The Liberty Lions football team has begun its 2019 campaign, kicking off a summer and eventual regular season the team hopes can lead to a chance at a state championship come November.
Over 40 seniors will litter the roster with veteran talent and leadership, which adds excitement to a group that wants to finish several high-quality high school football careers on a high note.
“That’s a ton of experience we can use this season,” rising senior quarterback Jonah Guevara said.
Spirits were high at the team’s spring exhibition game in May. Parents and supporters cheered as the team took the field and competed in several drills, football-related and otherwise.
While the offensive skill players and defensive backfield played seven-on-seven passing games, the linemen took part in several unique and challenging contests.
Rising senior offensive lineman Jared Crean was part of a group that competed in a tire-stacking relay, in which players had to lug sets of oversized tires to build piles, a sled-pulling competition that saw the athletes sit on the ground and pull the heavy sled across using just a rope and more.
While the games do not necessarily relate directly to football, he said they are good for players’ physical and mental strength on the field.
“It helps with our mindset and to never give up when we do these difficult things. If you can get through pulling that sleigh or the tire stacking, you can get through the grind of the season,” Crean said.
The spring game was just one of many stops the team will face this summer before taking on the actual season. Since stacking tires, the Liberty linemen tied for first at the Corey Peters Linemen challenge at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility.
The Lions will compete in more such contests, and the team will play seven-on-seven tournaments as well, which allow the kids a chance to experience wins and losses without the pressure of regular-season and playoff football games.
“It’s a lot of fun to get a little season in before the actual season, and kind of get those competitive juices flowing,” Guevara said.
The Lions are ready for actual football games, as well, though. Liberty finished last season with a 10-2 record, and ended 2018 with a close, 15-12 loss to Highland in the 2018 AIA State Football Championship 6A quarterfinals. The team’s only other loss came in a visit to state-power Pinnacle, a 34-33 defeat.
With the two losses coming by a total of just four points, the Lions sense a real chance to turn those fortunes around and compete for a state title yet again when the season begins in August.
“We have a little chip on our shoulder, because we’re thinking about how much we lost by in those two games.” Crean said. “Now, we want to just get out and change that two to a zero.”