Liberty High School head football coach Ryan Partridge likes to say Corn Country travels well.
The community lived up to that billing Wednesday night, packing City Park to honor the first-ever state-championship winning Liberty High School football team.
The faint sounds of a few side conversations grew to a crowd-wide roar as the Lions’ players came into view with the school’s band and cheerleaders trailing behind.
“Corn Country, it feels good to be a state champion,” said Partridge early on in the nearly half-hour celebration.
One-by-one each of Liberty’s 64 players screamed across a stage, each pausing as to soak in a moment of their historic achievement.
But it was what the players did as a team that will go down in city lore.
The 2018 Lions defeated Sierra Canyon 19-17 on Dec. 15 to become the first football team in the school’s 116-year history to capture a state title.
“Coach Partridge and his fellas have set an even higher bar for all of our student organizations to strive for,” said Eric Volta, superintendent of the Liberty Union High School District.
The team that gifted the community with a win unlike any other will not soon forget their momentous 2018 campaign.
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant announced during the ceremony that the squad will receive state-championship rings, paid for by two prominent city residents, which was received with thunderous applause.
The physical reminders will encapsulate a scintillating 13-1 season that saw Liberty outscore its opponents 557-195, and couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
The California Interscholastic Federation will no longer allow non-section champions to advance to the bowl game series, meaning that the Lions will need to march through vaunted national powerhouse De La Salle----the only team to beat Liberty this season-----to reach another state title game.
The squad also bid goodbye to retiring 36-year assistant coach Rod Beaver at the end of the season, and closed the gates of its home Ohmstede Field to begin work on a new stadium to open in 2019.
“Each season in itself is a journey, it’s a voyage,” Beaver said. “You can go through a lot of different things in a voyage. Suffice to say it was a great one this year.”
When the lights shined brightest on the Liberty players and coaches Wednesday night, they largely deflected the spotlight onto the often forgotten elements that fueled their historic run.
Among them the dedicated fans, cheerleaders, dance team members, band mates, team managers and administration.
“We are just so thankful our community is so good to us,” said running back Tyerell Sturges-Cofer… “We will remember this for the rest of our lives now that we are state champions.”
It’s safe to say the community will too.