Catholic loses to Mountain View-Liberty

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Zeb Cornman scored two touchdowns early and the Liberty Eagles added another score in the closing seconds of the first half en route to a 32-22 win over top-seeded Springfield Catholic in the Class 2, District 3 semifinals at O’Reilly Sports Complex on Friday night.

Fightin’ Irish senior Matthew Schmittling scored twice for a resilient Catholic team that endured maybe the most challenging season in program history.

“As you think about our season — starting off 0-3, taking a break, getting on a good roll in the last part of the season — it’s been a weird year,” Catholic head coach Rich Rehagen said.

DISTRICT SEMIFINALS COVERAGE

The Springfield Catholic Fightin' Irish took on the Liberty Eagles at Springfield Catholic High School on Nov. 6, 2020.

Taking a break is putting it lightly.

Several members of the program were impacted by COVID-19 and games against Reeds Spring, Aurora and Logan-Rogersville were canceled. Catholic (3-4, 2-1) won the final three games of the regular season to earn the top seed in district play. 

Mountain View-Liberty (9-2, 6-1) has won eight games in a row and the Class 2, District 3 championship on Nov. 13 will be a battle of Eagles, as Fair Grove defeated Forsyth on Friday in the other semifinal game.   

Catholic won the coin toss and deferred possession to the second half, and Eagles’ returner Cornman quickly made the Fightin’ Irish pay. The senior took the opening kickoff and broke several tackles before sprinting down the sideline for a touchdown.

The Springfield Catholic Fightin' Irish took on the Liberty Eagles at Springfield Catholic High School on Nov. 6, 2020.

Moments later, Cornman capped a short drive with a 5-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Tyler Watts. Just three minutes into the game, Cornman’s pair of touchdowns gave the Eagles a 12-0 lead.

Unfazed by the early deficit, the Fighin’ Irish stuck to the game plan and Schmittling went to work on the ground.

Catholic rushed seven consecutive times — with four straight runs by Schmittling for gains for 14, six, six and seven yards — to put the Irish on the doorstep. Catholic quarterback Will Squibb guided a ball through traffic and connected with Liam O’Reilly for an eight-yard touchdown to put the Fightin’ Irish on the scoreboard.

The Springfield Catholic Fightin' Irish took on the Liberty Eagles at Springfield Catholic High School on Nov. 6, 2020.

The Eagles responded with a nine-play drive and extended their advantage when Carter Pruett dashed five yards and snuck inside the pylon to put Liberty ahead 18-7 with 1:09 remaining in the opening quarter.

Again, the Figthin’ Irish turned to Schmittling and the senior running back answered the call.

Catholic took possession at their own 31-yard line and Schmittling raced 69 yards for an Irish touchdown.

“Matt is a good running back,” Rehagen said. “I know he carried the ball a lot more a year ago, and whatever we’ve given him, he’s taken – he’s been a good weapon for us all year.”

The Springfield Catholic Fightin' Irish took on the Liberty Eagles at Springfield Catholic High School on Nov. 6, 2020.

The Eagles held an 18-14 advantage after one quarter. After the teams’ traded possessions in the second quarter, Catholic committed a costly mistake late in the period.

The Fightin’ Irish took possession at the Eagles’ 45-yard line with less than one minute to play. Squibb’s pass to J.D. Bigler was complete but the ball was knocked loose before Bigler was downed and the Eagles recovered.

Watts released a beautifully thrown ball moments before contact to Liberty wide receiver Drew Ripko for a 65-yard gain that moved the Eagles to the Catholic 10-yard line with just 22 seconds left before halftime. Two plays later, Watts rushed for a demoralizing score that gave Liberty a commanding 26-14 lead at intermission.

The Springfield Catholic Fightin' Irish took on the Liberty Eagles at Springfield Catholic High School on Nov. 6, 2020.

“It was rough getting scored on right before the end of the half,” Rehagen said.  “We had a couple of plays there at the end of the half that didn’t really go our way…so that was a really big sequence. That last minute of the half – they made the plays.”

Noah Jester accounted for the only score in the third quarter to give Liberty an 18-point lead. The Eagles were poised to put the game away late in the period but the Fightin’ Irish denied Liberty on fourth down from the Catholic 11-yard line.

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