October 25, 1999
It was cold and clear last Friday night as the Cedarcrest Red Wolves put their one-game winning streak on the line with the Patriots of Liberty.
Fresh off their impressive win against Interlake the week before, the 1-5 Red Wolves were confident going into the contest vs. the 2-4 Patriots. As the events unfolded, it was apparent that the Red Wolves could play with the Patriots, but the question still remained, could they win?
At the start of the game, the Red Wolves were feeling good about their chances because they had gotten their last player off of the injury table from early in the year, as Darrin Carrido made his return to the lineup after a week 2 shoulder injury. The fleet-footed junior gave Cedarcrest more options on offense, as his speed to the outside would be a welcome addition to the running game and hopefully take some pressure off QB's Rich and Petterson and the passing game.
It was clear that as the game began, it was the intention of the offense to put more pressure on the Patriot defense by moving the ball on the ground. After early success with the running game on both sides of the ball by the Red Wolves, Liberty finally put together a drive which produced the first score of the night, and with 7:49 to go in the first quarter, Joe Gallagher put Liberty up 7-0.
Cedarcrest stormed back quickly and didn't let the game get too far away from them. After an interception by Liberty and a great defensive stand by the Red Wolves, Cedarcrest had the ball back inside Patriot territory after a botched punt by Liberty.
After a short run by Carrido to the 42, QB Nick Rich called on receiver Mike Smith, and once again Smith delivered with his league-leading tenth TD of the season. The 42-yard completion tied the score at 7-7 as Ben Frey was good on the PAT with 4:36 to go in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a defensive struggle, as both offenses had to be content with slugging it out at midfield, and the only real scoring opportunity was mounted by Liberty. Even that score was a real labor, as the Red Wolves' defense was strong at the point of attack.
Led by Tyson Brown, Joe Grady, and David Shipley on the line, the Patriots could not make significant yards up the middle. When they could make it past the stingy defensive front, the linebacking corps of Aaron Oneal, Colin Guthrie, and Lucas Whelan made solid tackles for minimal gain.
Down inside the 10 on the scoring drive by Liberty, both Oneal and Whelan made TD-saving tackles. Liberty was finally able to punch it across on 3rd and goal from the 2, and as the PAT was missed, left the score at 13-7 with 7:27 to go in the half.
The Red Wolves were not done yet, and using their passing game, moved the ball throughout the remainder of the first half. Mistakes cost Cedarcrest valuable field position, as a holding call left them 3rd and 18 from deep in their own end. An acrobatic one-handed catch by Smith gave the Red Wolves a first down out at the 35.
Typical of their offensive night, the Red Wolves were unable to keep any drive going after promising starts, and the halftime score was 13-7, Liberty.
The second half was dominated by both defenses, as neither team could mount an offensive threat. Liberty could not move, due to the stout defense of the Red Wolves. A late first-half shoulder injury to wideout Mike Smith, which kept him out of the entire second half, grounded the Red Wolf passing game.
Deep in their own territory at their 6 late in the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves were able to break out to better field position on a nifty run by Oneal out to the 27. Again, the drive stalled, and a short punt by Cedarcrest set up the Patriots. A long run down to the 11 set up first and 10 deep in the Red Wolf red zone. The defense was strong again, as tackles by Petterson and an incomplete pass in the end zone forced Liberty to settle for a short field goal to make the score 16-7 with 5:12 to go in the game.
The last few moments of the game were hectic as the Red Wolves mounted one last furious attempt to score. Pass completions to Matt Geiger and Nate Mclallin gave the Red Wolves first and 10 at their 42. Once again, the Red Wolves were unable to capitalize, and as Nick Rich's pass fell incomplete on 4th and 9, the offensive opportunity was lost.
Tackles by Soptich and Lucas Whelan and a QB sack by Bobby Znak gave the Red Wolves fleeting hope. Liberty squashed that hope with a pass/run outside which netted a first down and the Patriots ran out the clock on their homecoming win, 16-7.
The Red Wolves were solemn as they boarded the bus for the long ride home. Gone was their short-lived one-game winning streak.
Hopefully, the injury bug won't bite too hard as Smith, Morgan Henly, and Charlie Huber all pulled up lame. Injuries are a part of every team's season, but it seems like the Red Wolves have been hit unusually hard this year.
We hope that all who were injured heal quickly, as a tough contest is on tap next week when the Red Wolves play their final home contest of the year at Howard Miller Field vs. the highly-ranked Spartans from Skyline.