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Wildcats take on eighth-ranked Patriots
ISSAQUAH - The Liberty Patriots came into last week's game against Mount Si ranked eighth in the state but left with a new found respect for the 'Cats as they narrowly beat Mount Si 31-21.
Liberty is known for scoring points, but its defense has had trouble all season keeping opponents in check. Mount Si took advantage of this defensive weakness from the start as Rollin Smith marched the team down the field after the opening kick and went to Adam Rothgeb for the touchdown with 10:17 left in the first quarter. Chris Brown added the extra point and Mount Si led 7-0.
Liberty answered with a touchdown of its own a few plays later as the Patriots' quarterback, Corey Slater, hit a wide-open Craigh Cornelius in the end zone with the 57-yard bomb. The extra point kick glanced off the upright to maintain a 7-6 lead for Mount Si.
The Wildcats, starting from the Liberty 48-yard line after Cody Hyatt made a beautiful return, went to work on the back of Eric Forslin, as he pushed his way up the middle. A run by Rothgeb moved the ball to the 18-yard line and a slant pass reception by Zach Bowen pushed the team to the 4-yard line for the first down. Brandon Yakaboski made his way to the 2-yard line and from there, pushing his way through with the offensive line, Forslin punched his way into the end zone. Brown added another extra point to make the score 14-6 with 4:57 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats' defense held strong through most of the first quarter to maintain the 14-6 lead. Early in the second quarter after Eric McCammon recorded a sack along with teammate Hyatt, it looked as though the Patriots would be stopped again. But Cornelius was determined to haul in another Slater pass, and from 22 yards out scored the touchdown. The extra point kick was good and the Patriots led 14-13 with 11:03 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots would get another shot before the second quarter was over after a Smith pass was picked off deep in Mount Si territory. From five yards out Dean Anderson rumbled his way into the end zone to give the Patriots a 20-14 lead after the extra point.
Liberty would have another chance before the half was over but huge sacks by Rothgeb and Hyatt kept the Patriots from gaining yardage. A sack late in the second quarter set up a chance for the Wildcats to take back the lead. Pass plays to Kyle Meuli and Stefan Marth moved the ball to the 15-yard line of Liberty. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, the Wildcats second quarterback, Ian Atkinson was sacked, thwarting the drive and ending the half with the Patriots leading 20-14.
In the second half the Wildcats' defense was determined to slow down the Patriots' attack. On the opening drive, Liberty was forced to punt, setting up the Wildcats next scoring drive. Starting from their own 30, runs by Yakaboski and Forslin pushed the ball into Liberty territory. Meuli added a leaping catch to move the ball closer to the end zone. After Forslin pounded the middle for the first down on fourth-and-one, Smith, back in at quarterback, found Meuli again at the 16-yard line. Another pass to Meuli moved the ball to the 11. From there, Smith found Alex Grazda in the corner for the touchdown. Brown added the extra point to give Mount Si a 21-20 lead.
The defense held the rest of the third quarter as McCammon and Rothgeb continued to find their way into the Patriots' backfield. The third quarter ended with Mount Si still in the lead, but two plays later, Slater found Cornelius deep in Mount Si territory en-route to the end zone for the touchdown. Slater then added a two-point conversion on the keeper to make the score 28-21 in favor of the Patriots.
After both defenses forced punts back and forth, the Patriots once again moved into Mount Si territory. The Wildcats' defense held strong again, causing the Patriot offense to incur several holding calls. The penalties moved the ball back to the Wildcat 31-yard line where Liberty kicked an unsuccessful field goal.
With 3:29 left in the game, Mount Si went to the air as Smith found Meuli. The pass was negated on a holding call. Marth then caught a pass but Mount Si was still deep in its own territory. On the next play, Cornelius picked off another Smith pass at the Wildcats' 19-yard line. The defense held its ground and Liberty had to settle for a field goal to make the score 31-21 with 1:59 left in the game.
Mount Si tried its hurry-up offense as the clock ticked down. Meuli was the key, working the sideline pass plays along with teammate Erik Tierney. The drive ended with seven seconds left on the clock as Liberty intercepted a pass. Slater took a knee on the next play to end the game and secure the win.
"We are just having a hard time winning. We play the No. 8 team in state and can't catch a break," said head coach Charlie Kinnune. "We had two two-way starters out again tonight and we have been riddled with injuries.
"I am as proud of this team as any team. They are great citizens, and I don't have to worry about coming back on Monday and finding out something bad happened [after homecoming]," he added.
"That makes it all worth it for me and that's hard to say because I am very very competitive. It's hard to find the good in these situations but when you have kids like we have it makes it very easy," he said.
The Wildcats play likely surprised a few coaches on the Liberty sidelines.
"We thought we could pound the ball at them. We have to be able to run the ball to win, everything is predicated on running the ball. We need to throw first and run second," said Kinnune.
Kinnune was quick to point out the great games several of his players had.
"Adam [Rothgeb] and Kyle Meuli had great games. We put Meuli on the other team's best athlete and he hangs with all of them. He is an all-conference football player on both sides of the ball," said Kinnune. "Defensively, Eric McCammon had a nice game and so did DJ Johnson. Brian Olson also had a great game as did Zach Bowen."
Mount Si takes on Newport at Newport, Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The Knights are coming off a 42-27 loss to the Islanders whom Mount Si plays for their final game, at Issaquah.