Football: Freedom Defense Shows its Teeth in Win Against Rock Ridge

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Freedom Robert Mayo

Photo by Justin Sheehan

By Joe Skinner
LoCoSports Social Media Editor
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Ashburn (October 23, 2016) – With three weeks to go in the 2016 season, the Freedom High School Eagles (3-5) went into their matchup with the Rock Ridge High School Phoenix (1-8) in desperate need of a win to keep their season alive.  Sitting eleven spots out of the VHSL 4A West playoffs, the Eagles had dropped five games in a row after starting 2-0.  The Phoenix were looking for their first win since the first week of the season. In a battle of teams headed the wrong direction, the Eagles emerged victorious over the Phoenix on the road by a score of 21-14.

Freedom Rock Ridge Football

Both Freedom and Rock Ridge High Schools fought until the very end as both the Eagles and Phoenix scored late in the fourth quarter. Photo by Justin Sheehan.

“Our chemistry [was huge], our defensive line really fires us up and helps out the secondary with pass rush, and that’s what really contributes to our big takeaways on third and fourth down,” Freedom senior linebacker Bobby Doherty said.

The scoring started early in this one, and the Rock Ridge defense put points on the board within the first four minutes of the game.  With 8:46 to go in the first quarter, Rock Ridge sophomore defensive back Ajani Gillis scored a touchdown after scooping up a botched snap by the Freedom offense.  Freedom sophomore linebacker Jake Carney blocked the extra point attempt, to make the score 6-0 in favor of the Phoenix.

Rock Ridge Ajani Gillis

Rock Ridge sophomore defensive back Ajani Gillis scooped up a Freedom fumble and returned it for a touchdown early in the first quarter. Photo by Justin Sheehan.

“Our defense plays best when we play with a little bit of swagger,” Doherty said.  “We keep the same intensity and we keep the same force, and we play fast and loose, and that’s how we play are best defense.”

The Eagles would not take no for an answer, as the offense turned around and drove right back down the field.  The scoring drive would be capped off by Freedom junior quarterback Jack Fitzgerald scoring on a four-yard touchdown rush with three-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter, to give the Eagles a one-point lead, 7-6.

After this touchdown late in the first quarter, the game didn’t see its next points until 5:57 left in the fourth quarter.  Many punts, three-and-outs, and fourth down stops kept either team from threatening.  But with just under six minutes left in the game, Freedom junior running back Robert Mayo extended the Eagles lead with a five-yard touchdown rush.

Freedom Zyan Collins

Freedom junior defensive back Zyan Collins led an Eagles’ defense which didn’t allow an offensive Rock Ridge score for the game’s first 47 minutes. Photo by Justin Sheehan.

“We came together as a team tonight, and we did a good job of telling each other what’s wrong and what to do right,” Mayo said.

Another Mayo touchdown, this one from 24 yards out, pushed the Freedom lead to 21-6 with just under three minutes to go, and the Eagle defense’s only blemish of the night came with only 17 seconds left on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Rock Ridge sophomore Julian Osorio.

The Eagles return home on October 28 to take on the Riverside High School Rams (2-7), while the Phoenix have their final game of the season at home against the undefeated Woodgrove High School Wolverines (8-0), and take their bye week in the last week of the season.

Scoring:
1Q 8:46 RR Ajani Gillis fumble recovery TD (PAT blocked)
1Q 3:30 F Jack Fitzgerald 4-yard TD run (Pearson PAT)
4Q 5:52 F Robert Mayo 5-yard TD run (Pearson PAT)
4Q 2:46 F Robert Mayo 24-yard TD run (Pearson PAT)
4Q 0:17 RR Julian Osorio TD run (2pt good)

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