T. Johnson makes big plays to upend No. 8 Liberty, 24-14 Defeat hampers Lions' shot at playoff berth

November 04, 1995|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a night filled with big plays, Thomas Johnson made a few more than Liberty.

Thomas Johnson came up with several clutch plays in the second half, mostly from running back Norman Williams, who finished with 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns to help the visiting Patriots score a come-from-behind 24-14 victory over No. 8 Liberty last night.

The victory puts Thomas Johnson (8-1, 5-0 in CMC) in good shape for a Class 3A playoff spot. For Liberty (7-2, 3-2), the loss makes it a long shot to become the first Carroll County team in seven years to make the playoffs.

Williams gained 125 of his 180 yards in the second half. He had runs of 18, 19, and 45 yards to spark the Thomas Johnson offense and help it hold off a stubborn Liberty squad.

Liberty, as it has all year, relied upon Bill Shaffer for its big yardage. Shaffer finished with 197 yards and broke off a 95-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but Thomas Johnson did a good job of shutting him down at other times.

"We couldn't run outside," said Liberty coach Ken Johnson. "They definitely made everything hard for us. "

The Lions also made things hard for themselves at times. They fumbled five times -- four from Shaffer -- and lost three of them.

One fumble set up the first Thomas Johnson touchdown. A failed fourth-down play put them in position for their final touchdown. The Lions lost three fumbles.

"We've gotten better at taking advantage of [things]," said Thomas Johnson coach Ben Wright, whose team clinched at least a tie for the CMC title. "Earlier in the year, we couldn't."

But the Patriots, who finished with 320 yards rushing, did in this game. After Shaffer's 95-yard -- gave Liberty a 7-0 lead, Thomas Johnson recovered a Shaffer fumble at the Liberty 23. Four plays later, quarterback Randell Jones (58 yards rushing) sneaked in for a yard to make it 7-6.

Jones then drove the Patriots 73 yards on seven plays, capped by a 23-yard pass to James Gibbons with 3:10 left in the half for a 12-7 lead. On the next Thomas Johnson possession, the Lions scored again -- thanks to a slick play from linebacker Jimmy Sawyer.

Jones handed off to Mike Briscoe, but Sawyer ripped the ball out of his hands and ran for a 29-yard score while everyone else looked the other way. Luke Vriezen's kick made it 14-12 with 5:57 left in the third quarter.

But Williams then stepped up. His 45-yard run sparked a 77-yard drive that he capped by scoring from five yards with 1:12 left in the third quarter for an 18-14 lead.

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