Liberty falls to Fresno-Central in Division I football semifinals, 35-21

Nov. 18—It's been quite a postseason run.

Two straight Central Section Division I titles, a pair of regional bowl game victories and the school's first CIF State football championship.

But try as they might, this year's Liberty squad couldn't duplicate that postseason success.

Missed opportunities and a bit of bad luck were too much to overcome as the Patriots' championship quest came to an end on a breezy Friday night on their' home field with visiting Fresno-Central putting the finishing touches on Liberty's season with a 35-21 victory in the D-I semifinals.

"It's a great group of young men," said Liberty coach Bryan Nixon of his team. "I'm proud to be a part of them. They battled their tails off. It's not how you want it to end, but it's football."

The No. 7 Grizzlies (10-3) advance to play at top-seeded Clovis North (12-0) in next week's Division I final. The Broncos held on to defeat No. 4 Clovis East 34-28 in Friday's other semifinal matchup.

Friday's game between No. 3 Liberty (9-3) and Central was played at a frenetic pace, with each team moving the ball virtually at will.

The difference turned out to be the result of a bad break and a few more defensive stops inside the redzone, which helped the Grizzlies build their two-touchdown cushion.

Trailing 21-7 at the half, the Patriots scored on its first three possessions of the second half.

Unfortunately, Liberty had to settle for a field goal twice when drives stalled inside the 10-yard line.

Jack Smith made field goals of 26 and 21 yards, the final of which trimmed Central's lead to 28-21 with 7:06 to play.

But needing a defensive stop, the Patriots were hurt by three big plays that allowed the Grizzlies to move the ball 80 yards, capped by David Marquez's third touchdown pass of the game, a 25-yarder to Braylen Hall with 6:04 to play. David Bell, who had a team-high 97 yards rushing, had a 51-yard run to set up the final score.

Liberty's next drive stalled at midfield and both teams exchanged interceptions before Central ran out the clock to avenge a 35-14 loss at Liberty in Week 5.