Freedom heading to finals
Freedom has enjoyed plenty of special wins during the Jason Roeder era, but last Thursday’s 28-27 triumph over Emmaus in the District 11 6A semifinals will certainly go down as one of the best ones in Freedom history.
The Pates rallied from a 21-12 deficit early in the third quarter to score 16 unanswered points and stymie an Emmaus offense that was rolling to advance to their fourth District 11 6A championship in five years.
Freedom (10-2) gets a chance to win their third district championship in school history and defend their crown from a year ago this Friday at Easton’s Cottingham Stadium when they take on Parkland.
But last week’s victory over an ultra talented Emmaus (10-2) team was bursting with emotion, as the black and gold knew they pulled off a special win.
“We’ve had a couple crazy wins over the years, but this one is definitely up there,” said Roeder. “This is a special class for me and I’d be lying if I wasn’t emotional coming into the game thinking it might be the last time I get to coach this group. We just kept battling and I’m proud of our team and our coaches.”
Emmaus took a 14-12 lead into halftime and built it to 21-12 when Jake Fotta threw an eight-yard score to Tylik Jarvis with 9:21 in the third quarter.
Freedom responded when quarterback Ethan Neidig led an eight-play, 79-yard drive to cap it off with an eight-yard TD with 5:45 in the quarter. Jalen Fletcher then took a handoff and scored from seven yards out just before the quarter was over, as Freedom converted two-point attempts on both scores to take a 28-21 lead.
More importantly, the Freedom defense tightened up in the second half after watching Fotta and company throw at will through the first 27 minutes.
They didn’t allow an Emmaus first down on their next four possessions until the Pates gave Emmaus life with a short punt deep in their own territory to give the Hornets the ball at the Freedom 32-yard line with 4:26 left.
Fotta and the offense made sure to capitalize, as he ran in from three yards out to make it 28-27 with 2:44 left. The Hornets initially trotted out their kicking team for the game tying point, but Freedom was called for too many men on the field, moving the ball just outside the one-yard line, prompting Emmaus to go for the two-point conversion.
The Hornets ran an RPO to Darville, who was smothered for a loss and sent the Patriot sideline into a frenzy.
“To get a stop like that on the one-yard line is a credit to our kids and coaches,” Roeder said. “I wasn’t surprised they [Emmaus] went for two after they got the penalty. That’s a tough offense to hold out for a yard-and-a-half.”
Emmaus went for the onside kick and nearly had it go their way, as the ball bounced off a Freedom player, only to have the Pates recover.
The game was finally put to bed when the Hornets jumped offside on 4th and 1 to give the Pates a fresh set of downs to run out the clock.
“It’s always about the next play and that’s what we try to focus on,” said Roeder. “Our kids were able to handle some tough scenarios and come out with the win.
“I thought this game was a tossup from the beginning and Emmaus is a very good football team. To come here on their turf and get a win in this environment is huge.”
The focus now shifts to Parkland (8-4), who easily handled Northampton 31-13 for the K-Kids first loss of the season.
The Trojans knocked off the Pates 21-13 on Sep. 9, which was the last time Freedom lost a game this season, as they’ve ripped off nine straight wins.
After winning the district crown last season, Roeder understands how tough it is to get back to the championship game, but also knows how special it is to keep competing with this group.
“We get to spend another week together and that’s the most important part,” he said. “Now we just got to be ready to compete for another championship.”