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July 25, 2016
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Values education

Senior Atwoun Ackerley concluded his high school career with two touchdown catches in the game. This second one afforded Liberty a 14-7 third-quarter lead after Ryan Henry’s PAT. O’Neill would go on to score 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

But for this post-season elegy, the emphasis is on the glorious legacy this football team leaves. The last time Liberty played in a title game was in 2009 in a lackluster 27-0 loss to Ellenville. The Indians were never in that game but they surely were in this one. Liberty Coach John Wilhelm lauded his team’s character and effort with words that reflect the sentiments of the community and the county, which looked to the Indians as their local standard bearer.

“We’re extremely proud of the kids. They really stepped up. They just adapted to life without Kenny [Jaycox] and they did a great job. They bought into what we were doing and they kept on fighting. It’s a great group of kids,” Wilhelm said. “We had a great year.”

The stark contrast between the joyful celebration of the O’Neill Raiders on the occasion of their back-to-back title wins and the somber, at times tearful, exit of the Liberty players from the stadium reflected the huge emotional chasm between victory and defeat. But as time goes on, and the pain of the loss diminishes accordingly, what will be left is the residual positives from a season to remember. Kudos to the Liberty coaching staff, to the players, the fans and the community. Indeed Liberty Pride, that phrase which has become the byword of the school’s academic, artistic and athletic lifeblood, reminds us that we can all feel proud when we put our best effort forward no matter what the outcome.

In the Class D final, Eldred (4-6) fell to Chester 53-22. The Hambletonians set a Section 9 record for the most points in a title game and now embark on a quest to make it back to the state title game. They lost to Letchworth 27-0 in 2011. No Section 9 Class D team has ever won a state title.

Visit for an album of photos from the Liberty-O’Neill game.