Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – An 0-5 start, a 3-6 record or missing the postseason was not what anyone in the Liberty High football program was looking for last season.
The disappointment from 2021 has turned into motivation for the Lightning in 2022.
“We had some downs last year but we didn’t let that get to us,” Liberty High senior Wyatt Williams said. “We used that as motivation losing those games. We used that as motivation going forward.”
The focus surrounding Liberty High a year ago was one everything new within the program including a new coaching staff and loads of new personnel.
After the Lightning went 3-6 in the first season under head coach James Harris there is a new feel this fall.
“It’s whole new season, I have a whole new perspective,” Harris said. “Humble pie teaches you a lot. I got served some humble pie and I have to be a better coach. We had a really good team last year and we lost some really close games.”
The 3-6 record doesn’t tell the full story for Liberty High which lost to five playoff teams including a pair of 5A postseason qualifiers.
Included in the six losses for the Lightning were four losses by 11 points or less including a one-point loss to Clear Creek Amana and two-point setback to Burlington.
“Ultimately you learn more from losses than you do from wins,” Harris said. “Ultimately that’s what I hope we take from last year.”
The Lightning are focused on turning those close losses into wins this season and have a roster capable of pulling off that goal.
Liberty High returns eight starters from last season including two-way standout Christian Barney, three starters on the offensive line and seniors Williams and Amari Thigpen in the secondary and receiving corps.
“Our goals are to win as many games as possible,” Thigpen said. “We want to win but we take it one day at a time because we know working and building chemistry is going to help us during the season.”
Liberty High will have a new look offensively with junior Graham Beckman taking over at quarterback.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Beckman completed 13-of-15 passes for 184 yards in a backup role last season and has impressed coaches and teammates throughout fall camp.
“He’s smart and he’s tough and he’s a kid that is going to do everything you want him to do,” Harris said of Beckman. “We’ve been really happy with Graham.”
The Lightning must replace 1,000-yard running back Darius Willis-Newell and its top receiver in Luke Meyers from a year ago but bring back a solid group of skill position players led by Barney, Thigpen and Williams.
Barney (6-2, 205) caught 15 passes for 290 yards a three scores a year ago while Thigpen (5-11, 165) had 12 receptions for 118 yards and a score.
“When our number is called we have to make plays,” Thigpen said. “I really like the guys we have this year and I think that group is going to be really good.”
Liberty High brings back three starters on its offensive line led by seniors Zach Gallagher (6-0, 235) and Carter Webb (6-4, 255) along with junior Will Quast-Villanfana (6-0, 260).
Gallagher was a second-team all-district pick a year ago.
“When we made that transition to more 12 and 11 personnel last year I think that was a huge step in the right director for us and where we needed to be,” Harris said. “We started getting those big bodies on the field and really started getting some of our run game stuff going.”
Barney and Williams will anchor a Liberty High defense that returns two of its top five tacklers from last season.
Williams was an all-district safety after making 26 tackles, recovering two fumbles and grabbing a team-high three interceptions.
Junior defensive lineman Dantrell Skinner (6-0, 245) returns after making 14 tackles including four for loss last season
“I think we can be pretty good,” Williams said. “I think with the number of guys we have coming back really helps with the underclassmen coming up and playing with us so that experience is important.”