Liberty 35, Sherando 7
Liberty senior quarterback Nick Monaco might wear No. 7, but it would seem after the night he had Friday in Stephens City that 18 will be his new lucky number.
Monaco, on his 18th birthday, passed for a career-high 196 yards in leading 10th-ranked Liberty to a 35-7 AA Northwestern District win over second-place Sherando. The victory marked the 18th of his career as a starting quarterback, an Eagles record.
Monaco's only loss as a starter came in last season's Region II championship game at Stone Bridge.
"We really wanted to get this win for Nick, especially since it's his birthday," senior tailback Justin Carrington said. "He deserves this so much. Our whole team wanted it bad. We all remember what it felt like to lose that game last year, and we don't want to feel that again."
Liberty (6-0, 3-0 AA Northwestern District) moved the ball efficiently on its opening possession, capping a 10-play drive with a 25-yard scoring run by Carrington, who high-stepped his way over and then past a host of defenders. That drive, though, was most of the team's productivity in the opening half until Monaco found senior Steven Lewis on a critical 41-yard touchdown pass to the right corner of the end zone with 17 seconds remaining.
In between, the Eagles were halted by their own mistakes, which included three fumbles and an interception. Two more second-half turnovers didn't help the offense's cause. Liberty started the game plus-one in turnover margin and ended minus-five.
"No question there was just too many mistakes," said Carrington, who finished with a game-high 156 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. "Six turnovers in a game isn't going to cut it down the road."
The Eagles defense, though, more than did its part. Liberty limited Sherando to minus-30 yards rushing in the opening half and held its opponent scoreless even though the Warriors started consecutive drives at the Liberty 28-, 45- and 25-yard lines.
"If you're going to compete with a team like that, you have to make plays when they give you an opening," Sherando Coach Bill Hall said. "And we didn't do that. But I tell you what, that's a good team all over. There aren't many weaknesses on their team."
The Eagles, who had pitched three straight shutouts, gave up their lone score on a 66-yard run by junior Joe Oher late in the fourth quarter after the first-team defense had been pulled.
"We all wanted the shutout for sure," junior cornerback Adrian Hull said. "But we can't get mad about giving that one touchdown up. We might pick on the second unit a little bit, but it's all love."
Sherando (4-2, 2-1) had only 58 yards of total offense in the first half but picked up substantial yardage in the second to finish with 123 yards passing and 119 rushing. Liberty, meanwhile, finished with 196 yards passing and 215 rushing.
"I'm just so happy right now," Monaco said. "I mean, you're always going to remember your 18th birthday anyway. But now I've got even more reasons to remember it. We got the win, I got the record and finally hit Stephen on that fly. I couldn't have asked for a better present."