Sherwood wins league title with 49-39 win over Liberty
Every coach will tell you that it's the little things that often make the difference between winning and losing. Sherwood did those things and in the process secured the Pacific Conference title with a 49-39 win over Liberty Friday night, Oct. 29, at Liberty High School.
Sherwood's Nolan Scott took the opening kickoff nearly 100 yards for a score and Liberty (6-3, 4-1) missed an extra point on its first touchdown on the subsequent possession, setting the tone for what would be a game indirectly decided by those two plays.
"I thought the kicking game played a huge part of this win tonight," Sherwood head coach Kevin Hastin said. "We believe in the importance of all three phases and our seniors really came through tonight."
Liberty head coach Eric Mahlum couldn't help but agree with Hastin's assessment, but took the blame for what he said were obviously some very costly errors by his special teams.
"It's the little things," Mahlum said. "Whether it's giving up the kickoff return in the beginning, missing extra points, missing tackles, that goes back to coaching. Somewhere I didn't have those guys prepared to do the little things, and I need to do a better job of making sure those things don't hurt us. But our kids played hard and competed until the end."
Both teams entered the game 4-0 in Pacific Conference play and were well aware of what was on the line. Bowmen quarterback Bjorn Bergstrom said that the title, along with the honor that goes with it was something that was without a doubt at the forefront of their minds coming into tonight's game.
"This is huge because coming from 5A to 6A we were a dominant program and we want to show that we're still that dominant program," Bergstrom said. "We wanted to keep that winning tradition going and this was a great team effort tonight."
Bergstrom threw for 124 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-9 attempts, while running for 20 yards on what was an extremely efficient night. But the quarterback got help from his skill players, getting five catches for 88 yards and a score from receiver Cody Hall, 144 rushing yards and four scores from running back Seth Glenn, and 114 yards on the ground to go with 30 receiving yard and two touchdowns from Scott â€“ including the opening kickoff.
That collective effort didn't escape Bergstrom, who did little more than heap praise on his teammates in the wake of the victory.
"Every guy contributed to this," the quarterback said. "From both lines, to the defense, the receivers, running backs, it was a complete game and we did this together."
After Scott's opening score, Liberty answered with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive capped by a Hiro Diamond to Ethan Jones 15-yard touchdown pass to pull the Falcons to within 7-6, where it would stay following a missed extra point.
Sherwood (5-4, 5-0) made it 14-6 three plays later on a Glenn 31 yard touchdown run, and 21-6 on its next possession when Glenn scored again, this time on a five yard run.
Liberty cut the lead to 21-12 just before the end of the first quarter on a Michael Campos 13-yard run, but failed on a two-point attempt â€“ which became a theme for the night.
"Sure, that hurts you getting behind like that, but these kids are resilient," Mahlum said. "We kept going and we were expecting to score and get it back, but tonight it didn't happen."
They did fight however, cutting a 35-18 Sherwood lead to 35-25 when Diamond scored on a dazzling 30-yard touchdown run as time expired in the first half to give the Falcons life. But they'd never get closer and when Diamond was sacked on fourth down with just under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the game was over and Sherwood got to celebrate a very meaningful league championship.
The Bowmen started the season with four consecutive non-conference defeats, but finished on a five game winning streak and feel they're peaking for the postseason to come.
"We've found out a lot about ourselves since those first five games," Hastin said. "We had a tough schedule and some tough injuries, but we fought through and just stayed positive. I think we're getting better every week and I think we can be a dangerous team in the playoffs."
Bergstrom agreed, cautiously warning future opponents of what his team brings to the table.
"I'm super excited and I think we can beat anybody in the state," Bergstrom said. "I don't want to jinx us, but we're going to be a tough matchup for anyone and I feel like we've got a lot more games in us."
Liberty too is looking forward, despite the disappointment of what was a heart-wrenching defeat. But Mahlum is confident they'll rebound and isn't ready to send these seniors on their way just yet.
"I don't want to end my time with these seniors," the Liberty coach said. "I told them this is going to hurt for the next 24 hours, but after that we've got to put it behind us and get back to work."
Diamond led the Falcons, going 18-for-30 for 223 passing yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 180 yards and four scores.
Ethan Jones added nine catches for 119 yards and a score for Liberty, while sophomore running back Mitchell Denniston carried 10 times for 90 yards.
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