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'Why Not Us?': Looking back at Liberty Ranch's 2011 season

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Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 7:50 pm | Updated: 11:15 am, Mon Apr 16, 2012.

As Anthony Linebaugh embarks on his next coaching position, he will inherit a San Marcos High team that has posted back-to-back 1-9 seasons.

In other words, the former Liberty Ranch head man will have to build up a program from the ground up ... again.

"That's a very exciting challenge," Linebaugh said. "I look forward to it very much. It's unique in that I can share that I have had the chance to see both sides. I can say I know what it's like to go 1-9."

He knows rapids turnarounds, as well. Rapid, but not smooth in the least. (Much to the delight of this humble sportswriter, who loves chronicling drama.)

The team he turned around at Galt adopted a motto of 'Why not us?' throughout 2011. And, well, there were plenty of reasons why the Hawks should not have made the inspirational run they did.

Sierra Valley Conference champs? Heck, they sat two plays away from starting 0-3 in the SVC. After John Wiernicki was stuffed short of the goal line in the conference opener against Vista del Lago, the Hawks faced do-or-die situations in each of their next games:

Do they play for overtime, or go for the two-point conversion (and the win)?

Both times, Linebaugh and company chose the latter. Both times, it paid off. First, a pass from Jake Tibbetts to John Kendall to clip Union Mine. The following week, tailback Matt Holland took it in himself from three yards out as Liberty Ranch nipped River City.

Their season could have ended there. Instead, it was rejuvenated.

Two games later,  the emboldened Hawks marched into Elk Grove and put together what Linebaugh called their 'most complete victory' of the season -- using a bruising run game of Wiernicki and Kendall, along with a superb defensive performance, to rally past Cosumnes Oaks.

And then, the postseason. In their two victories, the Hawks came in as playoff novices against tradition-rich programs in Calaveras and Colfax. In both, Galt's upstarts displayed the resolve of seasoned veterans. 

Nowhere was the growth more apparent than against the No. 2 Falcons. Down 23-7 in the first half, Liberty Ranch kept hanging around. Kept chipping away. Kept growing stronger as the game went on.

That culture of trust, of team unity, of grit in the face of adversity -- those won't go away any time soon, even if Linebaugh has departed. All of it has been grounded in experience -- of coming from behind, of going 1-9, of having to rebound time and time again. 

Seniors like Holland, Tibbetts and Sean Avis should help drive that culture home.

"Whatever coach comes in," the quarterback said, "we're gonna look to go where we went last year and beyond."

There will, no doubt, be setbacks. (Losing a 2,500-yard rusher is never easy, after all.)

Continuing the momentum from 2011 won't be easy.

But when has that ever been the Liberty Ranch way?

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