COVINGTON, Ga. – The Liberty Knights stunned the Cousins Cardinals Saturday morning with a last second touchdown off of a reverse pass to give them a 6-0 win in the NewRock League middle school football championship game.
The game ended Cousins’ winning streak that stretched back to the beginning of the 2017 season. It also featured a final play that closely resembled the way Cousins defeated Liberty on the last play of the game when the two teams met to open the season.
After a Cousins fumble and a turnover on downs gave Liberty the ball at their own 30 with five ticks left on the clock, the game-winning heroics took place.
When most coaches might resort to a kneel down and a chance in overtime, Liberty head coach Alonzo Robinson pulled out a trick play.
On a wide receiver reverse, Marquavious Brown scrambled around and heaved the ball deep to wide open quarterback, Deion Lewis. With no one in sight, Lewis sprinted into the end zone, touching off a raucous celebration and bringing the NewRock League title to Liberty Middle School.
“It’s one of those plays that you practice all year and you practice it for this particular moment,” Robinson said regarding the final play call. “We knew it was gonna be a close game and we had something that we hadn’t called all season.”
BALL. GAME. Liberty wins the NewRock League championship on this miraculous play!!— 𝘾𝙊𝙑𝙉𝙀𝙒𝙎 𝙎𝙋𝙊𝙍𝙏𝙎 (@CovNewsSports) October 27, 2018
Final score: Liberty 6 - Cousins 0 pic.twitter.com/xvJ7hvSyJC
In a game that featured very little offense, thanks in part to a pair of muffling defenses, it took until those final five seconds of the game for any scoreboard-affecting offense to show up, although there were a couple of big plays on offense for either side.
Near the end of the first half, Liberty was able to move the ball deep into the red zone twice. But the Cardinals’ defense pulled out a pair of clutch goal line stands, keeping it knotted in a scoreless tie at the halftime.
After the break, Cousins took the third quarter kickoff and mounted a nearly five-minute, 13-play drive. The drive imploded after a bad snap on third down resulted in a loss of 12, and a fourth down heave fell incomplete.
Liberty’s next drive was much like its drives to close out the first half. A slow, methodical march took the Knights down to the goal line, where the Cousins’ defense pulled out yet another clutch defensive stop.
However, the Cardinals only held the ball for a play as Knights’ defensive back Brandon Smith snatched his second interception of the day.
Turnovers were the theme for the rest of the day.
Case in point: Cousins running back Tyler Thomkpins ripped off 80 of his 175 yards on one play, and the Cardinals seemed primed to take a late lead.
However, Cousins coughed it up, wasting the day’s longest play, and its best chance to find the end zone.
The win gave Liberty its first NewRock championship since 2015 when it became the first Newton County middle school to win back-to-back titles, and it gave Liberty its fourth championship game win in five tries.
Since the beginning of the season, Robinson had maintained that he felt this team had what it took to reclaim its title-winning ways, so Saturday's win, for him, carried an element of confirmation.
“My first loss (as Liberty head coach) ended Liberty’s previous 17-0 run,” Robinson said. “This lets everybody know that Liberty football is back.”