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Stage set for Cousins-Liberty rematch in NewRock League championship game
Several Cousins Middle defenders gang tackle a Veterans Memorial ball carrier during the Cardinals' 22-6 win that qualified them to meet Liberty in the NewRock League championship game Saturday. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — Coming into last Wednesday’s NewRock League playoff game against Veterans Memorial, the Cousins Middle Cardinals hadn’t lost a game since the 2016 NewRock League championship game and that fact didn’t change after the Cardinals beat Veterans 22-6 in a rematch of last year’s NewRock title game.

Cousins controlled the action from the beginning, getting two quick scores to go up 14-0 in the first quarter. Then right before halftime, Johnny Salter was on the receiving end of a 60-yard touchdown pass to put the Cardinals up 20-0 at halftime. 

Meanwhile, Liberty blitzed previously undefeated Edwards Middle to the tune of 30-7, setting up a NewRock League championship game next Saturday that will feature two teams that played a classic game at the beginning of the season. 

Cousins handed Liberty its only loss, and that happened when Salter caught a 50-yard touchdown bomb on the last play of the game. And rest assured, neither coach has forgotten about that play or that game. 

Liberty's Kweli DeLoach looks to pass down field during the Knights' 30-7 rout of Edwards Middle from Rockdale County. Saturday's NewRock championship game between Liberty and Cousins will be a rematch of the week one regular season clash between the two teams. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

“We tasted that taste of losing, that taste of defeat in that first game, and it was a nasty taste in our mouths,” Liberty coach Alonzo Robinson said. “We felt like we gave that game away, and we see this as a perfect opportunity to redeem ourselves on the same field.” 

Indeed, Liberty-Cousins part two will happen at Cousins with a 10 a.m. Saturday kickoff, and Whetstone doesn’t expect the game to be anything but competitive. 

“It’s three years in a row now that this team has made it,” Whetstone said. “First year we were a runner up. Second year we won it. Now we know we’ll have to go in and win against a good Liberty team that gave us a scare at the beginning of the season. They came in here during that first game and actually had us down, and we had to pull it out on the last play, so I know they’re remembering that, and I expect it to be a good game.” 

Robinson said that his team finding out it would get the rematch with Cousins elicited more celebration than its win against Edwards. 

“Our guys didn’t get too excited about (beating Edwards) because honestly, we expected to be there,” Robinson said. “In a sense, we were more pleased that Cousins took care of business against Veterans so we’d have that chance again. I’ve been saying it all season that our expectation is a championship, so to be honest, we feel like it’s our game to lose.”