LIBERTY CENTER — Many times in big games special teams can be the key to winning or losing. That certainly seemed the case Friday night in Liberty Center, where the host Tigers continuously had Archbold backed up inside their own 20 yard-line — and sometimes further — and it ultimately swung the pendulum in their favor in a 16-0 win in Northwest Ohio Athletic League football.
“Well I think we won the game defensively, really. But our defense was set up with our punt team, getting good field position for our defense. Our offense let the defense down a few times and gave them the ball in really good territory. But we stiffened up and got off the field. I can’t say enough about the staff and how they prepare those guys, and the guys go out there and execute,” said Liberty Center coach Casey Mohler on what led to his team’s victory.
Archbold drops to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the league after the loss. Liberty Center moves to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league.
However, it was not all bad for the Blue Streaks. Only 14 of the Tigers’ 16 points came by way of their offense, and the Archbold defense pitched a shutout in the second half.
LC outpaced the Streaks 265-129 in yardage, the biggest differential being a 199-6 edge in rushing.
“I’m telling you what, our defense played their butts off tonight. Offense put them in some bad situations,” said Archbold mentor David Dominique. “And like I just told my guys, I didn’t get them ready to go this week on offense and that’s on me. Big thing for these guys, at halftime we told them ‘just play your tail off.’ And they did that; we can’t fault them there. But we’re gonna get better from this experience.”
Archbold was pinned back at their own one yard-line to begin the offense’s second possession — thanks to a nice punt from LC’s Max Walker. It eventually led to a third and long in which quarterback Cade Brenner was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Tigers a two point edge just past the halfway point of the first quarter.
“He was fantastic,” noted Mohler of Walker. “Like I said, it was a total team effort and without him punting the ball, and getting the ball back there on our snaps and blocking, we don’t put our defense in the position to be successful.”
Unfavorable field position was the theme of the night for the Streaks.
“Yeah it’s tough,” Dominique said of his team’s bad luck as it relates to field position. “So we got some things to work on special teams wise. We’ve got to field punts. But, we didn’t have two guys back; we didn’t really give Chase (Miller) much help. Like I said, there’s things that a good team like that will exploit. And they did that to us. But, I just told our guys, three years ago we were in this situation (and) it’s all how you respond to this. Where we got beat by Liberty in the regular season, then went on a roll after that.”
Archbold’s next drive began at their own 13, and when the Tigers forced them into a three-and-out, they were able to take over possession near midfield.
Liberty reached the end zone for the first time when quarterback Zane Zeiter hooked up with Aiden Hammontree on a corner pattern from 33 yards away, then Colton Chambers’ point after put the Tigers ahead 9-0 with under a minute left in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter the Tigers tried, and failed, to convert a fourth down inside their own 35, setting Archbold up with a golden opportunity to score. But the Streaks gained just a few yards and ultimately turned it back over on downs to the Tigers.
Liberty capitalized on its next possession, a drive where they picked up multiple third and fourth down conversions. It culminated with a four yard touchdown run by Matthew Orr and an extra point from Ian Rosebrock to complete the scoring at 16-0 with only 1:45 until halftime.
Archbold continued to be hampered by poor field position in the second half.
The Streaks’ best chance to score came late in the fourth quarter after a mishandled snap on a Tiger punt led to Archbold getting the ball at Liberty’s 36. On the first play following the punt, Brenner completed a pass to Karter Behnfeldt for a first down at the Tiger five yard-line.
But from there they went backwards, fumbling a snap on third and goal which put the ball at the eight, and the fourth down pass attempt was swatted away by the Tigers.
Brenner completed just 10-of-27 on the night for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. Brodie Bailey caught two of those passes for 43 yards, while Behnfeldt caught two as well for 37 yards.
Orr led the Tiger rushing attack with 98 yards and a score on 19 attempts. Zeiter carried the ball 11 times for 67 yards.
Dominique knows there is a lot his guys can look at to improve following a loss like this.
“Just limiting our mental mistakes that we had out there,” he said on the biggest aspect they have to improve on. “We still had some untimely penalties and drop balls on offense. Missed throws at times. But, as a whole though, I really like our physicality. We matched their physicality I think.
“I’ll take the blame for this. We’ll get better moving into next week.”
Archbold hosts Delta (4-1, 2-0 NWOAL) this Friday while Liberty Center welcomes Swanton (1-4, 0-2).
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.