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Liberty 21, North Penn 14

Bethlehem Liberty has a top-notch passer in Anthony Gonzalez, a junior southpaw drawing Division I-A interest from Penn State. That Gonzalez fired only four passes in yesterday's PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal against North Penn says a lot about the success he and the Hurricanes enjoyed with their ball-control ground attack.

Hurricanes QB Anthony Gonzalez looks for room as FB Daryl Klotz blocks North Penn's Mike Culbreath (5). Knights DB Joe Godio is at right.
Hurricanes QB Anthony Gonzalez looks for room as FB Daryl Klotz blocks North Penn's Mike Culbreath (5). Knights DB Joe Godio is at right.Read more

Bethlehem Liberty has a top-notch passer in Anthony Gonzalez, a junior southpaw drawing Division I-A interest from Penn State.

That Gonzalez fired only four passes in yesterday's PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal against North Penn says a lot about the success he and the Hurricanes enjoyed with their ball-control ground attack.

Keeping the Knights' defense on the field for long stretches, Liberty totaled 218 rushing yards on 51 attempts en route to a 21-14 victory at Coatesville High. In the plays-from-scrimmage category, the District 11 champion finished with a 57-35 advantage.

"They were gaining 4 or 5 yards at a clip," North Penn coach Dick Beck said. "They were being patient, sticking to their guns."

Having advanced to the state final for the second time in three seasons, Liberty (14-1) will meet District 7's Bethel Park (15-0) for the title Saturday at 7 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium. In yesterday's other semifinal, Bethel Park outlasted District 3's Wilson, 38-35, in triple overtime.

Gonzalez, the Lehigh Valley Conference's most valuable player, rushed 19 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. In suffering their first loss of the season, the Knights (14-1) also had trouble stopping rugged fullback Daryl Klotz (19 carries for 70 yards).

"We knew they were going to run the ball," Beck said. "They have a good offensive line that moves you, and their running backs do a good job of finding the holes."

With a smothering 4-3 defense, the Hurricanes held the District 1 powerhouse to 89 yards rushing, 41 on 11 attempts in the first half and 48 on 15 tries in the second.

"We knew they were a great team coming into it," said Tyler Smith, a senior halfback and linebacker for North Penn. "Still, this is a tough pill to swallow."

Liberty, a state runner-up in 2006, took possession first (the Knights deferred after winning the coin flip) and marched 80 yards, on 18 running plays to the end zone. Gonzalez scored from the 1 to cap a series that lasted 9 minutes, 14 seconds.

After North Penn took a 7-6 lead in the second quarter on a 3-yard TD run by Ronnie Akins, the Hurricanes closed the first half with an 11-play, 57-yard scoring drive. On second and goal from the 4, Gonzalez rolled left and, barely avoiding a sack by linebacker Mike Culbreath at the 16, tossed to Pittsburgh-bound wideout Devin Street.

Down by 14-7 at intermission, the Knights quickly forged a deadlock in the third quarter. A 4-yard TD burst off right tackle by Akins (56 yards on 13 carries) capped an eight-play, 73-yard series that was highlighted by two passes, of 40 and 24 yards, from Justin Davey to Smith.

North Penn needed a stop to keep the momentum but could not produce it. Gonzalez engineered another 80-yard, clock-eating drive. On the 12th play, a right-side draw, tailback Brandon Brader (11 carries for 58 yards) darted 18 yards for the winning score.

On Aug. 29, in the opener for both teams, North Penn emerged with a 23-15 road win.

"We're a more mature football team right now," Liberty coach Tim Moncman said. "Even Anthony [Gonzalez]; he's grown up quite a bit since then."

Liberty 6 8 7 0 - 21

North Penn 0 7 7 0 - 14

L: Gonzalez 1 run (kick blocked)

NP: Akins 3 run (McManus kick)

L: Street 4 pass from Gonzalez (Brader pass from Gonzalez)

NP: Akins 4 run (McManus kick)

L: Brader 18 run (Bedoya kick)

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