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Sweet season turns sour in D-11 final

Often football games are not won, they are lost.

A total of five turnovers and an inability to score in the red zone factored significantly into Freedom claiming the District 11 Class 6A championship over Emmaus last Friday night 28-14 at Zephyr Stadium in Whitehall.

The loss was bitter for the Hornets, who gained more yards than the Patriots and overall played a fine football game against a quality opponent.

The evening promisingly started for Emmaus. On Freedom’s first play from scrimmage, senior running back Dante Crawford fumbled. It was recovered by the Hornets’ Ryan DeJohn and returned to the Freedom 21. Emmaus cashed-in the miscue, scoring on a beautiful, down-the-chimney throw from quarterback Josiah Williams to junior Chase Fotta for a touchdown. The play covered 26 yards and was impressive considering it came on a fourth-and-15.

Facing a 7-0 deficit, Freedom went to work with Crawford doing most of the heavy lifting, with runs from quarterback Brian Taylor filtered in. Crawford was nailed on a fierce hit causing him to fumble inside the 10, but was ruled by officials to be down. On the next play Taylor took it in from nine yards out for a 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter.

Crawford continued to rebound from the opening fumble en route to an outstanding football game. His 72-yard burst up the middle to the Emmaus 1-yard line set up the Pats’ second touchdown when Taylor went in on a quarterback sneak for a 14-7 lead.

The rest of the half could be described as organized chaos, with the schools trading turnovers at one point within a few plays. The turnovers weren’t the only problem for Emmaus, which moved the ball consistently in the half and for that matter, throughout the entire game. Evidence of this is in total yards - Emmaus 352, Freedom 261.

But stats don’t matter, scores do. Between their five turnovers and three other red zone possessions where Emmaus could not score a single point, all the chain-moving didn’t matter.

One player who did matter was Freedom linebacker Owen Johnson. Emmaus had no answer for him. The junior was a menace defensively, often manhandling blockers and crushing ball carriers. In the fourth quarter, this muscular and lightning-quick young man destroyed an Emmaus reverse and jarred the ball loose. For good measure, he recovered the fumble at the Emmaus 28. Crawford eventually ran for a 12-yard touchdown five plays later, giving the Pats a 21-7 lead with 4:31 remaining.

Now desperate, Williams was forced to throw and was picked off by Freedom’s Connor Stofanak, who returned it 62 yards until he finally was hauled down at the Emmaus 11. Williams’ final game of 2021 was like the rest of his season - promising. The sophomore was outstanding all season and completed 21-of-28 for 282 yards and two touchdown passes, which included a 63-yarder to Jeremiah Sohna for the game’s last score, However, his three interceptions hurt.

After Williams’ last pick, Crawford finished Emmaus when he scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to give Freedom a 28-7 lead with only 3:07 remaining. The Emmaus defense did an excellent job holding the Freedom passing attack to 32 yards and limiting the running game minus Crawford to 43 yards on 13 carries. But Crawford was entirely another matter, as he gained 186 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns.

The loss ended Emmaus’ season at 9-4, while Freedom improved to 11-2. The Patriots will next play in the PIAA quarterfinals.

PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Hornet senior Sam Moratori tries to escape a Freedom defender during the District 11 title game.