The road to Liberty High School‘s football success this season began in a ditch, but quickly turned into a super highway.
It was difficult to envision the Liberty football team being a contender for the 6A state championship after the Lions opened the 2019 season by scoring just six points in a 9-6 loss to Brophy Prep.
But the Lions recovered nicely, put up nearly 500 points and averaged 46 points a game the rest of the way. The only time the Peoria school failed to score at least 30 points, following the disastrous opening game, was in a 41-17 loss to Pinnacle High School in mid-October.
And last night, they put the finishes touches on a season that turned inconsistent halfway through by beating top-seeded Red Mountain High School for the school’s first state championship in football.
After a string of four straight wins following the loss in the opener, Liberty was unable to put together back-to-back wins through the next five games. Then they righted the ship again and finished the regular season with a string of four straight wins.
But the playoffs presented a new challenge. After a relatively easy win in the state tournament opener, a 17-point victory over Mountain View HS, in which they led the entire way, the Lions squeezed past Desert Vista HS, 33-30, and then had to go into overtime to capture the title in a 34-28 barn burner.
After a 7-7 first quarter, No. 7-seeded Liberty (10-4) stepped out to take a 21-7 lead at halftime and were still up two scores at 28-14 with just under five minutes left in the game. But Red Mountain (12-2) used a two-yard run by Ty McElroy and a 53-yard TD reception from QB Hynum Boren to Jaren Wilson, and a two-point conversion, to tie the game and take it into OT.
Liberty had the ball first in OT, beginning at the Red Mountain 10-yard line. On the first play, Guevara scampered through the Mountain Lions’ defense for the go-ahead touchdown. On its possession, Red Mountain advanced to the three-yard line on three straight runs, but an interception by Zay Johnson in the end zone brought the game to a dramatic close.
Guevara finished the night with 175 yards passing and 55 rushing, accounting for three scores. Boren went 16-of-31 for 275 yards and added 72 rushing. Two of his three passing TDs went to George Ramirez.
It has been a long dry spell for a school that opened 14 years ago. And they picked the right season to go for their first title; four of the top teams in 6A were playing in the new Open Division that features eight teams from across three conferences to determine which will be the ‘true state champion.’
But that’s not taking anything away from Liberty. The Lions navigated a challenging run to the title and beat the highest-scoring team in 6A to earn this year’s gold ball.