Tigers lose 4 turnovers after halftime in season-ending loss


FINDLAY — Lib­erty Center ran into its big­gest en­emy again Satur­day night at Find­lay’s Don­nell Sta­dium.

It wasn’t Lib­erty-Ben­ton, the Tigers’ Divi­sion V, Re­gion 18 quar­ter­fi­nal op­po­nent, but the Tigers them­selves.

Lib­erty Center turned the ball over four times in the sec­ond half, as the Tigers dropped a 16-7 de­ci­sion to Lib­erty-Ben­ton, which will move on to play Lima Cen­tral Cath­o­lic (11-0) in a re­gional semi­fi­nal next Satur­day at a site to be de­ter­mined.

“This en­tire year our worst en­emy has been our­selves. We have turned the ball over and com­mit­ted pen­al­ties that were un­timely. It cost us. Not tak­ing any­thing away from Lib­erty-Ben­ton, but we beat our­selves again,” said Lib­erty Center coach Rex Lin­gruen, who owns a 228-87 record in 32 years.

“We don’t fum­ble the ball we win this game.”

The turn­over bug re­ally bit in the third quar­ter when Lib­erty-Ben­ton (10-1) turned a pair of Tigers’ mis­cues into scores.

“Our de­fense hung in there,” said L-B coach Tim Nic­hols, whose team beat Lima Cen­tral Cath­o­lic 45-35 in the open­ing round last year. “They chunked us and chunked us. In the first half we bent a lit­tle bit but in the sec­ond half we got a cou­ple of fum­bles and picks.”

The first big turn­over came when Lib­erty Center’s Sean West­ho­ven coughed up the ball at the L-B 36. The Eagles rolled into Lib­erty Center ter­ri­tory thanks to three big plays and a per­sonal foul against the Tigers. When the drive stalled at the 15, Mitch Lin­hart, who threw for 131 yards on 15-of-24 pass­ing, booted a 32-yard field goal for a 10-7 L-B lead with 4 min­utes, 1 sec­ond left in the third quar­ter.

“We are go­ing to ride (Lin­hart) as far as we can. He runs a lit­tle, throws a lit­tle, kicks and punts. He is pretty driven,” Nic­hols said.

On Lib­erty Center’s next drive, L-B’s Bobby Snook leapt at the line of scrim­mage and in­ter­cepted a Josh Drain pass, which he re­turned 16 yards. The Eagles needed 10 plays to go 43 yards with Austin Combs, who had 49 yards on 16 car­ries, rum­bling 6 yards for a touch­down with 7:16 left.

The Tigers, who were pe­nal­ized eight times, turned the ball over on their fi­nal two pos­ses­sions also.

“We played well enough to win the game, but we turned it over too many times,” said Lin­gruen, whose team fin­ishes 8-3. “There were some calls that were def­i­nitely very ques­tion­able.”

The game was tied 7-7 at the half. Lin­hart tal­lied on a 2-yard, sec­ond-quar­ter run for L-B.

Lib­erty Center had no trou­ble mov­ing the ball on its first pos­ses­sion. The Tigers ran right at Lib­erty-Ben­ton on 10 of the first 11 plays with West­ho­ven gain­ing 40 of the 86 yards on 6 car­ries. The Tigers caught L-B by sur­prise when Drain tossed a 35-yard scor­ing pass to Kon­nor Pohl­man on a flag route.

The Tigers gained just 160 yards the rest of the way. “You can’t sim­u­late how they climb into you so fast (on the line),” Nic­hols said. “I think it was an ad­just­ment there by us and we got a lit­tle more or­nery on the line.”

Lib­erty-Ben­ton had just 203 to­tal yards of of­fense. Lin­hart, who ran for 856 yards this sea­son, fin­ished the game with just 20 rush­ing yards.

“Our of­fense sput­tered a bit but hats off to them,” Nic­hols said. “That is the most phys­i­cal foot­ball team we have seen in a long time. Now we get to go see if we can play with Lima again.”