by Colin Harris | Reporter
Streetsboro -- The momentum in the Division IV, Region 13 quarterfinal game between the Streetsboro Rockets football team and the Liberty Leopards turned on one play Nov. 2 at Glinatsis Stadium.
And with it, went Streetsboro's chances of its first-ever playoff victory.
After taking the lead on a Dorian Williams' 75-yard touchdown run, the Rockets allowed a long return --- and were flagged for a personal foul -- on the resulting kick to set the stage for 29 unanswered Liberty points and a 48-35 Leopards' victory.
With a 13-12 lead at the 5-minute, 13-second mark of the second quarter, Streetsboro kicked deep to a Leopards' returner, who brought the ball down to the Rockets' 39. Streetsboro was flagged on the play for a personal foul, setting Liberty (9-2) up at the 24-yard line.
Two plays later, senior Sherron Walls burst in from eight yards out for a score -- his second of the first half.
"We talked all week about how Liberty was a team that was big on momentum," Streetsboro head coach John Arlesic said. "We got the momentum back [with Williams' TD run], but we ran past the kick returner and then we had a 15-yard penalty and they scored."
On the next possession, Streetsboro (7-4) went three-and-out at its own 25.
Dropping back to punt, Liberty burst through the line and DJ Hight deflected the attempt and recovered it at the Rockets' five.
On the resulting play, it was Walls again who scored from five yards and Liberty built a 27-13 lead before anyone in Glinatsis Stadium knew what happened.
"We get a punt blocked [following the Liberty TD] and [thriving on momentum] has been Liberty's M.O. all season," Arlesic said.
Streetsboro went three and out once more on the next possession, allowing the Leopards just enough time to march back down the field and score as time expired in the first half to build a 34-13 halftime lead.
Walls scored four of Liberty's five first-half touchdowns and finished with six touchdowns and 321 yards rushing on 32 carries.
The Liberty senior had big TD runs of 44, 77 and 72 yards, respectively, and was stopped at the one on the final play of regulation following another 51-yard carry.
"I just think that my offensive line was there to open the holes for me and I tried to explode through them," Walls said of his career-high performance. "The team needs me to shoot out of a cannon through the holes and that's what I did."
Streetsboro outscored Liberty 22-14 in the second half with all 22 points coming in a furious fourth-quarter rally.
The Rockets scored on Williams' runs of five, eight and one yards, respectively, out during the final 11:13 of regulation and recovered the first of their two onside kick tries.
Playing in his final game in a Rockets' uniform, Williams carried the ball 26 times for 237 yards and four of Streetsboro's five touchdowns.
"Dorian is one of the best backs in the entire state of Ohio and there aren't too many guys who do what he does," Arlesic said. "He played both ways, carried the rock 25 to 30 times. He's a warrior and I wish that I could coach him every year."
Ultimately, however, time ran out on the Rockets and the eight seniors on its roster.
Arlesic has preached all season to his team about changing the culture of Streetsboro football and the ninth-year head coach said he was grateful to the departing seniors for the impact they made.
"What this means is that the next generation of Rocket football players understand and believe that we deserve to be in the playoffs," Arlesic said. "We deserve to be here because we're good enough to be here.
"Our eight seniors led us through everything and they all played a big role -- their legacy 20 years from now will be that they started a long playoff run here at Streetsboro."