sweet to be 3-1,” he said with his eyes closed.
Mountain View 39, Liberty, 21
Mountain View (3-1)
LHS – Garrett Watts 10-yard run (2:35); Tommy Smith kick.
MV – Gordon Collins 2-yard run (9:09); Matt Spencer kick.
MV – Dallin Biorn 39-yard pass from Elijah Burress (7:45); Spencer kick.
T.J. Hogan 31-yard run (4:57); Tommy Smith kick.
MV – Collins 4-yard run (3:51); Spencer kick failed.
MV – Quinton Gray 4-yard pass from Burress (7:50); Spencer kick failed.
MV – Jacob Clark 24-yard fumble return (7:37); Spencer kick.
LHS – Garrett Utterback 15-yard pass from Watts (:18); Smith kick.
MV – Gray 63-yard pass from Burress (11:43); Spencer kick failed.
Mountain View: 344
Completions – passing yards
Mountain View: 14 – 224
Liberty: 7 – 73
Rushes – yards
Mountain View: 29 – 100
Liberty: 47 – 326
Mountain View: 0
Penalties – yards
Mountain View: 4 – 32
Liberty: 4 – 30
Mountain View: 12
Mountain View: Burress, 14/25, 244 yards, 3 TDs
Liberty: Watts, 7/19, 73 yards, TD, 4 INTs
Mountain View: Collins, 17/52, 2 TDs; Jamil Collison-Cofie, 5/37; Burress, 2/9; Greg Hoffman, 1/2; Kirron Sleydin, 4/0.
Liberty: Hogan, 14/92, TD; Martin Parker, 3/79; Jaquan Sinclair, 15/68; Watts, 10/31, TD; Matt Nailor, 1/28; Utterback, 3/19; Aaron Walters, 1/3.
Mountain View: Gray, 7/118, 2 TDs; Collins, 2/60; Biorn, 2/45, TD; Collison-Cofie, 1/20; Sleydin, 1/4; Alex Windsor, 1/-3.
Liberty: Ian Vowels, 3/33; Utterback, 1/15, TD; Parker, 1/13; Rodman Munson, 1/7; Hogan, 1/5.
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