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By Roger Harnack
The Record-Times 

The Bell tolls for Odessa

Tigers fall to Liberty Bell, 70-24

 

Last updated 12/2/2022 at 9:51am

Roger Harnack | The Record-Times

Odessa running back Gage Starkel (No. 25) breaks through the gap opened in the defensive line by Dakota Steward (No. 42) and Corbyn Neilsen (No. 15).

MOSES LAKE - Liberty Bell will make its first appearance in a state title football game after upending No. 1-ranked Odessa, 70-24, on Saturday, Nov. 26 on Lion's Field.

Mountain Lion Coach Jeff Lidey credited the state 1B quarterfinals win to having a healthy team and focusing on the Tigers' key playmakers - quarterback Collin Martin and running back Gage Starkel.

"They have a team for full talent, but those two boys have been carrying the team for a long time," Lidey said.

Odessa Coach Jeff Nelson said he would've done the same and key on Martin and Starkel, especially following last week's 76-74 quarterfinal win over Naselle.

Aside from shutting down Odessa's top playmakers, Nelson said the Mountain Lions "were a much better team" than the first team they faced off earlier this year.

"They were bigger, stronger, faster than they were," he said, noting his Tigers "fumbled with everything" against the healthy Liberty Bell boys hungry to avenge the Sept. 2 loss, 42-22, to Odessa.

"A big difference ... I had 3-4 more guys," Lidey said. "I had guys that were ineligible for the first week."

The season-opening loss to Odessa became the "measuring stick" for his team, Lidey said. "We couldn't wait to see them again."

Aside from Odessa mistakes during the game, Nelson said Liberty Bell senior quarterback Riley Lidey pit in a strong performance for the Mountain Lions.

After the game, Nelson told his players to keep their heads up. "They are a great team," he said.

Coach Lidey credited Odessa for a great season.

In Saturday's matchup on the soggy, foggy field, Liberty Bell was in control the entire time.

It took just three plays for the Mountain Lions to put points on the board.

Quarterback Lidey completed two passes for touchdowns in the opening minutes of the game, the first with 11:08 left in the quarter and the second with 5:23. The Mountain Lions added two 2-point conversions to take an early 16-0 lead.

Odessa's Martin answered with a 36-yard pass to tight end Chad Strebeck, advancing the ball to the Mountain Lion 13-yard line.

Three plays later, Martin put the Tigers on the board with a 10-yard bootleg. A penalty gave the Tigers a 2-point conversion opportunity from 1.5 yards out.

Martin completed a pass across the endzone for the conversions to make it 16-8 with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

A late hit on the conversional also meant a roughing the passer penalty against Liberty Bell, which was added on the kickoff.

The penalty didn't stop the Mountain Lion offense, however, and Liberty Bell was driving when the quarter ended with the ball on the Odessa 13.

On the first play of the second quarter, on fourth-and-eight from the 13, Riley Lidey hit freshman running back Remington "Remmy" Paz on a swing pass for a touchdown. The conversion failed, but the Mountain Lions had a 22-8 lead with 11:47 to go in the first half.

Odessa got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff and started driving down the field.

On fourth-and-one at the Odessa 46, the Moutain Lions defense stopped running back Corbyn Neilsen short of the first down.

On the very next play, Lidey hit running back Merek Johnson on 46-yard touchdown pass.

With a successful conversion, the Mountain Lions had a 30-8 lead with 10:04 remaining in the half.

The Tigers got the ball back again after the kickoff and began driving.

Martin attempted to him Strebeck at the Liberty Bell 12, but defender Sawyer Crandall came down with a big interception to keep Odessa out of the end zone.

Then it was the Mountain Lions turn. The offense marched to its own 33. And with 7:05 left in the half, Riley Lidey completed a simple flat pass to move the ball up field 55 yards to the Odessa 12.

That drive, however, would end without points as the Tigers pushed the Moutain Lions back to the 17, Liberty Bell couldn't convert on fourth and 15, and turned over the ball on downs.

But the Tigers fumbled the ball back on the next play, giving the Mountain Lions the ball at the 18.

On the next play, Riley Lidey hit Paz on a swing pass to take a 36-8 lead with 5:50 left in the half. The conversion failed.

Liberty Bell came right back at the Tigers with a successful onside kick.

Riley Lidey then hit Crandall at the Odessa 13.

And with 4:07 left in the half, the quarterback scored on an option. The conversion failed and Liberty Bell had a 42-8 lead.

With the first half clock ticking down, Odessa got the ball back and went to the ground, ruing two pitches to Starkel and reaching the Moutain Lion 14.

There, Martin hit tight end Zane McMillan in the endzone. The conversion failed and the score remained 42-16 at halftime.

Odessa had opportunities to stop the Liberty Bell offense several times in the second half, but dropped interceptions would keep Riley Lidey on the field.

A recovered fumble at the Liberty Bell 11 also gave the Tigers a scoring opportunity, but they would turn the ball back over on a Crandall interception in the end zone.

In the second half, Liberty Bell would score four more times before the Starkel would add points for the Tigers.

Two of those Mountain Lion TDs would come from Paz – on a 17-yard carry with 4:39 left in the third and a 5-yard run five plays later.

"Remmy Paz, for a freshman, you just can't say enough about that kid," Coach Lidey said after the game.

The final Odessa touchdown came on a 59-yard toss sweep by Starkel, who also added the 2-point conversion narrow the margin to 70-24, which would be the final score of the game.

To lead Odessa, Starkel carried the ball 19 times for 159 yards and a touchdown.

For Liberty Bell, Riley Lidey completed 17-of-29 passes for 379 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 12 times for 113 yards and another touchdown.

The loss ends the season for the previously top-ranked Odessa Tigers (10-1). Meanwhile, the No. 5-ranked Mountain Lions (10-1) advance to the state 2B title game against the No. 2-ranked Neah Bay Red Devils.

That game will take place at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma at noon, Dec. 3.

This year's Class 1B title game will be the first in which a Lincoln County team wasn't participating since 2014.

It will also be the first since 2016 when a Lincoln County team didn't win the title.

In 2016, Neah Bay won the title, 64-34, over Odessa-Harrington.

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.

 

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