The Falcons turned the ball over six times and allowed Wolf Pack kick returners to take it to the house twice.
Joe Mixon doesn’t care much for conventional wisdom. Freedom’s sophomore running back racked up 262 yards on 33 carries as the Falcons hung on for a wild 30-29 victory in Tracy.
“We came back because of heart,” Mixon said. “I tried to do as much as I could for the team, and I came through. They came through for me, with those blocks. All I was thinking was, ‘Get that first down and hold that ball.’”
The Falcons (3-0) fought hard to keep control in a back-and-forth battle. As the fourth quarter began, West looked like the inevitable victor. After a nine-yard touchdown run by Mixon in the quarter’s opening play gave Freedom a 27-24 lead, Wolf Pack (1-3) receiver Marius Williams ran back the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.
The point-after attempt sailed wide right, however, giving the Falcons’ a renewed sense of energy. A field goal would give them the lead.
But a third-down interception off Freedom junior QB Dante Mayes – his third of the evening – gave the ball back to West at the Falcons’ 46. Freedom’s defense held steady, forcing the Wolf Pack to punt.
“We fought through a lot of different adversity tonight,” head coach Kevin Hartwig said. “We kept rolling. We’d give up the ball and the defense would get it right back.”
With their next possession, the Falcons drove down the field, led by Mixon’s runs. However, Freedom ran into a fourth-and-six situation at West’s 16-yard line. The Falcons opted to roll the dice and go for it, a move that awkwardly paid off. The Wolf Pack was called for pass interference in the end zone, moving the ball to the 8.
After Freedom’s drive stalled at the five, Hartwig called on the player dubbed “The Liberian Nightmare.” Junior wideout Nenwon Gbilia, who also handles kickoff and extra point duties, split the uprights from 20 yards out to give the Falcons the lead.
On the ensuing possession, West went three-and-out, allowing Freedom to run out the clock and preserve the victory.
Mayes finished 11-for-26 for 103 yards, three interceptions and one touchdown .
Patrick Thompson led the Wolf Pack with 68 yards on 17 carries.
“It was crazy,” junior receiver/safety Darrell Daniels said. “We followed the game plan, and the game plan got us our victory.”
Next week, the Falcons look to stay undefeated, traveling to Merced to face Golden Valley.
Freedom’s junior varsity team posted a shutout Friday night, beating West 24-0. The Wolf Pack JV has yet to score a point this season.
The game was close in the fourth quarter as the Falcons held a 10-0 lead. A QB sneak by Nathan Mallett made it a 17-0 ballgame. A couple minutes later, Aaron Mullins punched it in from one yard out to give Freedom a 24-0 lead.
West drove down to the 10-yard line on its final possession, but Daniel Sheppard's end zone interception brought West's scoring ambitions to a screeching halt.
The victory advanced the Falcons’ record to 3-0.
“We started off a little slow … but toward the end of the game, we picked it up pretty well,” head coach Don Birk said. “They came back and played hard.”
Other BVAL scores
Heritage 52, Independence 20
Much as Heritage did last year, the Patriots set their offense loose in a 52-20 victory over Independence in San Jose.
Junior quarterback Anthony Carter ran for one touchdown and threw for two more. Senior receiver Kejhan Clayton hauled in one of Carter’s touchdown passes.
“We still have to shore up a lot of things defensively,” Heritage head coach Jeff Haagenson said. “Overall, it’s good to get a win, but we could do a lot better.”
The Patriots (2-1) return to Brentwood this weekend to celebrate homecoming in a clash with James Logan.
Folsom 49, Deer Valley 46
Game story here.
Pittsburg 38, Monte Vista 21
Pittsburg running backs Fe’ao Vunipola and Mister Cotton combined for 411 yards on the ground as the Pirates easily toppled Monte Vista 38-21.
Pittsburg (3-0) travels to Berkeley next week.
Liberty 30, American 18 (Thursday)
Game story here.
Game story here.