ALIQUIPPA — When Freedom and Hopewell met in last year’s season opener, there was little defense to be found in the Vikings 36-24 win over the Bulldogs. Some fans may have been expecting a similar shootout in their rematch Friday night at Tony Dorsett Stadium.
In the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.”
Fans were instead treated to a defensive showcase similar to what they would’ve seen when Butch Ross was patrolling the sidelines for the Vikings in the 70’s. A Ross would come out a victor in this grind fest, unfortunately for Hopewell, that Ross plays for the Bulldogs.
Freedom junior Cody Ross, Butch’s grandson, and the rest of the Bulldog defense were able to hold the Vikings to only three points on the entire night in route to a 7-3 victory. You could tell how much this game meant to Ross in the postgame interview.
“I’m speechless right now,” Ross said, who finished with a team-high 9 tackles including 2 for loss. “My grandfather built this field. It felt really good to retake this field in our name. It felt really good to get back at these guys from last year and bring my family name back to this field.”
The first half of this game looked like it was played in a phone booth. There were more punts in the first quarter (4) than first downs (2). The Bulldogs were able to muster a drive, but were stopped on 4th and goal at the one with 5:30 left in the 2nd quarter.
The Vikings, on the other hand, looked dreadful in their first four series of the game. In his first start under center for Hopewell, junior quarterback Mason Colvin fumbled three times in the team’s first four possessions including two on quarterback-center exchanges. Somehow, each fumble was recovered by the Vikings.
Even though the offense could not get anything going in the first half, Freedom head coach Tom Liberty was more than satisfied with his team’s effort after what happened in last season’s game.
“2A playing 3A going into halftime 0-0 I was pretty pleased,” Liberty said. “A year ago was a whole different scenario. Not at a lot of penalties. Just a lot better. That’s a good football team (Hopewell).
The Vikings finally broke the ice in this game when senior kicker Samantha Hysong hit a 26 yard field goal with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Hysong won the starting kicker job the day before the Freedom game beating out sophomore Josh Progar, who handles the punting and kick off duties. Having to attempt your first varsity field goal in such a big spot can be a bit strenuous, especially when you have no time to practice beforehand.
“I was very nervous,” Hysong said, who is one of top female kickers on the Vikings roster.“I was going to go and warm up but then I had no time so it was almost instant I was in there with no warmup.”
While Hysong’s kick gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead, the Bulldogs would eventually find pay dirt, but it wouldn’t be easy. After driving down to within feet of the goal line, a costly chop block penalty moved Freedom all the way back to the Viking 18 yard line. On third down and goal, Freedom junior quarterback Zach Rosa rolled out to the right, and in a move that would drive some traditional coaches nuts, reversed field, spinning back to the middle of the field with his eyes looking for someone in the end zone. Rosa would finally find a open man, senior wide out Jason Norman, in the back of the for a 18 yard touchdown.
“I just kept the play alive,” Rosa said, who finished 11-22 for 107 yards and rushed for 46 on 13 carries. “I knew I had all my linemen there and they had my back so I reversed it. Everyone was running open and I just made the right decision.”
Freedom will take their 1-0 record next week into another match up with a 3A school when they host the Beaver Bobcats in their home opener. Hopewell will host another non-conference opponent next week when they face the Burrell Bucs.