Twice as nice for Lib­erty

Tack­ett goal in sec­ond OT enough to reg­is­ter an­other vic­tory against Free­dom

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Michael Blouse Michael Blouse is a free­lance writer.

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.”

Even Steven

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.”

Playoff Pre­view

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.”

DAVID GAR­RETT/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Lib­erty goal­keeper Blake Koski makes a div­ing save dur­ing Tues­day night’s game against rival Free­dom.

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