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Liberty's rally comes up short in 34-26 loss

September 14, 2013
By LOWELL SPENCER - Special to Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

COLUMBIANA - Crestview's Collin Gilbert intercepted an Asim Pleas pass at the goal line with just 13 seconds remaining in the game to preserve a Rebels 34-26 victory over the Liberty Leopards.

The win pushes the Rebels record to 3-0 on the season, while the Leopards drop to 1-2.

"This is really big," Crestview's senior running back Trevor Cope said. "Coach (Paul Cusick) has been saying all week that it's going to be a big game, a playoff type atmosphere. Liberty is a big school and it is a program win for us."

"That's kind of a playoff type game," Cusick agreed. "I thought going into the game that that is what it was going to be. I knew they were a very solid team, and they have playoff experience, they have great athletes, they are well coached, and they played their hearts out. We just made a couple more plays then they did."

The Rebels jumped out in front on their very first drive when they covered 60 yards on 12 plays to score on a 3-yard blast by Jake Ferris to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead. The drive comsumed the first 5:11 of the first quarter.

The Rebels marched down the field on their second drive only to be stopped at the Leopards 8-yard line. This time Rebels kicker Caleb McGrath had a 28-yard field goal sail wide.

That seemed to wake the Leopards up as they responded with a score of their own. Faced with a fourth and 4 situation at the Rebels 40-yard line, the Leopards went for the first down, but what resulted was a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Asim Pleas to receiver Cameron Clark. A missed extra point left the Rebels still leading by a 7-6 margin with 10:13 remaining in the second quarter.

Crestview had a lot of momentum going into the locker room at halftime when they capitalized on a 8-yard punt by the Leopards at the Liberty 31-yard line. With the offense taking over at the Liberty 39 with 1:04 remaining before intermission, Rebels quarterback Collin Gilbert hit tight end Josh McDade for a 30-yard pass down to the Leopards 4-yard line. On the next play Gilbert hit halfback Jesse Best for a 4-yard touchdown and a Rebels 13-6 halftime lead.

But with the second half the game became an offensive explosion as both teams combined for six touchdowns and 40-points.

The Leopards failed to convert on a fourth down attempt when Lynn Bowden decided to run with the ball rather then punt on a fourth and 17 situation when he got pressure. With the Rebels taking over at the Leopards 22-yard line, Gilbert raced into the end zone to give the Rebels a 21-6 lead at the third quarter.

The two team then started to trade jabs back and forth. Liberty answered right back with a Pleas 23-yard run at the 5:34 mark of the quarter, cutting the Rebels lead to 21-12.

Crestview scored on a Gilbert 66-yard run less than a minute later to push the lead back to 15-points at 27-12. Then the Leopards answered with a 18-yard run by Pleas with 1:31 left in the third, cutting the deficit to 27-18. Crestview scored again early in the fourth with a Trevor Cope 6-yard jaunt making it 34-18.

Liberty scored once more with a 11-yard pass from Pleas to DaQuan Carter, and a two-point conversion on a pass from Pleas to receiver Danny Markullin. That score and conversion gave the Leopard a chance to tie the game at the end by just trailing by 8-points at 34-26.

"That's just the identity of my team," Leopards coach Kevin Cylar said. "We kind of dig ourselves into a hole every week, we start slow and then we seem to pick it up. I told the guys when you play a good team like Crestview with a great coach like Cusick you have got to come play for four quarters. You can't come out here and pick and choose when you're going to play fundamental and when you're going to execute. You have to be fundamental and execute the whole football game or you get your heart broke."