Liberty saw its hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time in the school’s six-year existence slip through the cracks on Friday night.
Foothill handed the host Patriots a 16-14 Southeast League loss on kicker Terrance Walls’ 36-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining.
Nursing a 14-13 lead into the fourth quarter, Liberty (4-5, 2-4) seemed to be in control when it mounted a 13-play drive that lasted more than six minutes. The drive sputtered when Patriots quarterback Ryan Doy fumbled the snap on a fourth-and-2, turning the ball over on downs to Foothill (4-5, 2-3).
Starting from their 36-yard line, Falcons senior quarterback Aaron Dupin calmly moved his offense down the field, setting up Walls’ kick. A fourth-down pass-interference penalty on Liberty defensive back D.J. Warren with 1:44 left aided the drive.
Dupin hit tight end F.J. Funtila with a 12-yard pass to set up the kick.
“We had enough time and enough timeouts to put ourselves in position to win the game,” Foothill coach Marty Redmond said. “We got the ball moved down far enough to get the field goal to clinch the game.”
But even in field-goal range, Redmond knew nothing guaranteed Walls would convert.
“It was the first time ever for a game-winner (for Walls),” Redmond said. “We know he can kick them in practice pretty good. He just came through.”
Foothill took little time in taking early control of the game by forcing Liberty to punt on its opening drive. Falcons sophomore Connor Afoa returned the Patriots’ punt 50 yards for a touchdown.
Foothill mounted a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive on its next possession, capped by a 13-yard TD run by Dupin. The drive featured 12 consecutive running plays, including 56 yards on eight rushes by running back Algernon Sewell.
Liberty countered with Shawn Murray’s two second-quarter touchdown runs to take a 14-13 lead at halftime. The senior tailback, who finished with 105 yards on 11 carries, bolted for 63 yards on the first play of the quarter.
After scoring a second touchdown, a 40-yard run in which Murray took a direct snap and burst around the end untouched, the Falcons kept the Liberty speedster in check in the second half.
“We just had to recognize where he was lined up,” Redmond said. “They moved him around at quarterback and running back, but after we were able to recognize where he was, we were able to shut him down a little bit.”