Freedom falls to Parkland
It was a familiar sight in the District 11 6A championship game. A year after playing in the district final, the Freedom and Parkland football teams met on the gridiron once again in the big game, and once again the Trojans came out on top.
Number one seed Parkland used the strength and legs of its senior running back Jahan Worth and its defense in keeping the sixth-seeded Patriots out of the end zone in winning its sixth straight district championship 30-6 last Friday night at Al Erdosy Stadium at Northampton High School.
Freedom (7-6) was able to move the ball down the field and found itself in the red zone multiple times in the first half, but were never able to record touchdowns.
They settled for a 36-yard field goal on the opening drive to take an early 3-0 lead, but never led again. Turnovers deep inside the Parkland side of the field also hurt them.
“Whenever you get down there in the red zone, you’ve got to get points,” head coach Jason Roeder said. “You can’t turn the ball over. In a championship game, obviously, you want to try to get touchdowns against a team of this caliber. We came up a little short in the red zone there.”
On their first possession, the Trojans (13-0) drove 65 yards, capped by a nine-yard touchdown run by Worth to take a 7-3 lead, one they would keep.
The Patriots were picked off on their ensuing possession, which led to another Parkland touchdown. They then had a chance at climbing back, but threw another interception just before halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Freedom found some momentum.
Senior Joseph Figueroa forced a fumble that was recovered by junior Tristan Wheeler on the first play of the third quarter.
On its ensuing drive, Freedom used some trickery to try and catch the Trojans napping. Senior wide receiver Alec Huertas found Justus Grube off a reverse-pass for a 41-yard touchdown. But the play was negated by a holding penalty.
“You come out in the second half after you challenge your kids. We came out with a ton of emotion,” Roeder said. “We’ll look at the film, but what more can you say? It’s unfortunate timing.”
Nick Stannard added another field goal and Freedom found itself within one score at 14-6.
But Worth found the end zone again on Parkland’s next drive.
The Patriots then drove down the field again, but were unable to convert on a fourth down at Parkland’s 21-yard line and turned the ball over on downs.
The Trojans then scored via a 55-yard touchdown pass from Michael Ruisch to Nick Johnston and a 28-6 lead toward the end of the third quarter.
Despite the loss, Roeder commended his team for a second straight trip to the district championship game and its recent run of success.
“This is the winningest four-year group to come through Freedom High School, a group that fought together time and time again,” said Roeder. “I’m proud of these guys and what they accomplished.
“I think everybody understands that this isn’t Freedom’s last stand. These seniors have helped establish a culture here. And we plan to be better next year; we plan to get back here and we’re going to work like crazy to get a different result.”