Freedom coach Daryl Overton said he talked with his team about standing strong in the face of adversity in the wake of a very tough loss to defending state champion Stone Bridge last week.
Stand strong they did, holding Unity Reed to just 100 yards of total offense, while notching four turnovers in a 35-0 non-conference victory Friday night. But it was a brilliant night in just about every aspect for the Eagles, who shook off a slow start and pulled away with efficient play calling and brilliant play in the trenches to gain the victory.
Unity Reed (3-1) never got untracked offensively, but performed brilliantly defensively in the first half to stay within striking distance. The Lions’ quarterback, Blake Moore, threw three interceptions in the first half, giving the Eagles good field position for much of the half.
Meanwhile, Freedom (3-1) was able to move the ball well throughout the game, but the Eagles couldn’t put the football into the end zone much in the first half as the Eagles led just 7-0 at halftime. While one could not blame Overton for being a little frustrated by the lack of scoring, the Eagles made up for it in the second half.
“I’m proud of our execution. They have a good team over there [in Unity Reed],” Overton said. “Against a team like them, you have to be sharp with your execution and I think we did that in the second half. I was particularly proud of our secondary guys, because we knew that they [primarily] threw the football.”
Despite being unable to score much in the first half, Freedom quarterback Davis Bryson played well throughout the game. He accounted for three of the Eagles’ five touchdowns, including a brilliant 45-yard scoring pass to Kam Courtney in the first quarter.
But frustration abounded in the first half, since Freedom also missed a 27-yard field goal with 2:24 left and also had a possible touchdown snatched away when Marquez Davis jumped a route in the end zone.
However, in the second half, Unity Reed failed to score on the opening possession and instead Freedom seized momentum with an early touchdown. Bryson, who carried eight times for 95 yards, scored on a 3-yard run with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter to take a 14-0 lead.
Bryson also completed 18 of 30 passes (with one interception) for 206 yards. Reid was his primary target, hauling in seven passes for 86 yards. Courtney caught six passes for 96 yards.
Just more than three minutes later, Bryson executed a brilliant 15-yard run around left end to increase the lead to 21-0.
“I think [Bryson’s] performance shows the progression in maturity,” Overton said. “What he’s done against two good teams, first against Stone Bridge and now against this group; I’m really proud of him. Our guys up front did an excellent job.”
Overton particularly cited the play of the offensive line, which helped the Eagles notch 242 yards on the ground, including sophomore center Walter Hughes, who took over for three-year center Makaye Ramirez, who was injured.
“I have to give Walter Hughes a big shoutout—he led the way,” Overton said.
Freedom pulled away when freshman Jeffrey Overton, who carried 23 times for 101 yards, ran it in from the 3 and completed the scoring when Dashawn Davis recovered a fumble by freshman quarterback Nyeem Green at the 3 and ran it in for the score.
Another bright spot for Freedom was the three interceptions it notched in the first half, including two by Kendall Banister.
UNITY REED (3-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
FREEDOM (3-1) 7 0 14 14—35
F— Courtney 45 pass from Bryson (McKay kick)
F—Bryson 3 run (McKay kick), 5:50
F—Bryson 15 run (McKay kick), 2:22
F—Overton 3 run (McKay kick), 6:59
F—Davis 3 fumble return (McKay kick), 4:20
Missed field goal—McKay, 27
Rushing—Unity Reed, Blakeney 9-62, Gueye 1-4, Morrison 1-3, Campbell 1-0, Green 3-(minus 33); Freedom Overton 22-101, Banister 1-20, Bryson 8-95, Berry 2-10, Alvarado 1-6, Crawford 1-4, Redfearn 2-3, Courtney 1-(minus 2).
Passing—Unity Reed, Moore 5-25-3-62; Freedom, Bryson 18-30-1, 206
Receiving—Unity Reed, Gibson 2-27, Scott 1-15, Morrison 1-9, Blakeney 1-8, Campbell 1-5; Freedom, Reid 7-86, Courtney 6-96, Preston 4-20, Smith 1-4