Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008 | 1:30 a.m.
Sitting in fourth place of the Southeast Division, the Patriots only needed to win their final game to clinch a postseason appearance for the first time in the football program's six years.
Their hopes were dashed by Foothill kicker Terrance Walls, who made a 37-yard field goal with 1 minute, 2 seconds remaining to give Foothill the 16-14 victory.
"Losing the game was like losing a family member," Liberty lineman Devin Detommaso said. "We were starting to bond more and more as the season went on. To lose this, especially as a senior, was disappointing."
The win puts Foothill in the driver's seat, as a victory in its season finale against Coronado on Oct. 30 would secure the fourth seed.
"I am so happy we can get our seniors back to the playoffs, because that's where we deserve to be," Foothill quarterback Aaron Dupin said. "To come and beat Liberty on its own turf, I'm ecstatic."
Liberty had reason to be confident as Foothill started its final drive on Liberty's 37-yard line with 2:19 remaining.
The Patriots defense had allowed only two second-half first downs up to that point, rendering Foothill's rushing game ineffective. Foothill adjusted by relying on its passing game.
"We didn't need anything fancy right away, we just wanted to keep moving the chains," Foothill coach Martin Redmond said. "We thought we had plenty of time and that they might soften up on defense and give us those first downs."
Dupin threw two first downs that got Foothill down to the 18-yard line and set up a field goal.
Walls approached the game-winner as a routine kick.
"As soon as I hit the field, the pressure was gone," Walls said. "It was a regular kick and I just had to stay focused."
Foothill took the lead early in the game, scoring on its first possession after Connor Afoa returned a punt 51 yards.
On their second possession, the Falcons went on a 73-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard rushing touchdown from Dupin, who finished the day with six completions for 49 yards.
After a missed conversion, Foothill went up 13-0 in the first quarter. Liberty countered with several defensive adjustments that helped stop leading Foothill rusher Algernon Sewell, who had 83 yards, for the rest of the game.
"We changed the defense and clogged the holes to make sure they couldn't get anywhere," Liberty senior Sage Nua said.
Liberty running back Shawn Murray ran for a 63-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Murray, who led all rushers with 105 yards, continued the momentum into Liberty's next possession, as he broke for a 40-yard touchdown run put his team up 14-13 at the half.
In the second half both teams suffered from penalties and poor offensive execution.
Liberty gave Foothill possession for its game-winning drive after failing to convert on fourth down with 1 yard to go.
Even in defeat, the Liberty players found much to be proud of.
The Patriots had been perennial losers in the Southeast Division coming into the year.
"We showed that hard work can pay off," Liberty running back Carlos Tautoto said. "We came up short, but we came so far just to be playing for a playoff game."
Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.