BRENTWOOD – The Liberty High School football team missed a handful of opportunities to put Los Gatos away on Friday night, and Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung and the Wildcats offense made the Lions pay.
With his team down by 20 points early in the second half, Kopcsak-Yeung scored three unanswered touchdowns, including one on a 2-yard run with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter to help lead visiting Los Gatos to an improbable 35-34 nonleague win over the stunned Lions.
Kopcsak-Yeung had 120 hard yards on the ground, most of which came in the second half on second efforts, and also ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the first half as the No. 6 Wildcats (2-0) overcame four first-half turnovers to beat the 14th-ranked Lions for a third straight year.
Scott Garwood’s interception of a Sage Robertson pass with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter helped seal Los Gatos’ comeback win.
“I didn’t look at it as if we were out of it,” Kopcsak-Yeung said. “I believe my boys. I believe in my line.”
Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said Kopcsak-Yeung twisted his ankle in the first half.
“We taped it, and taped it again,” Krail said. “Just gutty yards. The kid’s tough as nails. Love him.”
Liberty led 34-14 with 10:20 left in the third quarter after quarterback Robertson threw his fifth and final touchdown pass of the game, finding receiver Ryder Steen open downfield for a 61-yard strike.
The Lions (1-1) got the ball back with just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter and drove to near midfield. But a holding penalty, followed by a personal foul call, forced Liberty into a punting situation.
The game changed on the next play, as Nate Goldsbury came free off the edge and blocked Liberty’s punt, giving Los Gatos possession on the Lions’ 20. Seven plays later, Kopcsak-Yeung scored on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-goal to give the Wildcats some life.
“We have a time when we want to go after (punts),” Krail said. “(Goldsbury) saw some leverage that he had, had an angle to it and just broke free. Made a hell of a play.”
“That was awesome,” Kopcsak-Yeung said. “I was so hyped. It gave us great field position, turned all the momentum.”
Prior to Kopcsak-Yeung’s heroics, it appeared Robertson and shifty sophomore Jaxon Bell would be the players of the game.
Robertson showed off a strong arm as he threw for 209 yards in the first half, and Bell made plays all over the field with two interceptions, a tipped pass that led to a third, a fumble recovery, and a 36-yard touchdown catch late in the first half. Bell also had 116 yards rushing.
“We’re so impressed with him,” Liberty coach Mike Cable said of Bell. “He’s going to have a tremendous season and he’s a big part of this team.
“We’ve got everything that we need. I told these guys, the first half proved we can go toe to toe and beat anybody. But we’ve got to play four quarters of football.”
Liberty twice had the ball inside the Los Gatos 20 in the final two minutes of the first half, but didn’t score any points. Leading 28-14, the Lions, instead of going for a field goal, went for it on 4th-and-goal on the Wildcats’ 7-yard line, but the ensuing pass was incomplete.
Then, after an interception by Liberty’s Zaire Calhoun, Liberty, with no timeouts, again passed up a field goal attempt to try for a touchdown, but the clock ran out after Calhoun couldn’t get out of bounds on a reception near the sideline.
Those plays and a failed point-after attempt on Steen’s touchdown proved to be critical.
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“We were in a position to do something special tonight,” Cable said. “Los Gatos is a great program, year after year, and the way we played the first half was exactly what I expected from this team.
“And then the second half with momentum and the missed opportunities, it’s a lesson. It’s a lesson to kind of look at the things that we missed and realize, that even in games you’re up, never be too comfortable. When you have opportunities to score at the end of the first half, you need to put points on the board, because football is a funny game. All of a sudden momentum will swing and then you see the results.”