The Eastern View Cyclones didn’t hit a wall.
A wall hit them.
Eastern View entered Friday as an undefeated team, but it struggled against a Liberty Eagles offensive line that acted as a moving barricade. Liberty’s linemen paved the way for 450 rushing yards and a declarative win, 42-14, over the Cyclones at home in Bealeton.
Most of the Eagles’ rushing yardage came out of a double wing formation that featured twin tight ends and forced all 22 players on the field to crowd into the box. Liberty’s offensive linemen ushered the Eagles’ running backs through that congestion.
“We basically make a wall,” Liberty junior left tackle R.J. Proctor said. “We have a very talented O-line and our running backs are so good that they can cut to the right, cut to the left. It doesn’t matter. The corners and linebackers can’t get past the wall.”
Joining Procter on the Liberty line were senior left guard Lee Robinson, senior center Brian McGlothlin, junior right guard Kris Sheppard and junior right tackle Ben Wolfe. Against that group, Eastern View’s undersized defensive front rarely won the battle over control of the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve got a bigger line than them. We’re stronger than them,” said the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Proctor. “We hit them in the mouth. We knew we could overpower them no matter what.”
The Eagles broke six runs of more than 20 yards, including a 61-yarder and touchdown runs of 26, 27 and 25 yards. In fact, five different Liberty players scored rushing touchdowns and the Eagles bothered to pass only six times in the game.
“It’s beautiful getting behind our nice, big, strong linemen and just have them powerhouse,” said running back Martin Parker, who led Liberty with 147 yards on 12 carries.
Eastern View (7-1) had no answer for the Liberty (4-4) double wing offense, which often used quarterback Aaron Walters as an additional blocker. As a result, once the Eagles’ running backs got eight yards down field there were rarely any defenders left to deter them from scoring touchdowns.
“All you see is the end zone,” said running back T.J. Hogan, who finished with 135 yards on 20 carries. “The way the defense was set up, and as great as the [offensive] line was blocking, you see the cut-back and follow your guards. It always works. [Then] you’ve just got to turn on the afterburners.”
Hogan scored a team-high two rushing touchdowns, while Jaquan Sinclair (87 yards on 10 carries), Parker, Brent Smith and Aaron Walters scored one each.
“I just love seeing his back going down the field with nobody in sight,” McGlothlin said of each running back. “Offensive linemen getting that much movement â at least five yards a play â and seeing your running backs get all [those] yards. It’s awesome.”
“I love running that formation,” McGlothlin said.
Liberty, however, used the double wing sparingly in the first half, opting for a spread formation with Garrett Watts at quarterback instead of Walters.
The Eagles entered halftime in a 7-7 tie with Eastern View.
But then Liberty coach Sean Finnerty decided to dedicate to using the double wing in the second half. In part, he said, because Watts “tweaked his ankle,” and in part because the Cyclones had shown susceptibility to Liberty’s fist-half runs between the tackles.
Following the switch, the Eagles scored on their first four possessions of the second half. That helped them overcome a 14-7 deficit early in the third quarter after Kendrick Kube scored on a 4-yard touchdown run for Eastern View.
“They played a whale of a football game,” Cyclones coach Greg Hatfield said of the Eagles. “They were very physical up front. â¦ That’s the first game that they’ve done that [double wing] an entire half. I’m guessing it’s not going to be the last game they do that.”
After telling the Eagles at halftime that they would commit to the double wing in the second half, Finnerty challenged his offensive linemen.
“I told them, ‘I’m putting the game in your hands. You own them up front and we’re going to win this football game,'” he said. “They just got better and better as the second half went on.”
Hogan tied the game, 14-14, with 9 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 27-yard touchdown run. After a quick Eastern View punt, Liberty took the lead for good, 22-14, on a 25-yard touchdown run by Parker and a two-point conversion shovel pass from placeholder Morgan Estep to Walters.
With 1:43 remaining in the third quarter, Walters ran a quarterback-keeper out of the double wing for a 6-yard touchdown and a 29-14 lead. Smith made Liberty’s lead, 36-14 on a 7-yard touchdown run with 8:48 remaining in the fourth quarter and Hogan put on the finishing touches with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:43 left in the fourth.
“It got away from us a little in the second half,” Hatfield said. “We’ve been a second half team throughout the year, and they just did a good tonight [stopping that]. â¦ That’s the first time we haven’t really been able to answer.”
Last week, for example. Eastern View trailed Fauquier 10-3 entering the fourth quarter, but “answered” with a 21-7 run to remain undefeated. Liberty, meanwhile, won its second consecutive game last week after beginning the season 1-4, including a 0-3 stretch.
“I think a lot of people outside were kind of doubting this team,” Finnerty said. “We knew we had things on the right track, and that’s kind of what tonight showed.”
The victory all but ensured a playoff appearance for Liberty this season. The Eagles entered the game ranked No. 14 in the Class 4A North Region, while Eastern View was No. 3.
In the first quarter, Liberty took a 7-0 lead with 5:14 remaining on a 26-yard touchdown run by Sinclair. Eastern View tied the score, 7-7, on a 38-yard pass from Josh Stallings (169 yards on 17-for-31 passing; 40 yards on nine carries) to Kube (104 yards on 19 carries; 73 yards on seven receptions). The Cyclones amassed 350 yards of total offense by game’s end, but much of it came in the fourth quarter.
“They were so used to scoring so fast, running all over teams,” Hogan said. “They were real surprised â shocked. â¦ Defense was locked down.”
Eastern View’s offense entered the game averaging 39.6 points per game. Plus, its defense entered having allowed only 11.7 points per game. The Eagles averaged 10.5 points per quarter Friday.
“This was a big statement game,” said Hogan, who helped the Eagles average 7.9 yards per carry on 57 rushes.. “It’s a whole new season.”