Playing well going into halftime and coming out strong to start the second half are key factors in proving how good a team is. Freedom passed this test with ease on Friday in beating Deer Valley 34-14 to clinch at least a share of the Bay Valley Athletic League title.
Leading 14-7 with time ticking away in the second quarter, quarterback Dante Mayes found Devontae Young down the right sideline for a 27 yard touchdown to end the half. The Falcons got the ball first to start the third quarter and took nearly seven minutes off the clock before Joe Mixon scored his second touchdown of the game to put Freedom up 28-7.This quick strike potential of the offense, which can also grind out drives from the spread look, is what made Freedom a preseason Top 20 team and has it looking like a challenger to reach the North Coast Section Division I finals.
While the offense has many weapons, the top option on Friday was wide receiver Darrell Daniels, who finished with 11 catches 196 yards and a touchdown. Daniels, a 6-foot-4, 200 pound Washington commit scored a first quarter touchdown on a fade route in the red zone. He had three catches of 20+ yards and also had three receptions which resulted in first downs on 3rd or 4th and longs. He is also dangerous in yards after the catch situations as seen on numerous crossing routes.
Daniels is currently ranked as a 4-star prospect in the NCP Top 50 and ranked No. 7 in the class. He is the best rated receiver to come through the area since 2011 Lincoln-Stockton grad Brandin Cooks, who is now at Oregon State.
While the passing game racked up 352 yards, you can't discount the running game paced by Mixon, who is one of the top 2014 recruits in Northern California. He had 102 yards on 17 carries and became Freedom's all-time points leader on his first of two scoring runs. However, he best run of the night came in the beginning of the second quarter with Deer Valley controlling the tempo of the game. Freedom faced a 2nd and 12 from its own nine yard line with a draw run called for Mixon. Deer Valley got strong penetration and had Mixon for a loss to set up a 3rd and long, but the junior was able to change directions and avoid the defenders for a 22 yard gain. Freedom eventually scored on the drive and never relinquished the lead.
Mixon has good size and has shown the speed to be a breakaway threat. On this night, he showed more of his elusiveness in traffic and hard running style as reasons why the Pac-12 is already calling.
With the offense rolling along, the defense turned in a stout effort corralling the Wolverine's athletic junior quarterback Simba Webster. Coming in averaging nearly 450 yards of total offense, Webster was held to just 160 yards (110 passing and 52 rushing). He started off the game with a highlight reel 52 yard scamper around the left side, but only produced one more play of 20+ yards after that.
The Freedom defense settled in after giving up 172 yards on the first three drives by getting good pressure from the ends and playing assignment football up the middle. Junior defensive end Patrick Choudja was active throughout in getting into the backfield as the Falcons also stood up their defensive ends, including Daniels on a handful of snaps, to block potential passing lanes.
Freedom will look to beat Liberty next week to secure the program's first outright league title while Deer Valley tries to halt a two game losing streak and post a good performance heading into the playoffs as it travels to Heritage.