Patriot players worked hard until the end
Over the past four years, Freedom’s football team has gained chunks of yardage through the air and on the ground.
For the better part of the first half of their District 11 Class 6A semifinal playoff game against Parkland last Friday, the Patriots appeared to be on the same path toward a successful night with a 17-point advantage.
Freedom was the first team to beat Parkland, 21-18, in week three, and the Trojans (10-2) then went on to win seven straight. But Freedom’s offensive attack was reduced a few gears most of the second half, and ironically, it came to an end one yard short.
Freedom receiver Owen Johnson-McCormick was stopped on the one-yard line by a host of Parkland defenders as time ran out as the Trojans captured a 40-32 victory at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
The thud in the Bethlehem night was the shock of the run led by a group of 16 Patriot seniors behind quarterback Jared Jenkins and running back Jalen Stewart that produced two district final visits and a title over the last three years that came to a screeching halt when many expected them to playing Nazareth Friday night.
“It is tough to reflect upon,” said Freedom head coach Jason Roeder. “But I had an unbelievable group of kids that came to work every day, worked extremely hard, were coachable and played hard to the very end.
“I’m grateful for the time I had to work with them. I feel bad that their season had to end.”
Jenkins, who is the school’s all-time passing leader, laid out two downfield, spiraled strikes perfectly in the opening half, one a 26-yarder to Gabe Caton and a 32-yarder to Vince Reph.
Stewart added the final score of the first half on a 46-yard gallop that gave the Patriots (10-2) a seemingly, commanding 20-10 halftime advantage.
However, Parkland took their cue from some late first-half momentum and rose to the occasion toward their sixth consecutive Class 6 A title. They defeated Freedom, 30-6, last year for the crown.
Caton caught seven passes for 110 yards with a touchdown, while Jenkins completed 13 of 24 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 89 yards and a score.
Jenkins, who holds 11 school passing records, finished the season with over 2,500 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. Stewart finished with over 1,00 yards rushing this season, and he is the school’s all-time rushing touchdown leader.
“We fight to the end no matter what,” added Roeder. “We accomplished a great deal with a great group of seniors. I’m proud we fought to the very end, but that’s the expectation. That’s what these kids have done time and time again.”