Devils sneak past Bears, 13-12

LISBON-After spending the first half trying to shake off early season rust, the Lisbon Blue Devils made the plays at key moments after halftime to emerge with a 13-12 victory over Leetonia on Thursday.

After trailing 12-0 at the break, sophomore quarterback Josh Liberati completed a 36 yard touchdown pass to Jagr Groubert midway through the third quarter to get Lisbon back in the game. Liberati then came up with the decisive score on a 2-yard run with 6:50 left in the game. The Bears had one final chance but Leetonia quarterback Trent Ferry fumbled at the Lisbon 8 yard line with 2:11 left to kill the Bears chances.

Liberati completed all five of his passes in the second half, finishing 5-for-10 for 99 yards. Brandon Barnes led the Blue Devils on the ground with 114 yards on 24 attempts.

“We struggled in the first half, but we knew in our hearts that we could win the game and everyone came together in the second half,” Groubert said. “We were going to do everything possible to start out with a win.”

“We were a mess in the first half,” Lisbon coach Jim Tsilimos said, “Dropped passes, penalties, missed assignments we did it all. I credit our kids for not giving up. We knew we would have to overcome some adversity to win and we did.”

The first half was all Leetonia. After Colton Gudat took the opening kick to the Lisbon 37, the Bears breezed down the field in four plays, with quarterback Trent Ferry finding fullback Zack Van Giesen on a 25-yard swing pass for a touchdown. A missed extra point made it 6-0 Bears.

Ferry used his legs to help the Bears get their next score, leading Leetonia on a 12-play 77 yard drive midway through the second quarter, with Van Giesen plunging in from two yards out to make it 12-0. Ferry accounted for 53 rushing yards on the drive. For the game, the junior finished with 114 rushing yards on 14 carries and was 5 for 10 passing for 75 yards.

“We were able to do some nice things in the first half,” Leetonia coach Matt Altomare said. “Trent played a heck of a game. Unfortunately we couldn’t sustain ourselves in the second half.”

After trying a couple of deep passes to no avail in the first half, the Blue Devils finally connected in the third quarter. Liberati took a flea-flicker toss from Barnes on 2nd and 6 from the Leetonia 35 and found Groubert streaking down the field for the score to make it 12-6.

“We had worked on our passing all summer because we knew Brandon (Barnes) couldn’t carry the whole load,” Groubert said. “It felt sweet to haul that one in.”

With the score still 12-6, Lisbon took over at the Leetonia 49 with 9:35 left in the game. On the first play of the drive, Liberati again took a flea flicker toss from Barnes and again hooked up with Groubert who made a leaping catch at the 14 yard line.

“It was a great battle between me and the defensive back on that play,” Groubert said. “Fortunately I was able to leap and come up with it.”

Moments later the Devils faced a 4th and 3 from the 7. Liberati threw towards Josh Craig in the end zone. The ball went off of Craig’s hands, but Ferry was called for an illegal hit, extending the drive.

Armed with new life, Liberati plunged into the end zone on 2nd down to tie the score at 12. Jannik Schmidt nailed the extra point to give the Devils the lead.

After an exchange of punts, Leetonia took over with three minutes left and swiftly moved dowwnfield, before Ferry’s fumble effectively ended the game.

“It was one of the best feelings of my life coming up with that fumble knowing we had the win,” Groubert said.

The Bears (0-1) will host Columbiana next week. Lisbon (1-0) hosts Mineral Ridge.