Trojans rally to top Freedom
If a regulation football field was 99 yards, there’s a chance Freedom could be playing for a District 11 Class 6A championship on Friday night. Instead, that extra yard helped No. 3 Parkland hold off the second-seeded Patriots and get a bit of revenge after last year’s semifinal went the other way.
The Trojans scored 23-unanswered points and took a 14-point lead with just under two minutes remaining. But Freedom scored on its next possession, then recovered an onside kick, which set up one last-second Hail Mary from the Patriots’ own 40-yard line. Senior Jared Jenkins’ pass ended up in the hands of Owen Johnson-McCormick, but was tackled by a pack of Trojans a yard shy of the end zone to cement a 40-32 victory at BASD Stadium.
“I told our kids to knock it down; they didn’t knock it down,” Parkland head coach Tim Moncman said. “That’s something I guess I better drill. That’s who they are, too. Freedom battles back. That’s how Jason [Roeder] runs his team and his program.”
The win sets up a meeting against No. 1 seed Nazareth on Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Northampton High School. Freedom, in winning last year’s district title, defeated Parkland in the semifinals round (35-21).
A year later, it was the Trojans with a bit of revenge on their minds. But it certainly didn’t come without some late drama.
After Angel Santos scored his final of three rushing touchdowns—which gave Parkland that 40-26 lead with 1:59 left on the clock—Jenkins and the Patriots showed their fight. He connected with Axel Vega on an 11-yard touchdown that cut the Trojans’ advantage to 40-32 after a blocked extra point.
“I was kind of yelling at my coach, ‘Put me in. Put me in.’ Once I had that ball in my hands I was not going to let anyone tackle me,” Santos said. “I was going to run as hard as I could, and that’s what I did.”
Freedom kept its hopes alive by recovering the ensuing onside kick with under 30 seconds to play.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Santos said. “I didn’t expect them to get the onside kick, but when they got it I was very nervous. I was just glad that they didn’t get that touchdown and we won this game.”
Jenkins’ fourth-down throw had a bit of magic to it as time expired, but not enough to complete a late-game comeback.
“Our defense in the second half was phenomenal,” Santos said. “The first half was a little rusty, but I told them that we had to kick it up and we did.”
Freedom jumped out to a 20-3 lead in the first half after two passing touchdowns from Jenkins and a 46-yard run from Jalen Stewart. But the Trojans were able to find the end zone late in the second quarter when Ty Tremba hit Jordan Lewis for a 39-yard touchdown, a score that Moncman thought was crucial.
“If you go [into halftime] down 20-3, things are a little different with them getting the ball to start,” Moncman said. “That’s what we preached. We got it in and I said we have 24 minutes and we’re only down 10. Let’s see how we play on defense on the first series and let’s go.”
That momentum seemed to translate into the second half. After Parkland blocked a Freedom punt on its second drive of the half, Santos scored from three yards up the gut to get the Trojans within 20-17.
Jenkins would give the Patriots a bit of breathing room after capping Freedom’s next series with a 3-yard read option touchdown. But as the game went on, Parkland’s defense was able to get a better read on the elusive Jenkins.
“We were in and out of some nickel packages and things, and they checked out of it,” Moncman said. “Then we settled down. We went to some of our danger defenses—bring the six backers in and we got caught once or twice. But to win you have to take some shots, and that’s what we decided to do.”
Isiah Rico kept Parkland’s offense rolling. During a nine-play drive that include eight runs, he scored from four yards up the middle to cut Freedom’s lead to 26-24 with 9:11 remaining in the game.
Santos capped Parkland’s next drive—also a nine-play one—with another short touchdown run that gave the Trojans their first lead of the game with 3:35 left on the clock.
“We started getting pressure on [Jenkins] and started getting a couple of sacks,” Moncman said. “We knew if you let him sit back there he was going to pick you apart. Our kids amped it up in the pass rush, no only in the blitz but just getting four after him.”