BRENTWOOD – It took 14 contests, but the Crusaders finally lost a game in 2015.
Liberty struggled to find its groove on offense and had trouble stopping the big play Friday, as host Christ Presbyterian Academy secured a 21-0 win and put an end to the Crusaders’ state title hopes.
“My hat is off to these guys,” Liberty coach Tyler Turner said. “In our coverage area we weren’t picked to make the playoffs and we go 13-0 to start the year.”
Liberty (13-1) forced CPA (13-1) to punt on its first two possessions of the game, but the Lions found their passing game on their third drive as CPA senior Zack Weatherly completed four straight passes, the last of which ended in a 55-yard touchdown reception for senior wide receiver Price Perdue.
The Crusaders’ defense stepped back up after that, forcing a turnover-on-downs on the Lions next possession, but a Liberty three-and-out led to a 64-yard punt return score for senior Wallace Barrett, and CPA took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Liberty (13-1) came out of the locker room and had to punt on a quick three-and-out on its first drive.
The CPA defense shut the Crusaders down on their next two drives.
On their ensuing two possessions, Liberty combined to run 16 plays, but both ended the same way, with junior Crusader quarterback Corey Newble being picked off by the Lions’ defense.
Liberty was forced to resort to a heavy pass attack for the rest of the game to try and catchup, but Newble had trouble connecting with his receivers. He finished with 118 yards and two interceptions on 13-of-34 passing.
“That was a tough defense,” Newble said. “I think we could have gotten it done had we executed the way we should have.”
Liberty’s leading rusher, junior Chris Johnson, only carried the ball three times after pulling a hamstring in pregame warmups, while standout receiver Rodney Castille hauled in eight catches for 84 yards.
For the Crusaders, Friday night is a tough pill to swallow for a team that hadn’t felt anything except for the thrill of victory all year, but it also shines as a beacon of hope for a team that has more to offer in the future.
Liberty’s leading passer, leading receiver and second-leading rusher are all juniors who plan to return for the 2016 season, and a 13-0 run to start 2015 gives them confidence they can be a tough opponent for all comers next year as well.
“We just look to build on that,” Turner said. “These seniors are going to be huge for us next year. Not only as good athletes, but from a leadership standpoint as well.”
Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.