Sherwood steps up to get playoff win
HILLSBORO — Sure, it's been a feel-good type of season for the Liberty High School football team.
But the Bowmen weren't about to let that stand in their way.
Liberty likely exceeded expectations this year. In just their second season at the Class 6A level, the Falcons finished 7-2, tied for second in the Metro League, and qualified for and hosted a state playoff game against Sherwood. But that's where the fairy tale ended.
A determined Bowmen squad made sure of that.
Sherwood kept its season going by rolling to a 49-28 win over the Falcons in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Friday at Liberty High School.
In a game littered with offensive fireworks, Sherwood made a couple more plays, got a couple more stops, and pulled away from Liberty at the start of the fourth quarter, abruptly ending the Falcons year.
"They're a good team," said Liberty head coach Eric Mahlum. "They outplayed us tonight, but our kids competed and kept fighting all the way. We just didn't get it done."
With the loss, Liberty, the No. 3 team out of the Metro League, and the No. 16 seed for the state playoffs, finished its season with a final overall record of 7-3.
Sherwood, the No. 6 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 17 seed for the playoffs, evened its season record at 5-5. Sherwood, the only road team to get a win in the first round of the state playoffs, advances to play at top-seeded Lake Oswego in a state-playoff second-round game on Friday, starting at 7 p.m. at Lake Oswego High School.
"Our big thing was we really wanted to finish a game and not make a big mistake that would cost us," Sherwood coach Greg Lawrence said of the postseason opener at Liberty. "A lot of our games this year have been that way, and it was nice to play a clean one and to do it when it mattered most."
Neither team punted in the first-half, both using a nice combination of inside and outside running, coupled with a timely throw to keep the defense honest.
Sherwood took the opening kick and drove immediately down the field to take an early 7-0 lead on a two-yard touchdown run by senior Zach Jenkins. And after the Bowmen stopped the Falcons on a fourth-and-1 play on their ensuing possession, quickly scored again on a 40-yard pass from senior quarterback Wyatt Zettlemoyer to Jenkins, and it was 14-0 and a rout appeared to be on.
But Liberty answered with a seven-play, 69-yard drive capped by an Aiden Maloney 25-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 14-7 and breathing life back into the comatose Falcon crowd.
However, the Bowmen answered that possession with a long drive of their own, going 73 yards in 15 plays and using nearly seven minutes to again take a two score lead at 21-7, following a one-yard touchdown blast by junior fullback Ian Stormont. Sherwood had three third-down and one fourth-down conversion en route to its third TD of the night.
Liberty responded with a four-play drive that started with a Maloney 67-yard run and ended with junior quarterback Brad Norman gutting the Bowmen defense on a quarterback keeper for a 21-yard scoring play that again pulled the home team within seven.
It was then Sherwood's turn to score again. This time it was junior running back Ryan Scroggin doing the honors for the Bowmen, scoring on a 28-yard run. Maloney finished the second-quarter scoring with a one-yard TD run, leaving Sherwood with a 28-21 halftime lead.
The third quarter was more of the same, with both teams scoring on their first possessions. Liberty tied the game 28-28 when it went 80 yards in three minutes, finishing when Maloney went 15 yards around the right end for a Falcon score. But Sherwood regained the lead three minutes later when Jenkins scored his third touchdown of the night on a four-yard run up the middle to put the visitors up 35-28.
The Bowmen then got a rare stop on Liberty's next possession, then drove 83 yards in just six plays, capping things off with another Zettlemoyer to Jenkins 40-yard TD pass, to take a 42-28 lead just eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
"We told the defense at halftime that we needed a stop from them," said Lawrence. "And we got it."
Then they got another one.
Trailing by two scores, Liberty quickly drove into Sherwood territory, but on second-and-10 from the Bowmen 45-yard line, Norman dropped to pass and threw a quick slant that was tipped at the line, fluttered into the defensive backfield and was intercepted by senior linebacker Rustin Williams. Sherwood took little time to capitalize on the turnover, scoring on a three-yard run by junior Ben Baxter to make it 49-28, ending the game and sending the Bowmen to next week's second round.
"Our defensive coordinator told me before the game that he thought this was going to be a shootout, and he was right," Lawrence said. "They're very good offensively. That quarterback and No. 17 (Maloney) are a couple of studs."
Sherwood, as a team, had 505 yards of total offense in the victory, with 335 of those yards coming on the ground.
Baxter led a balanced Bowmen rushing attack with 99 yards on 10 carries. Scroggin added 47 yards on five carries, Stormont had 43 yards on 11 carries, junior Jacob Reuter had 40 yards on five carries and Williams had 35 yards on seven carries.
Zettlemoyer completed nine of 10 pass attempts for 170 yards. Jenkins had three receptions for 90 yards. Senior receiver Jaret Scott had two catches for 40 yards.
For the Sherwood defense, senior Sterling Goldstein and junior Carter Atkins each had a tackle for a loss.
For Liberty, Maloney ran for 123 yards on nine carries. Norman rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries, and he completed 10 of 16 pass attempts for 125 yards.
Dan Brood of the Times contributed to this story.