NCS football: Freedom’s defense come through in offensive shootout

OAKLEY — Freedom and Amador Valley high schools combined for
over 1,000 yards of total offense in their North Coast Section
Division I quarterfinal match Saturday night. But two spectacular
defensive plays, one each by Freedom stars Giles Jackson and Mekel
Ealy, went a long way toward deciding the final outcome.

Jackson returned a fumble 99 yards in the second quarter and
Ealy went 102 yards with an interception in the second half,
leading Freedom to a 48-29 victory over the valiant but out-manned
Dons.

Freedom, seeded No. 3 in Division I, will visit No. 2-seed
California Friday night at 7. Both teams are 8-3, but California
beat Freedom 42-27 earlier this season. Cal advanced on Saturday by
winning a defensive struggle against San Leandro 17-7.

Amador Valley, which finished the season 8-3, plays in the
Valley Division of the East Bay Athletic League. It’s considered
the weaker of the two EBAL divisions, but apparently no one told
Amador Valley. The sixth-seeded Dons gave Freedom everything it
could handle, leading 15-14 at halftime.

But four Freedom touchdowns in the third quarter proved to be
Amador Valley’s undoing. The Falcons led 41-22 going into the
fourth quarter/

Ealy’s 102-yard pick-six was part of the third-quarter
onslaught, but Jackson’s 99-yard fumble return on the first play
of the second quarter was equally spectacular. He appeared to take
the ball away from Amador Valley quarterback Dominick Mazotti, who
was fighting to cross the goal line on what would have been a
go-ahead touchdown for the Dons.

“He was trying to run me over,” Jackson said. “We collided
and I took (the ball) and spun away.”

That gave Freedom a 14-6 advantage, but the Dons rallied back on
a 19-yard touchdown run by Mazotti and a 32-yard field goal right
at the end of the half.

But Freedom scored each time it touched the ball in the third
quarter. It started with quarterback Joey Aguilar throwing a
13-yard touchdown pass to Kimanhi Tolefree to make it 20-15. Then
came the 102-yard interception return by Ealy.

“I saw the ball pop up,” Ealy said. “Roy (Lee) tipped it.
I got it and saw daylight, and took off down the sideline. It was
my first interception this season.”

That made it 27-15 Freedom, but Amador Valley cut it to 27-22 on
a 19-yard touchdown run by Chase Fitch. Freedom quickly answered
with two more touchdowns. The first was an 18-yard pass from
Aguilar to Ealy that made it 33-22, then Mykeang Daniels basically
sealed it with a 74-yard touchdown run.

“We made some plays,” Freedom coach Andrew Cotter said of
the second half. “Twenty-nine days off… I think we would have
played better if we had played when we were supposed to.”

Neither Freedom nor Amador Valley had played since Oct. 26. Both
teams had first-round byes, then there were two straight weeks of
postponements because of unhealthy air from the Camp fire in Butte
County.

“You get in a routine, then you get out of a routine,”
Cotter said. “For young men, that’s not always the best
thing.”

Said Jackson, “I was extremely tired. We conditioned inside,
but I could tell in the first half that was a lot different than
practicing outside.”

Of course, the game had something to do with Jackson’s
fatigue. Freedom had 514 yards of offense while Amador Valley
totaled 488 yards. The Michigan-bound Jackson rushed for 60 yards,
caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, and had the
99-yard dash with his fumble recovery.

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Both teams had numerous penalties, but Cotter was also concerned
that his defense allowed Amador Valley to rush for 234 yards.

“We’ve got to stop the run,” he said.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
NCS football: Freedom’s defense come through in offensive shootout