It's been Liberty's goal since before the season to win a Pacific Conference championship, and with nothing but the Century Jaguars between them and a shot at that title, the Falcons dispatched the Jags 46-28 Friday night, Oct. 22, at Century High School.
Liberty quarterback Hiro Diamond combined for 303 yards through the ground and air, had a part in five Falcon touchdowns, and watched as his defense held the high-octane Century offense mostly at bay, setting up a de facto conference championship game with Sherwood next Friday.
"This league championship is everything to us," Diamond said. "We've been talking about this since last summer and it's been our main goal of the season. It's going to be a good game, but we're just going to go back to practice and get to work and prepare."
Diamond scored on runs of 5 and 10 yards, and threw for scores of 13, 45, and 72 yards. But while certainly doing his part, it was the what the rest of the team did that the senior signal caller was more about after the game.
Five different Falcons scored on the night, and their quarterback believes that it's that diversity that best defines who they are and why they're so difficult to defend.
"We always have multiple people touching the ball and doing things on offense, and it opens up a lot of looks for us," Diamond said. ""I think that's a very big trademark of our team and something we all should be proud of."
Liberty head coach Eric Mahlum also noted the offense after the game, but was equally pleased with his defense which stood tall against a dangerous Century offensive attack.
"Century has really progressed and gotten a lot better," Mahlum said. "They really keep you on your toes and make you work. Our guys had to communicate and trust each other. It's not about one or two guys making plays, it's about the DBs trusting the linebackers, the linebackers trusting the defensive line, and aside from a couple big plays I thought the guys did a great job tonight."
The Jaguars scored first in the contest, taking a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive when Jalen Ellis caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Mahlman in the game's fourth minute.
Liberty (6-2, 4-0) tied it and took the lead on scores by Diamond and Keenan Frye early in the second quarter, took a 21-7 lead when Cade Hammond caught a quick slant and went 72 yards to paydirt with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter, and after Century's Cameron Smith returned a kickoff 65 yards for a score, went to halftime up 27-14 after sophomore running back Tanner Steinbach ran 42 yards just before the break.
From there it was almost all Falcons, who seemed to make the big play when they needed it, while mostly keeping the Jaguars from doing the same.
Century (1-7, 1-3) scored twice more in the game, but one came on a 34-yard tipped ball to Jake Nicholson late in the third quarter, and the other with help from a 15 yard late hit penalty that led to a Mahlman 1-yard run that capped the scoring with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Mahlum acknowledged the mistakes, but was for the most part happy with how his team played, along with how they've progressed since losing a mistake-filled game to North Medford a month ago.
"We've learned to practice better," the coach said when asked what's changed. "You've got to win during the week before you win on Friday. We've put an emphasis on the little things and I think our guys have really focused on and recognized that. We weren't practicing very well and that starts with the coaches. But we had that conversation and when we started league play we were ready."
Now that league play will culminate with their game with Sherwood next Friday with all the marbles on the line.
"Our goal coming into the season was to go get a league championship and we've put ourselves in a position to compete for one," Mahlum said. "Sherwood is a very good team that's very well coached, so we're excited. We couldn't ask for anything better than the last Friday of the regular season to have everything on the line, but no one it going to give it to us, we have to go earn it."
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