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Liberty seeking revenge vs. Crestview

November 8, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle (mwagner@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

hen the Liberty Leopards travel to Crestview on Saturday night for their Division IV, Region 15 playoff game, revenge will be on their minds.

The two teams met during Week 3 of the regular season at Crestview High School, with the Rebels holding on for a 34-26 win. The Leopards had the ball on the Crestview 12-yard line in the final minute of regulation before the potential game-tying drive stalled because of a penalty and then an interception.

"We're really looking forward to it," senior center Chance Purnell said of Saturday's game. "They only beat us by eight points, and we could have beat them. We were only 12 yards away from the end zone. So, we have to go the extra 12 yards to beat them, and it would feel great to get that revenge."

Purnell isn't the only Leopard (7-3) who relishes the opportunity to drive south into Columbiana County once again and go toe-to-toe with the second-seeded Rebels (9-1), who qualified for their sixth-straight playoff appearance. Senior tackle Chayton Gilcher said the revenge factor will play a role.

"I'm a real big revenge person," Gilcher said. "I'm really excited about this chance to go out and avenge the loss from Week 3. It's a really big thing around here for a lot of the kids."

If Liberty wants to get that win over the Rebels, the team will have to cut out the mistakes that plagued them in their earlier matchup, Liberty coach Kevin Cylar said. The Leopards gave Crestview a short field multiple times, including a botched punt that went 8 yards and a failed fourth-down conversion attempt inside Liberty's own 22-yard line that allowed the Rebels to take a 15-point lead halfway through the third quarter.

On top of that, Liberty has struggled all season with penalties, averaging 67.6 yards per game going backward. Liberty committed 15 penalties for 75 yards against Crestview in Week 3.

"We never really felt like Crestview beat us - we felt like we beat ourselves," Cylar said. "That's no disrespect to Crestview. I think they were a very good football team, but we were a young team back then. We're a totally different football team, a much hungrier football team and we'd like to see us correcting a few of those mistakes and how things would turn out."

Not that the Leopards can afford to take Crestview lightly, Cylar said, and for good reason. Crestview quarterback Collin Gilbert led the Inter Tri-County League, Division I in passing (77 of 123 for 1,227 yards) and rushed for the second-highest total in the conference (1,407 yards). In the Sept. 13 encounter between the two schools, Gilbert combined for 290 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

Tight end Josh McDade also had success against Liberty, averaging 16.8 yards per reception against the Leopards' secondary.

"(Crestview) is a tough, physical football team," Cylar said. "Their No. 11, tight end (Josh McDade), is the real deal. Him and Collin (Gilbert), those are the guys (to watch)."

As much as revenge will weigh on the Leopards' minds, they also want to match last season's mark, when the team won its first-round playoff matchup. Gilcher said the seniors want to play for another week, while at the same time giving some of the younger players a taste of playoff football.

"It would mean a lot for the seniors," Gilcher said. "It would be a really neat experience to get that first win of the second season, and maybe get some of the younger kids in to experience what it's like, so that way they can push themselves to be in the exact same spot next year."