GALT — Kade Koepplin and Aidan Carr had big plays on defense and offense respectively for the Liberty Ranch High football team in the second half of their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff game.
But the Foothill High football squad had clutch plays during that same time. That gave the Mustangs a 47-30 win in the first round opener at Hawk Stadium on Friday.
The season ends for Liberty Ranch (5-6), which was hosting its first-ever on-campus football playoff game. Liberty Ranch hosted two D-IV playoff games at Warrior Stadium, on the Galt High campus, in 2015. Foothill (8-3), out of Sacramento, advances and plays at No. 2 Ripon (9-1), which had the first round bye, on Friday, Nov. 15.
Foothill, leading 26-16 halfway through the third quarter, attempted to move the football on fourth down and one from its own 20-yard line. But a bad snap led to Koepplin, a middle linebacker, scoop up the ball for the huge turnover for Liberty Ranch, which took over possession at the Mustangs’ 17.
“I was very pleased by the way we approached things coming out of the half,” said Liberty Ranch coach Anthony Linebaugh.
Liberty Ranch only needed three plays to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 26-23. Carr took the snap and found room on a 13-yard run with 3:06 left in the quarter. Damion Ochoa booted the extra-point.
“We were right there, 26-23,” Linebaugh said.
That would as close the Hawks got to Foothill.
Receiving the kickoff, Foothill running back Chris Clark had a long return from his own team’s territory to the Hawks’ 24-yard line. Six plays later, quarterback Joel Powell scored on a 1-yard run, now only four seconds into the fourth quarter that upped Foothill’s lead to 32-23. Ali Saskhan booted the Mustangs’ extra-point.
Then the Mustangs only needed 53 seconds to make it 40-23. Liberty Ranch fumbled the ball that Foothill recovered at its own 46. On the first offensive play, Mustang running back Dae’vonnie Williams took the hand-off from Powell, broke a few tackles and raced down the Foothill sideline on a 46-yard run with 11:03 left in the game.
Liberty Ranch and Foothill each turned the football over on loss of downs in the quarter. The Hawks, now on their third offensive possession in the final quarter, squandered their next offensive chance when Foothill outside linebacker Greg Buchanan picked off a Carr pass at the Foothill 43.
Foothill tacked on the final touchdown of the game when Williams scored again, this time on a 43-yard off-tackle that saw him elude four Liberty Ranch defenders and also raced down the Foothill sideline into the south end zone to make it 47-23 with 4:36 left in the game.
Liberty Ranch took time off the clock that led to its final touchdown of the contest with 11.6 second on the clock. Carr found wide receiver Cameron Hopkins on a 10-yard, as Hopkins fought off a Foothill defensive back to grab the football in the end zone for the touchdown. Ochoa also booted the extra-point.
“He’s shown a lot of maturity,” said Linebaugh of Carr, who is only a sophomore. “I’m really glad he’s had the experience that he’s gained. He’s just going to get better.”
The Hawks looked like they were going to opt for an onside kick to try to get the football back. But Ochoa booted the football deep into Foothill territory. Less than 10 seconds left in the game, Foothill didn’t run a play, and savored the victory.
Entering the second quarter, Foothill led 14-0. But Carr legs and right arm combined for 65 yards on the Hawks’ first offensive drive in the quarter, led to Liberty Ranch getting on the scoreboard. Carr hit running back Jordan Besabe on an 11-yard strike to make it 14-6. After the Mustangs were called for offsides before the snap on the extra-point kick, Liberty Ranch went for the two-point conversion, but the run failed.
Foothill took a 20-6 lead later in the quarter when Williams scored on a 25-yard run with 7:05 on the clock. The extra-point missed the crossbars.
Liberty Ranch and Foothill each scored again before halftime to make it 26-13. Hawk running back Tony Rangel scored on a 3-yard run, plus Ochoa’s kick, for a 20-13 score at 4:34.
But after receiving the kickoff return, thanks to a 54-yard return from Clark that put the football at the Liberty Ranch 15. Then Powell connected with wide receiver Greg Buchanan on a 15-yard score with 2:54 on the clock.
Williams had runs of six and 80 yards for touchdowns in the first quarter that gave Foothill a 14-0 lead.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.