Justice Jackson

Photo by Tony Kukulich

Liberty all purpose back Justice Jackson and Freedom defensive back Jahri Peterson battle for the ball during the Lions’ 44-14 win in the Bell Game.

For the first time in five games, the Liberty High School football team didn’t have to sweat out a victory in its 44-14 win over Freedom last week.

And it came with an added bonus: the Lions got to ring the Bell Game bell for the third consecutive season.

“You gotta love it,” said Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge about winning the Bell Game — the annual rivalry game between Liberty and Freedom.

The Lions (6-0) used three unanswered touchdowns (two in the second half) and relentless defense to hold back the gutsy Falcons (0-6).

Liberty quarterback Jay Butterfield completed seven of 16 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns; all-purpose back Justice Jackson caught six passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, in his first game after sitting out the first five games to meet transfer rules after coming over from Walnut Creek’s Berean Christian High School this season; and running back Darrion Bartley chipped in with 18 carries for 70 yards rushing, including touchdown scores of 2 and 16 yards. Four Lions scored in the victory.

Liberty’s defense was equally impressive, sacking Freedom quarterback Jake Byrne six times, and holding Freedom to 181 total yards. Linebacker Anthony Orgoglio and defensive lineman Peyton Borrelli each had two sacks in the game, and fellow defensive lineman Akili Calhoun led the team with seven tackles.

“It was a good, solid team win, so I was happy about that,” said Brenden Bell, running back and safety.

Liberty essentially took command of the game just two plays after Jordan Lee’s 33-yard, fourth-down touchdown catch pulled the Falcons within 23-14, with 27 seconds left in the first half.

The Falcons wouldn’t score again the rest of the game, and on the second play of the Lions’ ensuing drive, Butterfield found Jackson racing down the sideline for a 72-yard gut-punch score to put Liberty up 30-14 at halftime.

Bartley’s 16-yard touchdown run midway through the third, and Jackson’s 36-yard catch and run about two game-minutes later, sealed the Lions’ 44-14 victory.

“It’s tough,” said Freedom head coach Andrew Cotter. “We are still looking for that first win. Hats off to Liberty. They played a great football game, are well coached and have some good kids. You take what you can and get ready for the next week.”

Though Liberty looked dominant, especially in the second half, it took a while for the Lions to get rolling.

The Brentwood squad turned the ball over on downs on Freedom’s 1-yard line after recovering a Freedom fumble to open the game, and punted on its second offensive possession. But in between those two possessions, Liberty’s defense took care of the scoring, pulling Freedom’s Lee down for a safety to put the Lions up 2-0.

Bartley’s 2-yard touchdown, late in the first quarter, extended the Lions’ lead to 9-0.

Freedom struck back on its next drive when Byrne found wide receiver Matthew Quesada for an 11-yard score to pull Freedom within 9-7, early in the second quarter.

But Mason Padilla’s 1-yard run put Liberty up 16-7 early in the second quarter, and Cody Muth’s 34-yard catch, with under a minute to go in the first half, put the Lions up 23-7.

Lee’s 33-yard touchdown catch on Freedom’s next possession brought the Falcons within 23-14, with 27 seconds left in the first half. But two plays later, Jackson moved down the sideline for a Liberty score, putting the Lions up 30-14 as the first-half clock clicked to zero.

“Watching their film, we saw they have a lot of good football players, so we really didn’t know how it was going to end up,” Partridge said. “It was a little ugly at the beginning. We had to figure some things out, but once we got it, we made some plays.”

Liberty is expected to debut its renovated stadium when it hosts Antioch on Oct. 4 at 7:15 p.m. Freedom hosts Pittsburg at 7 p.m. on the same day.