HARTVILLE - Liberty knew it was facing the defending Division IV state champion Friday at Lake High School's Blue Streak Stadium.
The Leopards was well aware of its past, not sniffing the playoffs for the past couple of seasons.
During Friday's Division IV, Region 13 football semifinal, Liberty was happy to overcome last year's 0-10 season - even after trailing by 41 points at halftime.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Brookfield’s David Jamieson, left, celebrates with Ryan Mosora, right, after Mosora rushed into the end zone for a touchdown.
"We're excited that we're here," said Jones, the Leopards' first-year coach. "We thought we had a good game plan. We kind of got behind early and it steamrolled from there. We knew if we didn't do the right things, that would happen. It did.
"Our kids accepted as well as you could. No one had their heads down. They knew they had two quarters left of pride. There's a lot of seniors on this team that want to finish out the right away. I give them for that."
Liberty scored once in the second half during Friday's 54-7 setback to the Bobcats - a 1-yard plunge by Sherron Walls with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
Walls was limited to 37 yards on 12 carries at halftime - a far cry from the Week 11 explosion of 300-plus yards and six scores against Streetsboro. However, Jones said Walls was the heart and soul of the Leopards' backfield. He finished with 93 yards on 22 carries.
"I think he's one of those that you wish you could have 11 of those guys on your team every year," Jones said. "I think he had a stellar career and he's one of the best to run the ball for us in quite a while."
Norwayne, which meets top-seeded Brookfield in next week's Region 13 final next Friday at a site to be determined, had a great feature back as well - Jon Zimmerly.
Zimmerly had 16 carries for 91 yards and two scores in the first half and sat out the second half.
"He's a tough back. They're so potent because they can run Zimmerly and then they can spread you out and throw the ball over the field," Jones said. "As you saw, they did that. I think when he's running the ball, like he did against us, they're a tough team to beat.
"He's a great defensive end. I don't want to take away anything from him on the defensive side. He causes problems. That's what good players do."
Joe Dreher was 21 of 28 for 300 yards and four scores for second-seeded Norwayne (12-0).
Liberty QB Asim Pleas was 12 of 18 for 121 yards and two INTs.
Liberty held Norwayne in check most of the first quarter before Dreher found Mitch Knieriem on a 3-yard strike with 2:28 left in the first quarter. Knieriem had four catches for 118 yards and two scores.
Then, Norwayne rolled up 35 points in the second quarter.
"They're a good team that made some good plays on defense," Norwayne coach Joe Harbour said. "Once we got rolling, we tend to pile on pretty good. That's been our M.O."
Harbour knew Liberty's speed was deadly as well. That's why, even up 34-0 in the second quarter, Norwayne seemingly went for an onside kick. Harbour said that was not the case.
Liberty (9-3) punted the ball with 4:30 left before halftime and the Bobcats holding a 21-0 lead. Norwayne went four plays for the score. On the ensuing kickoff, Liberty fumbled the short kickoff and Norwayne recovered. In another four plays, the Bobcats scored to put them up 34-0. Then, Norwayne seemingly went for another onside kick, recovering another Liberty fumble. The Bobcats then went eight plays to score yet again to make it 41-0. Liberty got the ball back with about 20 seconds before intermission.
"That tonight was because they had an amazing returner," Harbour said. "We were trying to squib kick all night. My kicker is not really good at it, to be honest. So that was dumb luck. We were just trying to keep it away from No. 23 (John Helms). He's got a real big return game. We didn't want him to take it to the house on us."
It isn't luck for Norwayne it is facing Brookfield again. Norwayne beat Brookfield in last year's first round of the playoffs, 42-7.
"We knew last year when we played them they were a really good young team," Harbour said. "We thought we might see them again next year and I guess that came to fruition. They were pretty young last year and they had a lot of juniors in key roles.
"They're going to be back and it's going to be a pretty big clash. They've got a lot of skill. The little bit I know about them is I think they're pretty similar to us. It's going to be a battle of similar teams. It makes it fun for the audience, but not for us."
As for Jones, it was a fun for him to see Liberty flourish this season.
"We showed what we're capable of doing," Jones said. "The best thing we've got going is our kids experienced playoffs. We've haven't done that in that four years. It's a new regiment and we're excited about it. We're obviously upset about the outcome tonight, but our kids worked their tails off all season long."