With Carroll County taking center stage at the Ravens RISE High School Football Showdown, Liberty and Westminster received pregame speeches from Ravens receivers, while Zay Flowers and Rashod Bateman spent time with the players before Friday night’s showdown.
“I told them to appreciate it,” said Flowers, who spoke to the Lions. “When you grow up, these are the memories that will stay with you forever. Some of these guys will be your friends for life.”
Bateman expressed similar sentiments with the Owls as the entire team quickly jockeyed for the 2021 first-round pick.
“I told them this time passes quickly,” he said. “My whole senior year was incredible. We won a lot of games and made it pretty far. You never forget that.”
Players from both teams won’t forget Friday night’s back-and-forth, as they brought playoff-like intensity to one of the final games of the regular season. Ultimately, the Owls pulled away 21-17, with late touchdowns from Kyrece Walker and Raquan Warfield and a game-winning interception from Rakim Warfield.
“We knew from the start that they were going to give us a fight,” Westminster coach Chris Bassler said. “We showed our toughness and resilience tonight.”
It was Walker’s resilience that was on display in the second half when the Owls needed their star quarterback to come through. Pressure from Carter Kendricks and Nico Marsicano caused Walker to fumble the ball and recover it in the end zone for a safety. But soon after, the senior responded with a 94-yard touchdown run down the Liberty sideline to end the third quarter.
“I never put too much emphasis on a single play, good or bad,” said Walker, who finished with two rushing touchdowns. “As our leader, I have to have a short memory and bounce back.”
Despite the loss, Liberty, desperate to bounce back from last week’s overtime loss at South Carroll, may have found the key to good playoff success: getting the ball to Tristan West.
West dominated the second half in several ways. With Kevin Poole out injured and the Owls focused on preventing the deep ball, West and quarterback Chase Miller were happy to take over on the shorthanded. West would catch a short pass and gain a huge lead.
On a crucial drive in the fourth quarter, West was the right man and caught a long ball to move into Owls territory. After pushing Miller into the end zone, Philadelphia Eagles-style, West made the two-pointer to give the Lions a late lead.
With his team on the ground, it was once again time for Walker to give the go-ahead and win the game for the Owls. When the Lions’ defensive line stopped running up the middle to make short strides, Walker used his speed to break outwards and gain an advantage over the Lions’ tired defenders. From there, it was the Warfield show as Raquan’s touchdown gave the Owls the lead.
Thanks to Rakim, they got the final stop they needed as his interception sealed the deal and gave the Owls the win.
“We’re not breaking,” Rakim Warfield said. “We won’t give in, no matter how the game goes.”
Now with the Lions in the rearview, the Owls can look ahead to next week’s winner-take-all home game for the county title against unbeaten Winters Mill. Bassler knows his team can compete with anyone when it comes to winning the county title and being successful in the playoffs.
“They gave us everything we could handle and we responded,” he said. “I’m proud of our boys.”