The Liberty Chargers are gearing up for a football game this week, but it’s likely not the one players and coaches had hoped for.
Instead of suiting up for a Region 7A-2 playoff game, the Chargers, despite going 8-2, will play Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Rotary Bowl against Ocoee (5-5) at Winter Park’s Showalter Field.
Coach Brandon Pennington’s team got caught up in the math problem that is the FHSAA’s playoff points formula. It entered the week eighth in the region but was passed by other teams getting more points for playing opponents with better records.
“By last Tuesday I figured that Lake Nona (a 6-4 team who Liberty mauled 62-28 on Oct. 26) would pass us because they’d get five more points for losing to us when we became a Tier 1 team (at 8-2),” he said.
But when the brackets were announced Sunday it was Tampa Gaither, rather than Lake Nona, earning a bid.
“At least it was Gaither, Nona would have been a tough pill to swallow. We had our kids and coaches in and when it was announced, it got real quiet. I’m really glad that our kids get another game that they earned, because they played hard for us,” LHS first-year coach Pennington said.
Just to be in the discussion, Liberty had to take care of business against winless Lake Region Friday and did so early, taking a 34-0 lead after one quarter and cruising to a 53-6 Senior Night victory. Freshman tailback Ja’Randy Swint (nine carries, 157 yards, 3 TDs) and senior quarterback Jaelen Ray (2-27-2) ran for first-quarter touchdowns, Luis Maddox hauled in a 33-yard touchdown catch, and Lamar Patterson (104-yard interception return) and Sterly St. Felix (blocked punt) had defensive scores.
“Everybody who we wanted to see play, and all our seniors got significant time,” Pennington said.
Liberty’s top playmakers will get to add to their numbers tonight. Ray (1,525 passing yards, 22 TDs, 773 rushing yards, 20 TDs) made the spread-option offense go, and Swint (141-1,063-14) eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Senior La’Randy Swint (33-662-9) and Patterson (15-335-7) were the top receivers.