The Liberty High School football team put the school’s 116-year history on its shoulders at the start of the 2018 CIF State Football Championship Division 1A bowl game against Sierra Canyon.
And ended it crashing through the walls of history.
The Lions won the team’s first state championship with a 19-17 win over Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) on Saturday night at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Liberty Running back Tyrell Sturges-Cofer rushed for 198 yards, including the team’s three touchdowns, and the Lions’ bend, but don’t break defense held steady late to thrust the 2018 Lions into the annals of history.
“This feels awesome,” said second-year head coach Ryan Partridge, as his players celebrated wildly behind him.
Sturges-Cofer’s 11-yard run gave Liberty its first and only lead, 19-17, midway through the fourth quarter, and the Lions never relinquished the momentum.
Sierra Canyon reached the Lions’ 40-yard-line on the ensuing drive, but Liberty safety Sione Vaki stood up Brendon Gamble at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-three to return the ball to the Lions for good with 4:14 left in the game.
Adrik Lamar’s 19-yard catch on third-and-six first extended the Lions’ ensuing drive, and Sturges-Cofer’s 6-yard dash on fourth-and-three four plays later sealed the victory, sending Liberty players and fans into a euphoric state.
“I really can’t put this moment into words,” said Butterfield. “This is the best feeling I have ever had.”
Sierra Canyon, looking for its third state title in eight years, outgained Liberty 314-312 in total yards and took what appeared to be a commanding 17-7 lead with 9:12 left in the third quarter.
Sierra Canyon cornerback DJ Harvey intercepted Butterfield on the Lions ensuing drive, and both teams then traded punts, but when Liberty defense end Ethan Dumond recovered Chayden Perry’ fumble late in the third quarter, it changed the course of the game.
The Lions’ Sturges-Cofer dashed 31 yards on the second play of the following drive to pull Liberty within 17-13.
Sierra Canyon marched all the way to the Lions’ 19-yard line on its next drive, but Josh Bryan’s 35-yard field goal attempt dropped short, which set in motion’s Liberty’s eight-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Sturges-Cofer’s 11-yard run to put the Lions in front.
“We just wanted to finish the job and win,” said Sturges-Cofer.
Liberty’s win caps a thrilling two-year run for the Lions in Partridge’s first two years as head coach.
The Lions had won one playoff game prior to Partridge’s arrival in 2017, but have been a history-making machine ever since.
Liberty won its first North Coast Section title in a 37-0 win over Freedom to cap off its 2017 campaign, and can now add a state title to its impressive resume.
“We started this season knowing we wanted to go to state, and we are here,” said defensive tackle Brock Hammer. “This is a big feeling of accomplishment.”