The Freedom football team rallied off the final of it’s last meeting against Emmaus: a close 37-35 loss. The date was fresh in their minds — September 30.
Since then, Freedom knew that it had improved on the field. Last Friday night showed just how much the Patriots have changed since late September.
The Patriots scored on their first offensive play from scrimmage, and Freedom’s tandem of running back Cyrus Thompson and quarterback Joe Young guided their team to a dominant 42-12 win in the District 11 Class 6A semifinals against Emmaus. The duo combined for nearly 300 yards on the ground and all six touchdowns in the victory.
“It feels so great to come back after losing to them 37-35, and coming back for revenge and beating them,” Thompson said. “For most of us this is our first time going to a district [title] game. It feels great to go to the district championship and have a chance go get a gold medal.”
Freedom will face Parkland, winners of the last four district championships, for the title on Friday night. Kickoff is 7:10 p.m. at J. Birney Crum High School.
After a quick Emmaus three-and-out to start the game, Thompson burst through Freedom’s offensive line for a 51-yard touchdown run and a quick 7-0 advantage.
Emmaus would get within a point with less than two minutes to play in the opening quarter after a missed extra point, but that’s when Freedom found it’s groove offensively that couldn’t be tamed.
Thompson, who finished with 193 yards and four scores, capped a five-play Patriot drive with a 24-yard touchdown up the left side on the last play of the quarter.
“The offensive line was opening a lot of holes, and I was just following them,” Thompson said. “A big shout out to them. I love them. They protected me like I was their little brother.”
“That tells you that our offensive line did one heck of a job,” head coach Jason Roeder said. “Take nothing away from Cyrus Thompson and Joe young, they are both high-character kids that don’t want to go home. Credit our offensive line up front. We leaned on them, and that’s a group that has gotten better every week. I think they might have played their best game tonight.”
The scoring avalanche continued.
After Thompson put Freedom ahead 21-6 on a 9-yard score late in the second quarter, Young opened the second half like Thompson did the first. His 68-yard scoring scamper on the first play of the second half gave the Patriots a commanding 28-6 lead.
“There was definitely a lot of revenge on our minds,” Thompson said. “We just had to come out and prove we wanted it more.
“I feel our team has pulled together since the middle of the season. We keep building every day. Day-by-day we are building more and more. I say we are peaking at the right time.”
Thompson, who has been the starter at running back since Deshaun Peterson was suspended before the regular season finale, has eclipsed 100 yards in each game since. His best performance came last week in a game that sent Freedom onto the district title for the first time since 2008.
“Circumstances gave him an incredible shot,” Roeder said. “And shame on us, maybe he should have been getting more of a shot early on. The last time he touched the ball before this stretch was a 62-yard run on this field. I’m happy for him.”
Thompson added a 16-yard touchdown on the next possession, and Young followed suit with a 15-yard scamper moments later to cap the Patriots scoring.
“The biggest difference since September 30 is just trying to improve every day,” Roeder said. “When things weren’t going well for this football team, we asked them to buy in and focus in on improving and how to get better. We were a different football team tonight. We knew it when we got on the bus. We knew when we were in the locker room.”
Friday night’s task will certainly be a challenge, but the Patriots are looking to make history. Not only have they not been to a district championship game in nearly a decade, the black and gold have yet to win a district crown.
“We haven’t been there in a couple of years, but the body of work by players, coaches, kids that are on this team and kids that came before them, a lot has gone into getting us back here,” Roeder said. “I said to our guys we are going to empty the tank this week, and get ready to play our best football game on Friday night.”