Liberty routs N. Carroll for county championship Denning rushes for 3 TDs, 124 yards in 56-6 win

November 10, 1996|By Brant James | Brant James,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Justin Barnowski stood along his home sideline for the final time yesterday, just minutes after he had helped Liberty to a 56-6 rout of North Carroll for his second consecutive county championship.

Emotions ran close to the surface for the senior as North Carroll head coach Bill Rumbaugh crossed the field to pass along a final sentiment.

"Justin, you're a fine football player," Rumbaugh said, shaking Barnowski's hand. "I'm glad you're gone, because I don't like having to coach against you. But I like the way you play."

For the Lions, who finished the season 5-5, 3-0 in Carroll County, the reclamation of the county title was the focus of a season, the focus of a four-year plan for the seniors.

"We tried to do what we could to turn the program around," Barnowski said. "We wanted to set a standard for the underclassmen to continue."

The continuation of the standard was never in doubt yesterday.

Liberty, led by 124 yards and three touchdowns from senior fullback Josh Denning, scored on every possession, and knocked the wind out of North Carroll (6-4, 3-1) before it ever touched the football.

Liberty exerted its line dominance quickly on its first possession of the game, driving 61 yards in eight plays for a 6-0 lead when senior quarterback Ryan Pagels ran left for a 6-yard touchdown.

"I told my team this game would be won or lost on the line -- and I was right," Rumbaugh said. "I just wish it had been won the other way."

Luke Vriezen's point-after kick gave Liberty a 7-0 lead, and his well-placed onsides kick on the next play gave the Lions possession back at the North Carroll 45.

Pagels bootlegged the Lions to the 15 with a 15-yard run three plays into the drive, and Barnowski carried three times for 20 ZTC yards, including a three-yard bolt with 6: 57 left in the first quarter that gave Liberty a 13-0 lead.

North Carroll's first offensive series ended after just four plays. The Panthers amassed just 33 net yards in the first half as junior quarterback John Etzel was sacked three times, and their top running back, junior Adam Crowl, was held to 20 yards on five carries.

Liberty, which gained 115 of its 304 rushing yards in the first quarter, kept grinding as the Panthers kept spinning their wheels, and took a 19-0 lead with 2: 36 left in the period when Denning barreled 15 yards for a touchdown.

"I didn't feel comfortable until it was 19-0," Liberty coach Ken Johnson said. "North Carroll's been pretty explosive offensively."

Denning scored his final touchdown on the Lions' first drive of the second quarter, and increased the lead to 25-0 with a 19-yard burst. Pagels hit Barnowski for a 2-point conversion and 27-0 lead. Barnowski added another conversion run after Scott Carr scored on a 1-yard run on the next series for a 27-0 lead, and defensive back Will Frankton intercepted an Etzel pass for a 70-yard touchdown return and 42-0 lead with 1: 27 left before halftime.

Tres Johnson and Joel Denning added Liberty touchdown runs of two and 33 yards, respectively, in the second half.

Crowl broke free along the left side to score from 34 yards out on the game's final play. He finished the day with 125 yards, 1,016 for the season. Rumbaugh called a timeout to stop the clock and give Crowl the final opportunity.

"It's a great accomplishment and was a goal for me going into the season. Last year on JV, I came up short against these guys with 955 yards," Crowl said.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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