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District 11’s strife is o’er; Liberty claims first PIAA title in OT

Written by: on Sunday, December 14th, 2008

HERSHEY, Pa. – There’s an old hymn which begins the opening stanza with the words, “The strife is o’er, the battle won.”  To say that District 11 “AAAA” football teams were in some strife in three recent state finals was an understatement.  They had been outscored 117-23 in those games.


Liberty ended the strife and won the battle.  For their efforts, they hoisted the golden football.


Anthony Gonzalez ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns, but it was his one-handed interception in overtime that sealed the Hurricanes (15-1) 28-21 overtime victory against WPIAL champion Bethel Park (15-1).


Liberty avoided joining an infamous duo – Woodland Hills and Blackhawk – as the only PIAA reps to lose three state championship football games.


“It’s just an amazing thing,” Hurricane head coach Tim Moncman said.  “It’s unbelievable.  We didn’t realize it until he (Gonzalez) picked the pass off.”


In reality, the game should not have gone to overtime.  Liberty drove deep into Black Hawk territory on its opening drive, but failed a fourth down conversion attempt.


Bethel Park then grabbed a 7-0 lead on a quick-strike style drive.  Rock Vomer scored from 22 yards out, capping a drive highlighted by a 36-yard reception by wide receiver John Schademan.


It appeared that it would be more of the same for District 11, that is, until Gonzalez took Liberty on an 11-play drive which he capped with a one-yard run.


The Black Hawks and Hurricanes traded touchdowns in the second quarter – Lyle Marsh gave Bethel a 14-7 lead with a seven yard run, and Gonzalez made it 14-13 on a 35-yard jaunt down the Bethel sideline.  Liberty missed the tying extra point.


The Hurricanes then took its first lead of the game with 7:04 left in the third period.  Gonzalez (9-of-20, 97 yards, 2 INT) connected with Jarrod West (2 rec., 35 yards) to the BP 7.  West fumbled, but Devin Street (5 rec., 52 yards, TD) picked up the fumble and ran in from a yard out.  Liberty nailed the two-point conversion to make it 21-14.


“He’s really good,” Bethel Park head coach Jeff Metheny said of Gonzalez.  “He can throw it or he can run it…very well.”


Was Gonzalez the best “AAAA” quarterback Metheny saw this season?


“I think he might be,” he said.


Bethel Park, though, was not going to let the game end there.  Lyle Marsh answered the Liberty touchdown with his second of the night – this a 55-yarder down the right hash, knotting things at 21.


That’s how it stayed until regulation ended.  Liberty scored on its possession, a Gonzalez one-yard run, his fourth total touchdown accounted for.


On 3rd and goal, Erik Olson’s (8-of-14, 114 yards, 2 INT) fell into Gonzalez’ left hand, and Liberty stormed the field in celebration.  Gonzalez got caught under a pile of his teammates on the field in the celebration.


“We just had to prove that in the East, we’ve got good teams too,” #8 said.  “We’re the first (Liberty) team to win here in Hershey Stadium.  I’m just so proud.”


Moncman was equally proud of his quarterback.


“He’s done that all year,” a soaking wet Liberty boss said.  “He’s a special kid.  How (the heck) can he not have a scholarship offer yet?”


Scholarship offers are bound to come in for the junior field general.  Until they do, Liberty can bask in the spotlight of bringing state gold back to the East.


The strife is o’er after all.


NOTES: The game marked the sixth overtime game played in state finals history – the second in the “AAAA” title game.  The other occurred in 2000, when Cathedral Prep defeated Central Bucks West 41-35. 


The loss sent the WPIAL to 0-3 in state title games which end in overtime.  Canevin Catholic and Pine-Richland lost overtime games as well.


This latest match-up between District 11 and the WPIAL in the “AAAA” title game marked the first time that the final score was a margin less than 20 points.


District 11 won it’s 10th overall PIAA title, but just the second since 2003.  Prior to that year, District 11 had been 8-1 in state finals.


The WPIAL falls to 29-34 all-time in PIAA finals.


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