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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Streak snapped

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SLIPPING PAST: Patrick Sims races by a pair of Eagles in Thayer's 14-7 loss to Liberty. Photo/Looney
To say the least, it was a recipe for an unusual night.

Take a rainy evening, so thick with storm clouds and lightning flashes that the start of the game was pushed back one hour.

Mix in a pair of banged-up starting running backs and a starting quarterback that missed the second half of the game with a concussion.

ALMOST: Luke Martin tries to run down Liberty quarterback Luke Yarber Sept. 19. Photo/Looney
Add in the wet turf at a rival's stadium and what you get is the Thayer Bobcats' first regular season loss in two years.

Taking advantage of a big play on special teams in the third quarter, the Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty Eagles slipped past the Cats 14-7 Sept. 19 in Mountain View.

The victory improves Liberty's record to 3-1, while Thayer falls to 3-1.

On this night, injuries, something Thayer managed to avoid for the most part a year ago, caught up to the Bobcats.

Cameron Carey (shoulder) and Josh Huckabee (ankle), Thayer's starting backfield, were still battling injuries suffered a couple of weeks ago, and their play would be limited by these ailments against Liberty.

And to make matters worse, Jacob Eckman, Thayer's starting quarterback and All-State linebacker to boot, was forced to miss the entire second half of action after taking a hard hit that resulted in a concussion in the first half.

Sophomore quarterback Jared Foley was also sidelined against the Eagles, after he sustained a hip injury in JV action earlier in the week.

So Ethan Leisenring, Thayer's All-World kicker and running back, was pressed into duty at quarterback in the second half of the game for the Cats.

Partly due to injuries, partly due to the wet playing conditions, but mostly due to good defense, the offenses of both teams were held in check in this clash. Neither Liberty nor Thayer broke the 200-yard mark in total offense. This after the high-flying, no-huddle Eagles had scored 53 points a game in their first two wins of the season and the Bobcats had dropped 41 points on Malden in week three.

The Eagles did, however, cash in with one huge play on special teams.

Trailing Thayer 7-6 midway into the third quarter, the Eagles forced the Bobcats to punt from the Thayer end zone. The Eagles breeched the line and managed to block the punt, recovering the football at the Thayer 10-yard line.

Three plays later on third-and-goal, quarterback Luke Yarber plunged three yards into the end zone at the 7:13 mark of the third quarter. Yarber also carried in the 2-point conversion, giving Liberty a 14-7 lead, marking the first time all year Thayer has trailed in a game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Cats fumbled the football and Liberty took possession at the Thayer 25-yard line, just what the Bobcats didn't need.

But good defense ended the Liberty threat.

On fourth down, Lance Schneider picked off a Yarber pass attempt to give Thayer the football, down by seven points.

Liberty, however, also played good defense and forced the Cats to punt early in the fourth quarter.

On third-and-8 at the Liberty 18, Leisenring swarmed Eagle running back Ethan Taylor for no gain, making Liberty punt the football.

Then, with the ball at the Liberty 35, the Bobcats moved toward the goal line under Leisenring's direction. The drive started with a nice carry from Patrick Sims. Sims led Thayer in rushing with 57 yards in the game.

Luke Martin (four catches, 45 yards receiving) caught a couple of passes from Leiseniring, one for 10 yards and one for 12, that moved the ball to the 14, just inches shy of a first down.

Leisenring got the first down on a QB keeper, but this drive stalled out at the 11-yard line, where Thayer turned the ball over on downs.

The Cats had one last shot at locking the game, but gave up the ball on downs again to end their next series just seconds before the end of the contest, leaving Liberty with a 14-7 victory.

Although he missed the second two periods, Eckman did have a productive first half of play.

With just a shade over two minutes left in the first quarter, Eckman picked off a Yarber pass attempt that helped keep the game scoreless after one.

Then, on the Cats' first series of the second quarter, Eckman scored Thayer's only touchdown of the game on a quarterback keeper on first-and-10 from the Liberty 12-yard line.

Leisenring kicked the PAT to give Thayer a 7-0 with 8:04 left in the first half.

But displaying the quick-strike ability they're known for, the Eagles used just five plays to get on the board on their next series.

Taylor scored on a 7-yard run at the 5:51 mark of the second.

The extra-point try was no good, leaving the Cats on top 7-6 at the half.

That score stood until Liberty's big punt block led to the go-ahead TD in the third quarter.

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