Freedom tops Parkland
The Freedom and Parkland football programs have played each other in some important games recently. The two teams have not only met during the middle of the regular season when a win propels that team to a postseason run and a loss damages that team’s aspirations of a conference crown, but they have also squared off in the District 11 6A final each of the last two years.
While the Trojans got the better of the Patriots in both of those championship games, the tides turned in 2018 as Freedom squeaked out a narrow, 21-20 victory in an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference South Division showdown of unbeaten teams last Friday night at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
“Heck of a game tonight,” head coach Jason Roeder said. “Both teams battled like crazy. Both teams put their hearts and souls out there. We’re fortunate to come out on top.”
The game was significant in so many different ways for the Patriots, who moved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the EPC South Division. Freedom amassed revenge on Parkland (first win over them since 2009) and remained one of the few unbeatens left in the conference, and it also gave the Trojans their first league loss during the regular season since 2016.
The Patriots came from behind trailing 14-0 to score 21 straight, but actually had to hope that a potential game-tying extra point by Parkland with 0:57 left would fail. And it did, to cap off a wild contest in week three.
“The feeling is amazing,” junior quarterback Jared Jenkins said. “I’m so happy to see all of our fans and our alums here with smiles on their faces, that’s the biggest thing. We haven’t beaten Parkland in years.”
Jenkins finished 12-of-22 for 101 yards and a touchdown. His backfield-mate Jalen Stewart had 14 carries for 57 yards and a score.
Freedom fell behind 14-0 midway through the second quarter as Parkland rode the powerful legs of senior running back Joey Guida, who finished with 136 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, with a majority coming in the first half before suffering an injury in the second half.
The Patriots held the Trojans to just a field goal after they had first and goal. But an interception put Parkland right back into the red zone, and it capitalized on the turnover via a Guida one-yard touchdown run followed by a two-point conversion.
Needing points before the intermission, Freedom found some on a 10-play, 70-yard drive capped by Jenkins finding Vince Reph across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown reception to cut the deficit in half with 0:37 to halftime. It was the first points that Parkland gave up all season.
“We were patient,” Jenkins said. “We had to wait for things to open up. They came out strong. We didn’t start well, but we stayed patient and it started working out for us.”
The Patriots kept their momentum rolling into the third quarter as Jenkins took a handoff an found the end zone from a yard away to tie up the score at 14-all.
Tristan Wheeler, who is also a standout linebacker on defense, also added a one-yard touchdown run to give Freedom its first lead of the game.
But the six-time defending district champ Parkland did not go down easily. Quarterback Andrew Lee connected with Christian Hudson for a 32-yard touchdown play with just 0:57 left, as it seemed the game was destined for overtime.
But not so fast.
The ensuing point-after attempt went wide, and it seemed that the football gods were on the Patriots side Friday night.
Freedom now travels to take on Nazareth Friday night.