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Bowden has big day, leads Liberty over Jefferson

September 28, 2013
By RICH KELLY - Special to Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

JEFFERSON - The competition levels for the Jefferson Falcons in the All-American Conference have been high in all sports, but football is a game where you compete or get hurt along the way.

The Falcons have shown they belong. In an 0-3 start in AAC competition this season, those three losses have come by a total of four points. It took a huge stop for Liberty on a 2-point conversion attempt by the Falcons in the fourth period for the Leopards to escape with a 16-14 AAC win.

In a showcase game featuring freshmen running backs for both teams, it was a matter of a couple big plays for Liberty by Lynn Bowden that made the difference as Falcon frosh Jeremiah Knight also had a solid game.

Bowden ran for 195 yards on 23 carries, but his play as time ran out in the first half proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

After the Falcons (1-4, 0-3) had an 18-play drive that covered much of the second period but netted zero points, Liberty drove from its own 20 to the Falcon 7 with 10 seconds left. A fourth-down field-goal attempt was next, but Jefferson's Joey Baitt smashed his way through blockers to swat the kick away, then scooped it and outran the Leopards to the end zone. The conversion play tied the game at 8 with 10 seconds left before halftime.

Bowden quickly took the air out of their sails, taking the ensuing kickoff at his 21 and dashing up the left sideline the distance as time ran out.

A stout Falcon defense stifled the speedy Leopards in the second half. It led to another long drive for Jefferson to start the fourth period.

With Liberty leading 16-14, the Leopards started a drive from the Falcon 48 after an unsuccessful onside kickoff try. Liberty (3-2, 2-0) drove the ball to the Jefferson 4 before turning it over on downs with 1:14 left to play.

Taking over at their own 4 and out of timeouts, Jefferson, with the help of the Leopards, put the outcome in doubt one final time.

A pair of penalties on Liberty gave the Falcons a first down at their own 32. The one that resulted in the first down was a personal-foul of 15 yards. It looked like the Falcons had finally shot themselves in the foot for the last time when they were tagged with an intentional-grounding penalty with 35 seconds left.

Hitchcock found Parker, this time for 30 yards, to set up first down with 23 seconds left.

A pair of incompletions led to a third-down pass that found itself in the hands of Liberty's Tyler Brady, and the contest was settled.

"I am really excited about how our kids played on defense tonight," Liberty coach Kevin Cylar said. "They really settled into the game after the second change of possession in the first period. Jefferson really played a tough game tonight, too. Penalties hurt us, especially late in the game. Our offensive line has really improved, though. They did a great job of staying on their blocks, and it seems like Lynn just put on Superman's cape and carried us."