Liberty's memories made on field, not on scoreboard Lions finally win just as year ends

November 11, 1992|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

The Liberty football team won only twice last year. This year, experience, especially on defense, sparked hopes of a better season.

Instead, things got worse. The Lions' defense struggled much of the season. Mistakes came at key times, and Liberty lost its first nine games to stretch its winless streak to 17 before it defeated North Carroll, 12-6, Friday.

A 1-9 season isn't enjoyable, but bright spots have shone through for Liberty. Players don't regard this as a wasted year.

"You're not going to remember the record," said quarterback Ross Yastrzemsky, whose 21-yard pass to Eric Priddy with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left gave Liberty the victory over North Carroll. "You're going to remember the things that happened in the huddle. It's been fun."

The most fun came in the victory over North Carroll. The on-field celebration resembled that of a team winning a championship. The team went wild, celebrating all the way to the locker room.

"It felt like it was a state championship game," said senior James Snyder. "It was too bad it had to happen in the 10th [and final] game. I hope we can start a winning tradition."

Despite the fact that the Lions' next game is 10 months away, Liberty coach John Magee said the victory will be a boost for the 1993 squad.

"That's a big momentum builder for next year," said Magee. "If you're going to go 1-9, the good one to win is the last one."

Yastrzemsky said he had held out hope for a season above .500. He also said the team did not fight, no matter how badly it was losing.

And at times the Lions were losing very badly. Opponents shut out Liberty four times. The Lions lost by 26, 27, 34 and 56 points. They scored more than 15 points just once.

Magee said he took pride in the Lions' drive and determination. The opportunities to give up came often, but Liberty hung in.

"The effort has been there," said Magee. "Probably 35 out of 40 practices since the season started, I'd classify on the good side of average."

In addition, Magee said he was pleased there was none of the finger-pointing and blaming that so often comes with losing streaks. The players got along well and worked together, said Magee.

"Everybody hung together all the way through the end of the season," said Magee. "You play games to win. If you don't win, you're disappointed."

Magee said problems on defense hurt the Lions. The team brought back five starters from last year, but there was plenty of inexperience and that hurt.

The defense played well at times. Then something would happen to negate the positive play.

"We just haven't played good defense," said Magee. "That's something Liberty has done traditionally. It puts more pressure on the offense."

Rare was the series where the Lions' defense stopped the opposition in just three plays.

"We'd get them second-and-25, then they throw a long bomb or beat us on a sweep," said linebacker Pat Quinn, the team's leading tackler.

Finally, against North Carroll, the defense rose to the occasion. The Lions limited North Carroll to 129 yards total offense -- 42 in the second half. The Panthers ran effectively in the first half, but Liberty adjusted and put a sweet end to an otherwise sour year.

"I couldn't stop crying after the game," said Quinn. "It felt like we won the state championship."

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