First win, quarterback switch bring fresh outlook at Liberty New formation helps, too, as TJ game nears


October 08, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

A new quarterback and a new offense were contributing factors as Liberty earned its first win of the season last week, beating rival South Carroll, 27-14.

Now, the Lions, who lost their first four games, will try to maintain some new-found confidence tomorrow night against visiting Thomas Johnson (2-3).

The new quarterback actually showed up several weeks ago when coach Ken Johnson switched incumbent Aaron Hutsell to tight end and installed Jim Miller, a sophomore up from the JV, at the take-charge position.

The new formation, put in last week, saw a switch to the I from a wing-T.

"We'll use some of both, and the blocking skills and techniques are consistent, but with the I, we can give Calvin Stacey more 'touches' in different spots," Johnson said.

Stacey, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound running back, went into the game with 488 rushing yards on an average of 14 carries a game and wrecked South Carroll with 22 carries for 223 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run.

Inserting some of the old plays, however, Miller and Hutsell worked the formation for a pair of second-half touchdown passes.

"Miller practiced with the varsity in the preseason, but when we decided to go with Hutsell, a senior who had started for us last year, Miller went to the JV so he could get playing experience," Johnson said.

The move was pretty much dictated by Hutsell's physical skills as a receiver.

"He's probably our best receiver, he has soft hands and is focused," the coach said. "We knew he had worked hard and was looking forward to being the quarterback his senior year, but it has turned out to be a good move. It was one of the smoother transitions, and that's a testament to Aaron."

Hutsell, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, admitted the change came as a real shock.

"Last year was a learning process, and I was ready for this season. Looking back now, though, I can see the change was for the better. I had played tight end before, and it's working out."

Senior offensive guard/linebacker Chris Peters was quick to chime in: "Now, we have a tight end we can throw to, and we're not as predictable as a run-oriented team."

Of Miller, Peters added: "He has good speed and an unbelievable arm. He's over the jitters and has really picked up things quickly."

One advantage is an all-senior offensive line of center Justin Felmey, guards Peter and Lin Brengle, and tackles Shawn Carter and Austin Frederick. Johnson rotates six players on the other side, backed by Peters, 6-foot, 195-pounder whom Johnson calls "a very good linebacker."

This week has everybody in a better mood, but Peters cautions the team is prone for a letdown.

"We're trying to make sure this doesn't happen," he said. "We want everybody to keep their heads in the game."

Stacey said that before the South Carroll game, he wasn't sure his team could win, "but now we're a different team."

The enthusiasm seems to be contagious, and Miller may have done the best job of expressing what the win means to the school in general and the team in particular, when he said: "For the first time in my life, on a Monday, I couldn't wait to go to school."

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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