The Liberty High School football team pounced on Heritage in a 35-15 win last Friday that landed the team in the record books.
The Lions (9-2), top seed in the North Coast Section (NCS) Division 1 playoffs, will host fourth-seed San Leandro on Nov. 24 in Liberty’s first appearance in the NCS semifinals.
“We are a young team, but these guys are answering and doing a great job,” said first-year Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge.
Liberty took the lead for good on junior Sione Vaki’s 10-yard catch late in the first half.
Liberty sophomore quarterback Jay Butterfield went on to toss touchdowns to Sophomore Peyton Borrelli and senior Zane Hinojosa. Junior John Fio and Vaki also scored on the ground as Liberty cruised to victory. Liberty’s defense also had a stellar outing, holding the Patriots to 75 first-half yards.
The Lions’ victory was their second over Heritage this season. Liberty squeaked by the Patriots 17-14 on Sept. 29.
“We just wanted to get in a bunch of personnel groups and test the waters (in the second matchup of the season against Heritage),” Partridge said. “But we found some things that worked and made some adjustments and drew one play in the dirt that kept hitting on offense. We kept running it, so it was good.”
Down 14-0 at halftime, Heritage showed life on Senior Aidan Quinn’s 1-yard touchdown that cut the Patriots’ deficit to 14-8, but Fio answered with a 1-yard touchdown on the Lions’ ensuing drive, upping Liberty’s lead to 21-8.
Liberty’s lead grew to 35-8 on Hinojosa and Borrelli’s back-to-back touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. Hinojosa caught four passes for 117 yards in the game, and Borrelli snagged 2 for 56.
“We just came into this game more confident,” said Butterfield, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns in only his second varsity start of his career. “The first game against our rivals, we were a little tight, but this time we came out looser. We knew what they had, we knew what we had and we came right at them.”
Quinn, whose second 1-yard touchdown pulled Heritage within 35-15 late in the fourth, finished with 18 carries for 129 yards. Junior Tyerell Sturges-Cofer led the Lions’ rushing attack with 15 carries for 97 yards.
The Lions’ next opponent, San Leandro, enters the field on Saturday night with an 8-4 record. The Pirates, who finished second to Bishop O’Dowd in the Western Alameda County Conference, have knocked off 12th-seed Berkeley 68-14 and fifth-seed Foothill 41-28 this postseason.
“We just have to come out with the same game plan and hopefully come through with the same results as this week,” Butterfield said.
Liberty’s clash with San Leandro on Nov. 24 is scheduled for 7 p.m.