The 2011 game was even closer, but the result was the same as before. The Lions scored first and managed a tie at halftime. But a strong third quarter from the Patriots was too much to overcome, and Heritage downed Liberty 28-21.
“We played all four quarters, fought hard and didn’t give up at all,” said Patriots’ senior running back Jorel Avila. “Coach was talking to us at halftime, telling us what to do, and what we were going to do. We came out and executed.”
While Heritage (4-3, 2-0 Bay Valley Athletic League) did score three touchdowns in the second half, the most important play of the game did not result in a score. On a third down near midfield, junior receiver Carson Cleverly took a handoff on what appeared to be a reverse. Instead, Cleverly threw a looping pass to senior tight end Jasper Dhaliwal, who was wide open.
Dhaliwal was tackled before scoring, but only ran more time off of the clock. Three plays later, junior quarterback Anthony Carter called his own number and scored, putting his team up 28-14. Liberty did score on the ensuing possession, but failed to recover the onside kick. A 13-yard run from Carter gave the Patriots the first down and the game.
“We’ve been working on that play for a couple of weeks now,” Cleverly said of the trick play. “I took the handoff, looked up, saw a couple of outside backers coming at me. I looked up, saw the tight end with nobody covering him. I just threw it; he went up and got it.”
The game started well for Liberty (2-5, 0-2 BVAL). The Lions took the opening kickoff, killed seven minutes off of the clock, and scored when junior quarterback Cody Suckow hit senior receiver Christian Smith on an eight-yard pass. The Lions would hold that lead for most of the first half, but Heritage evened the score when Carter hit senior receiver Kehjan Clayton for the first of his two touchdowns; the other came on the ground.
Clayton’s second score plus a 26-yard run from Avila gave Heritage a 21-7 lead after three quarters. Liberty didn’t score again until early in the fourth quarter, when Suckow hit senior receiver Nick West on a six-yard touchdown pass. Suckow closed the scoring with a four-yard quarterback sneak. Lions head coach Nate Smith didn’t mince words when placing blame on the offensive lull in the middle quarters.
“I’ll put that on me, offensively,” Smith said. “I didn’t keep us in the rhythm that we needed to stay in. Yeah, we had some breakdowns, execution wise. But I didn’t let us keep the rhythm that worked so well for us on the opening drive. That’s on me.”
Heritage is now looking forward to a date with Pittsburg (4-3, 1-1). While they anticipate a tough challenge from the perennial power – out to avenge last year’s playoff loss to the Patriots – that prospect didn’t prevent the players from living in the moment on Friday.
“It was rough,” said Clayton. “But we just played hard. I’m a senior. There was no way that we were going to be the first ones to lose the Brentwood Bowl.”
Heritage’s JV team also won – but didn’t experience anywhere near as big a scare as the varsity – dominating the Lions 36-7.
The success of Heritage’s JV and varsity teams rounded out a clean sweep of Liberty, as the Patriots freshmen won 14-13 on Thursday.
Other BVAL scores
Deer Valley 21, Pittsburg 20 (OT)
Freedom 42, Antioch 6