Westminster takes down No. 15 Liberty in OT for top spot in Carroll football; Mattingly scores 3 TDs (VIDEO HERE!)
by Donald Daniels
The call was easy. With a yard separating Westminster High from the Carroll County football championship Friday, coach Chris Bassler relied on his offensive line and running back Nate Mattingly.
“Part of the decision is just the faith in my guys,” Bassler said. “I have always thought that if it is 4th-and-1 and you can’t get it, you don’t deserve to win. It was all or nothing so we just push all of our chips to the middle.”
Mattingly muscled his way into the end zone on a 4th-and-1 play on the final play in overtime, giving the 17th-ranked Owls a 34-31 victory over No. 15 Liberty in Eldersburg.
Before Mattingly’s heroics, the Westminster’s defense came up with a timely stop as Colby Cotoia sacked Liberty senior quarterback Nate Kent for 6-yard loss on 3rd and goal. On the next play, Lions kicker Sean Disbrow booted a 34-yard field goal, putting the hosts up 3.
Erick Stranko (82 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) picked up 2 and 4 yards, respectively, on the first two plays of the Owls’ overtime possession. Mattingly got the ball down to the 1 on a 3-yard scamper, setting up the biggest play of the season so far.
In the end it was Mattingly’s, who rushed for 101 yards and three touchdowns, final yard being the most the vital.
“We all wanted to go for it,” Mattingly said. “We were that close and we wanted to fight, we had to empty the tank.”
Mattingly finished with 101 yards and 3 touchdowns for Westminster, which clinched at least a tie for the Carroll County Athletic League title. The Owls (6-2 overall, 5-0 CCAL), who won their 6th straight following an 0-2 start, can claim the CCAL crown outright with a home victory over Winters Mill in the regular season this coming Friday.
The Owls are on the cusp, surviving a dogged effort from Kent and last year’s CCAL champ Liberty (5-3, 4-1 CCAL). The senior signal caller Kent went 20-of-25 for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns, and wideout Mike Spitz hauled in 9 passes for 192 yards and a score.
Westminster silenced Liberty’s faithful with a 9-minute opening drive, capped with Stranko’s 1-yard run, and Mattingly producing all the yardage in a 3-play, 52-yard drive, including a 42-yard jaunt down the left sidelines for a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Kent, one of the area’s best quarterbacks, orchestrated a comeback for Liberty, connecting with Spitz for an 82-yard score, and tossing a 4-yard score to Chris Smith.
“Any time you play a quarterback that good, you know that they are not going anywhere,” said Bassler. “It is a testament to Nate [Kent] of well he plays, and you only get so many chances against those guys.”
Westminster recaptured the lead before halftime, thanks to a 7-play, 81-yard drive in which Stranko rushed for 26 yards. Mattingly capped the drive with a 4-yard run.
“We knew that they have some great players and that they were going to make a few plays on us,” Mattingly said. “We just had to roll with the punches and roll back.”
Kent punched the Owls with another long touchdown pass, linking up with sophomore running back Tommy Nelson for a 57-yard scoring play, tying the game at 21.
Stranko found the end zone on a 6-yard run to cap off a 68-yard, 11-play drive to seize the lead again for Westminster. Liberty forced the third tie of the night when Kent found a wide open Paul Libbee for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes left in the third.
The defenses settled in the final 14 minutes of regulation. Westminster came up with a critical stop on Cotoia’s sack to set up Mattingly’s decisive score.
The loss ended Liberty’s 5-game win streak after starting 0-2 in the regular season. It was also ended the Lions’ 13-game run in CCAL lay.
“This is what you expect out of county championship game, they ran the ball well and they made one more play than what we did and that was the ball game,” Liberty coach Larry Luthe said.
No. 17 Westminster 34, No. 15 Liberty 31 (OT)
Westminster 14 7 7 0 6 – 34
Liberty 0 14 14 0 3 -31
Westminster – Erick Stranko 1 run (Evan Warren kick)
Westminster – Nate Mattingly 42 run (Warren kick)
Liberty – Michael Spitz 82 pass from Nate Kent (Sean Disbrow kick)
Liberty – Chris Smith 4 pass from Kent (Disbrow kick)
Westminster – Mattingly 4 run (Warren kick)
Liberty – Tommy Nelson 57 pass from Kent (Disbrow kick)
Westminster – Stranko 6 run (Warren kick)
Liberty – Paul Libbee 21 pass from Kent (Disbrow kick)
Liberty – Disbrow 34 field goal
Westminster – Mattingly 1 run