Team Liberty edges Freedom as top players say goodbye in PAC-10 Senior Bowl

PHOENIXVILLE — A spark on the field ended the scoring.

A spark in the sky ended the game and the high school careers of the PAC-10’s seniors.

Moments after Mike Fowler’s 84-yard punt return gave Team Liberty its first lead since the first quarter, lightning struck off in the northern horizon of Phoenixville’s Washington Field, ending the fourth installment of the PAC-10 Senior Bowl with Team Liberty coming away with a 32-30 victory over Team Freedom Sunday night.

“It was a good experience (playing with my teammates for the last time),’ said Fowler, a Delaware Valley College commit. “I’m going to miss them. This was a team that I played with for three years, it’s going to be something to remember.’

Fowler made sure that this game would be memorable, as did his Falcon teammates. Devon Fink returned a kick for a touchdown and rushed for 40 yards on seven carries while quarterback Torin Verdone threw for 166 yards on 7-of-13 passing with one touchdown in the win that upped the Liberty’s record to 3-1 in the last four contests, rebounding from a 35-2 trouncing from Freedom in last year’s encounter.

That game was ruled by Freedom’s defense.

This game … not so much.

Liberty’s Taiyir Wilson eclipsed 100 yards receiving as he hauled in five receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown while running twice for 77 yards and two scores (both coming on end-arounds) as Liberty racked up 295 yards of total offense in the contest that ended with eight minutes remaining in the fourth that featured a running clock during the game’s last quarter.

Wilson’s scores came at pivotal junctures as Team Liberty clawed back from a 30-14 deficit to register the win, sealed by Fowler’s burst down the right sideline for the final score. Fowler finished the game with two receptions for 57 yards with 12 yards rushing.

Wilson first took an end-around, breaking tackles along the way for a 59-yard touchdown scamper to make it 6-0 before striking again in the second on the same play, this time finding the corner pylon for an 18-yard run to make it 14-8. He finished his day with a 10-yard reception on a slant pattern to make it 30-26 with seven seconds remaining in the third.

“Coach (Phoenixville’s Evan Breisblatt) picked me and Mikey (Fowler) I think second in the draft and we came up and showed that we were one of the best athletes in the PAC-10,’ said Wilson, who will attend Temple University this fall. “It feels great. To go out with a blow like this, to win the game with that great comeback that we did in the second half, it feels great. Now we’re on to bigger and better things.’

“We really needed that, we really did,’ Fowler said of his punt return. “Once I saw open field I knew I had to take advantage of it. I had great blockers and I got it done.’

And even with the Team Liberty defense (led by Gary Wise of Pottstown, Zach Dorsey of Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley’s Mike Holland among others) limiting Freedom to just over 80 yards in the second half, having lightning call the contest wasn’t a bad way to go out.

With the way quarterback Matt Mesaros and Perkiomen Valley receiver Ryan O’Donnell were playing, this game could have quickly turned back in Freedom’s favor.

Pope John Paul II’s Mesaros finished with 121 yards passing and two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) as Freedom built a 30-14 lead in the waning minutes of the third quarter.

His touchdown pass to Spring-Ford’s Brandon Barone was the main highlight from his day as he found the wide open receiver for a 59-yard touchdown score that made it 16-14. Five minutes later, it was he who did the dirty work as he plunged in from one-yard out after a 62-yard connection with O’Donnell (two receptions, 146 yards, TD), two plays earlier to make it 30-14.

For Mesaros, the strong effort was just what he needed after he missed the final three games of the season and the majority of the basketball season (albeit a brief appearance in the team’s Senior Night) after getting microfracture surgery in his right knee.

His football career is over as he will attend Pittsburgh University to study Supply Chain Management, but for him, like many others, it was good to get out on the field one last time.

“It was tough ending my career in a doctor’s office, so it was good to end it tonight on the field,’ Mesaros said. “It was good to get back with everyone for one last time. I didn’t know what to expect from myself. I just got cleared a couple of weeks ago, so I just wanted to go out, have fun and enjoy it one last time.’

NOTES — Methacton’s Conner Derrickson finished the game with 84 yards passing on one completion (an 84-yard touchdown pass to Ryan O’Donnell). O’Donnell also ran for 31 yards in the loss. … Pottstown’s Gary Wise had an interception for Team Liberty with Spring-Ford’s Zach Dorsey registering a sack. … Barone finished with 59 yards receiving. … Perkiomen Valley’s Liam Grande finished with one pass breakup. … Spring-Ford won the Underclassmen Skills Competition with a score of 34. Perkiomen Valley finished second, Pottsgrove took third and Owen J. Roberts was fourth. … Owen J. Roberts won the bench press competition with Perkiomen Valley’s Stephen Sturm taking first in the quarterback challenge. … Spring-Ford won the kicking contest with Perkiomen Valley finishing first in the skills relay. … Team Liberty was coached by Phoenixville’s Evan Breisblatt while Team Freedom was coached by Boyertown’s George Parkinson.

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