Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Facing a 2-1 deficit following a lackluster first half and with its season on the line Liberty High was in need of a spark in the second half of its postseason debut on Monday.
It took less than three minutes for Jordan Barry to provide the Lightning the boost they needed.
Barry ignited a second-half rally with a penalty kick in the 43rd minute as Liberty High scored three unanswered goals down Mount Vernon 4-2 in a Class 2A, Substate 4 quarterfinal in Solon.
“It definitely boosted our morale,” Barry said of his game-tying penalty kick. “After that the goals started coming and we started playing better.”
Freshman Ayi Ajavon and junior Mohemed Yogue added goals in the second half as Liberty High (10-6) ran its winning streak to four with the first postseason win in any sport for the first-year high school.
Liberty High will play at fourth-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (7-7) in the 2A, Substate 4 semifinals on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“It was a roller coaster tonight, we came out really flat but the boys responded extremely well,” Liberty High coach Ben Watson said. “To have almost all freshman and sophomores be able to respond like that and not keep their heads down but instead come out the second half with the drive to know that they can come back and win the game even though they were down 2-1 was really good to see.”
Liberty High actually led early when Patrick Ndaruhutse knocked in a loose ball in front of the goal in the 12th minute.
Mount Vernon answered with a pair of goals in a span of 27 seconds in the final six minutes of the opening half.
Freshman Sage Boettcher scored when he poked in a shot from a scrum in front of the net and less than 30 seconds later Graham Bradbury settled a pass inside the box and rifled in a shot to put the Mustangs up 2-1 at the half.
“At halftime we just talked about how we needed to step our game,” Ajavon said. “We weren’t playing very well and we needed to step up our game offensive and defensively.”
Barry stepped up early to tie the game at 2-2.
The sophomore took the ball up the field by himself, beating several defenders along the way, and was set to attempt a shot from inside the box when he was fouled.
Watson called on Barry to attempt the ensuing penalty kick and he converted for his fourth goal of the season.
“I didn’t really think about it I just knew since they fouled me I was going to take it,” Barry said. “I just wanted to get that goal and get us level.”
The goal evened the score at 2-2 with more than 37 minutes to play but Watson believes it was how Barry pulled the Lightning even that provided the boost.
“The postseason is about who wants it more, a lesser team can easily beat a far more skilled team if they want it more and they are ready to play,” Watson said. “We didn’t have that in the first half and in the second half Jordan came out and took the ball 40 yards by himself, dribbled through three or four guys and then won the penalty and converted it. I think that was definitely a wake-up call to our guys that he wanted it so they needed to step up their game too.”
Liberty High took the lead for good eight minutes later on a goal from Ajavon.
The leading scorer for the Lightning this season, the sophomore beat a defender into the box and while moving to his left fired a shot that slipped inside the right post to put Liberty High 3-2.
“Since I’m left-footed I wanted to take it off the left foot so I just cut in like I usually do and just put it far post,” Ajavon said. “I put it where the goalie couldn’t reach it.”
Yogue put the game away with a goal in the 64th minute off a pretty combination from Barry and Ajavon.
Barry found Ajavon who played a ball to Yougue in front of the net for a one-touch goal.
Liberty High has now won four games in a span of 10 days while outscoring opponents 14-5 to secure the first winning season for a Liberty High squad.
“I would say they have exceeded expectations from everyone’s point of view,” Watson said. “To win a postseason game and have a winning record I don’t think you could ask for a whole lot more.”