GARRETTSVILLE, OH- JAG Stadium was the site of the regular season finale for the home Garfield G-MEN as they hosted the Liberty Leopards. Garfield was looking to rebound from a tough home loss last week to Brookfield while Liberty was looking to finish the regular season with a 5th straight win.
The Leopards got off to a great start as on the 3rd play from scrimmage QB Tyson Lawrence-Watson hit Dwayne Moody in stride for an 87-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was good and Liberty jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead.
Garfield struck right back on only the 2nd play of their drive as QB Eric Geddes went over the middle to Deacon Sommer for a 53-yard touchdown pass. Ethen Bittence converted the PAT knotting the game up at 7.
The fast and furious scoring continued on the ensuing kickoff as Liberty's Chris Cunningham took the return 82 yards to the house for the Leopards second touchdown in three minutes. The PAT was good putting Liberty up 14-7 with just over 9 minutes left in the 1st quarter.
The G-MEN were able to slow things down on their next possession going to their strength of ground and pound. The 10 play, 56 yard drive of all running plays ended with a Keegan Sell 5-yard touchdown run. Bittence again converted the PAT and Garfield tied it up at 14 with just over four minutes left in the 1st quarter.
The G-MEN then converted a successful onside kick at the 38 yard line. The possession ended with another Keegan Sell rushing touchdown this time from 13 yards out. The Bittence PAT gave the G-MEN their first lead at 21-14 to close out the first quarter.
After the G-MEN held Liberty to a 3 and out to start the 2nd quarter, Garfield got a big 29-yard run by Carter Bates and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Leopards that moved them to the Liberty 17 yard line. From their Vinnie Grandizio ran it in for the 17-yard touchdown. Bittence converted his fourth straight PAT putting the G-MEN up 28-14 with 10:47 to play in the 1st half.
Another Liberty three and out lead to another G-MEN touchdown. After an Eric Geddes 20-yard run on the 4th play of the drive, five plays later Geddes found Leo Grandizio in the corner of the end zone from 9 yards out for his 2nd passing touchdown of the night. The Bittence PAT was good and Garfield took a comfortable 35-14 lead.
Liberty's next possession ended in disaster. After two consecutive false starts moved the Leopards back 10 yards, Lawrence-Watson was picked off by Deacon Sommer who returned it 29 yards for the touchdown. Another Bittence PAT made it a 42-14 G-MEN lead. That would be the halftime score as both teams failed to get anything going on their last possessions of the half.
Garfield received the 2nd half kickoff and went right to work. They went 56 yards in 6 plays capped off by a Carter Bates 14-yard touchdown run. It was another scoring drive of all running plays. Bittence made it a 49-14 G-MEN lead with his 7th PAT of the night.
Liberty then had their second straight possession end in disaster. After a big G-MEN sack by Gary Stefco stalled the drive, a muffed punt turned the ball over to Garfield at the Liberty 24 yard line. From there it took three plays capped off by a Deacon Sommer 15-yard rushing touchdown. Bittence made the PAT and went 8/8 on the night. This put the G-MEN lead at 56-14 with just under two minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.
Liberty was able to rebound from a couple bad possessions and put together their best sustained drive of the game going 55 yards in 9 plays ending with a Derek DeMattia 1-yard touchdown plunge. The PAT was made which cut the Garfield lead to 56-21.
The Leopards would get another late touchdown with under a minute to go on a 9-yard rush by Chamir Franklin. The unsuccessful 2 point conversion put the final score at 56-27 in favor of the home G-MEN.
Garfield (8-2) now waits to see if they will host a first round playoff game next Friday. They came into tonight in the 10th spot in region 17 but have an opportunity to move up to 8th. The top 8 in each region will host the first round games.
Liberty (4-5) will hold out hope that they can hang on to the 16th and final playoff spot in Region 17.
Tyson Lawrence-Watson: 5-10, 91 yards, TD
Dwayne Moody: 4 rec, 98 yards, TD
Eric Geddes: 2-7, 62 yards, 2 TD - 5 rush, 46 yards
Keegan Sell: 11 rush, 61 yards, 2 TD
Carter Bates: 3 rush, 55 yards, TD - 1 sack
Deacon Sommer: 1 rec, 53 yards, TD - 1 INT, 29 yards, TD
I caught up with Garfield coach Mike Moser after the big win.
This game recap is brought to you by Daystar Ford in Garrettsville.