Twice as nice for Liberty
Tackett goal in second OT enough to register another victory against Freedom
Liberty senior Christian Tackett has proved he’s fast on his feet as one the state’s top hurdlers.
Tackett is quite skilled with his feet too.
His lobbed toe-touch over the outstretched arms of Freedom goalie Matthew Thomsen on Tuesday night was the game-winner as Liberty edged the Patriots 1-0 in two overtimes for the second time this season.
Liberty improved to 16-2 overall and 15-1 in Eastern Pennsylvania Conference action entering Saturday’s EPC tournament. Coach Ian Larimer’s Hurricanes earned the No. 1 seed and should host a quarterfinal at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
Freedom fell to 10-8 and 9-7. Coach Matthew Reightler’s Patriots are likely to be seeded seventh for the EPC postseason and play a road contest Saturday.
Tackett’s tally, his sixth this season, ended the second Liberty-Freedom showdown — this one at Freedom High School — similar to the way the first clash concluded. His goal came with 8 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the second OT period.
Hurricanes senior Chris Schray, who assisted Tackett’s strike, scored the game-winner 120 seconds into the second OT on Sept. 19.
“I saw the ball coming,” said Tackett, who placed fifth in the state in the Class 3A 300 hurdles as a junior. “I didn’t expect it to come to me but I saw it went through one of our players’ legs.
My idea was to just redirect it toward net the best I could. Luckily, it went in. It wasn’t the most powerful shot, but it got through the goalkeepers’ hands. I’ll take it.”
Larimer wasn’t surprised to see Tackett come through in the clutch.
“Christian is an incredibly dedicated young guy, one that represents Liberty High School to the utmost standard,” Larimer said. “He’s someone I think is living for a rivalry matchup and he took it with great aplomb tonight.”
Despite Liberty owning 16 wins now and Freedom entering with 10, this Bethlehem rivalry brings out the best in both squads — particularly Freedom.
Tuesday’s game went scoreless for 90-plus minutes, as was the first matchup.
“They’re just incredible games,” Tackett said. “I have some of my best friends on that team, so I always look forward to playing them. There’s that intensity and a crosstown rivalry brings out the big energy.”
Neither coach seemed surprised extra time was required.
“We know they’re going to be absolutely tooth and nail from both sides and that’s a credit to Freedom,” Larimer said.
“It was very similar to the first game,” Reightler said. “They came out strong, controlled pretty much the first 10-15 minutes when we didn’t have our usual lineup out there [on Senior Night]. I thought it got pretty even at the end of the second half and I thought we had some momentum in that second half.
“Unfortunately, [Liberty goalie Blake] Koski made a couple of really good saves. We had our chances and we couldn’t bury them and they took advantage of their one. Now we move on.”
Koski, a senior who was an all-state selection a season ago, is a differencemaker in most matches.
He was credited with eight saves. “Whenever he’s able to do something crucial in a game,” Larimer said, “it gives our guys the confidence and will to go on and win.”
Liberty enters the EPC tournament as the top seed for a second straight season.
Last year, the Hurricanes lost to Pleasant Valley in the semifinal round then fell in the District 11 Class 4A playoffs to Parkland in the quarterfinal round. Larimer, though, likes what he sees from his squad.
“I think we’re still building, which is important to recognize,” he said. “We still haven’t strung consecutive games together, but I think we’ve been entertaining and we’ve been keeping the ball out of the back of the net so things are going good.”
Freedom, meanwhile, is the defending conference and district champion. This year’s Patriots look a lot different with nine new starters in the lineup.
Reightler is certain his club can still be dangerous.
“We haven’t, in my opinion, played a complete game yet,” he said. “I know we’ve been in every game we lost, so I know we can play with anybody. We’ve done that already this year.
“It’s a matter of finishing it off. I’ll take anybody and this team will take anybody.”
Liberty goalkeeper Blake Koski makes a diving save during Tuesday night’s game against rival Freedom.