2012-11-24 / Schools

Lions win regional, head to state tournament

By Charles Prince

Beacon photos by Charles Prince. Beacon photos by Charles Prince. NELSONVILLE – The Liberty Union-Thurston Lions are making their second trip to the state football tournament. Their first was in 2008.

The Lions have defied expectations. Seeded sixth out of eight in their region, the Lions defeated No. 3 seed Wheelersburg at Wheelersburg 24-13, then No. 2 seed Oak Hill 22-21, and last Saturday, No. 1 seed and undefeated Lucasville Valley 26-14.

Lucasville was ranked No. 8 in Division V in the final state AP poll. Liberty Union was not ranked.

And the Lions did it without two key starters – All Central District Division V Defensive Player of the Year - Luke Hannah and linebacker Justin Reeves.

Liberty Union took a 7-0 lead with 9:55 left in the first quarter on a 25-yard pass from Austin Vannatta to Tyler Magley. Valley tied it up at 7-7, but the Lions never trailed during the 48-minutes.

The Lions made it 13-7 on the first of two rushing TD’s by running back Jacob Basso and a missed point after kick.

Three turnovers in four plays gave the Lions a 20-7 lead at halftime. First, Tyler Magley intercepted a Valley pass in the end zone. Liberty Union took over on the 20, but Basso fumbled an exchange with Valley recovering. After sacking Valley quarterback Will Howard on the first play, Howard’s fumble on the next play was returned 80 yards for a Lion TD by linebacker Greg Underwood.

A missed Lion field goal and a key interception by Lion Adam Snyder kept the score at 20-7 through the third quarter.

Valley closed to 20-14 on a quarterback keeper with 6:16 left in the game. The Lions took over on their 40 after recovering an on-side kick.

After a pass for a first down, Basso broke loose for 37 yards to the 10. It was his longest run of the night. He scored on the next play for a 26-14 lead. The point after kick failed. Basso carried on 13 of 14 plays in the fourth quarter before Vannatta took three knees to run out the clock.

Four plays later after holding Valley on 4th and 10, the Lions took over and ran out the clock.

The Lions face undefeated and No. 2 ranked Kirtland in Saturday’s state semi-final at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.

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