Patriots beat EHS on the road, again
Despite a rough two-game stretch to close out the regular season, which included a 21-7 loss in the finale to Bethlehem rival Liberty, Freedom head coach Jason Roeder wasn’t concerned as his team prepared for the district playoffs.
In fact, it was that recent stretch that Roeder believed would strengthen his team as postseason football got underway. And he was right.
No. 6 seed Freedom went into Emmaus and defeated the No. 3 seeded Hornets, 26-15, on Friday night in the District 11 Class 6A quarterfinals. The Patriots scored the game’s first 19 points before holding off a late run from the host Hornets.
“We’ve been through the ringer,” Roeder said. “And everyone in the South [Division] has. To play the two city games back-to-back like we have, it gets you battle tested. I don’t expect my guys to panic in Week 12, even if we’re on the road.”
It took three possessions for the Patriots’ offense to get on the board, but once it did, there was no turning back. After a turnover on downs deep in Emmaus territory on its first drive, followed by a blocked field goal on its next possession, Freedom’s big-play offense took center stage.
Sophomore quarterback Jared Jenkins hooked up with senior wideout Alec Huertas for the Patriots’ first score, a 25-yard strike on the third play of the second quarter. A missed extra point gave Freedom a 6-0 lead with 11:00 left in the half.
“We just came off that Liberty loss,” Jenkins said. “That was a tough loss last week for us against our rival. But we bounced back and played good this week.
“We have a bunch of great players, and there is so much effort from them. I can’t say enough about them.”
Emmaus, which went three-and-out on its first two possessions and didn’t record a first down until midway through the second quarter, was forced to punt on its drive following Freedom’s touchdown. That 6-0 lead stood until the Patriots broke the game open in the third quarter.
Jenkins and Huertas connected again not even two minutes into the second half. Their 22-yard connection made it a 13-0 Freedom advantage. Jenkins (who passed for 264 yards) also hit wideout Justus Grube for a 33-yard gain on the drive.
Grube was the recipient of another explosive play on Freedom’s next drive. His 71-yard catch-and-run set up a 1-yard touchdown run for Tristan Wheeler, giving the Patriots a 19-0 lead with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
“It feels great,” Jenkins said. “I give all of the credit to our coaches for preparing us to come out and do what we needed to do today. The players, my teammates, especially my lineman, came out and executed and did what we had to do.”
The defense certainly held its own in the early going. Emmaus was forced into three, three-and-outs and two interceptions on its first five drives. The Hornets gained just 58 yards in the first half.
But finally, the Hornets threatened late in the third quarter. On its most convincing drive of the game, Emmaus quarterback Blake Reed hit Izaiah McPherson for an 8-ayrd touchdown to cut Freedom’s lead to 19-7.
Freedom’s offense was forced to punt on its next two possessions, but the Hornets found themselves in the same position on its next two drives. When Freedom took over on its next drive late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots ended any hopes of a comeback.
After Jenkins picked up a game-clinching first down on a Patriot third-down play, an Emmaus defender ripped the ball out of his hands. It didn’t matter much, as Grube was there to pick up the loose ball and run it seven yards into the end zone for a 26-7 lead with 3:52 remaining.
“I was falling down to the ground,” said Jenkins, who is the first Patriot with 2,000 passing yards in a single season and program’s new passing leader. “I don’t know if I was down or not; it all happened in the moment. It got ripped out, our guy was in the right place at the right time, and he made a play on the ball and scored.”
“It’s Week 11, and he’s looking more and more like a big time player, “ Roeder said. “He plays the way we expect him to. He’s got tremendous poise. He’s a sophomore, but he’s the leader of our football team.”
Grube finished with five catches for 128 yards. Huertas caught three passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Freedom now gets to host a semifinal game against No. 7 seed Pocono Mountain West, which defeated No. 2 Stroudsburg (34-20). Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night at B.A.S.D. Stadium.