QB Cole Beck carries Freedom past Charleroi

Friday, November 1, 2019 | 11:50 PM

Using three touchdown passes from Cole Beck and one critical drive in the second half, Freedom defeated Charleroi, 21-14, in a WPIAL Class AA first-round matchup Friday night.

“Cole carried us tonight,” Freedom coach Greg Toney said. “We knew this was going to be a tight, defensive game. Whoever didn’t make the mistakes and won the field-position battle was probably going to win. The defense was outstanding the whole game and that was the other difference maker.”

With the score tied 14-14 after Charleroi went three-and-out to start the second half, the Bulldogs (8-3) marched the ball 65 yards on 13 plays and got what proved to be the game-deciding score.

On a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Beck faked the handoff and rolled to his right. The junior quarterback threw a high pass, but converted tight end Noah Valles high-pointed the ball for the 1-yard score at the 2:01 mark of the third quarter.

On the drive, Beck picked up 41 rushing yards and had a critical, 10-yard run on fourth down after executing a successful fake punt.

“He made some plays with his legs on that drive,” Toney said. “Overall, we just couldn’t run the ball in between the tackles. Charleroi has some size up front, and they won a lot of those battles. Cole is a gamer and he really took control of the offense tonight.”

After outgaining Freedom 116-106 in the first half, the Cougars (7-3) struggled to move the ball and had minus-9 yards of offense in the final 24 minutes.

“We matched up pretty well with them up front, and our defensive line made some plays in the first half,” Charleroi coach Lance Getsy said. “After those early touchdowns, both defenses got into the game and controlled the game. Our defense kept us in the game and we took away their run game. But our offense couldn’t make enough plays, and we struggled with a lot of things.”

Freedom, which snapped a three-game losing streak, will play top-seeded Washington, a 21-7 winner over Shady Side Academy, next Friday with a site to be determined. Last season, the Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals.

“Our defense was locked down,” Toney said. “You take away that big pass play and the kickoff return, we shut their offense down. It’s about who can win the line of scrimmage, and I thought our line was able to penetrate. It’s been rough these last three weeks, so I was glad to get back to our winning ways.”

After Freedom was forced to punt on its opening drive, Charleroi got a big play on third-and-26 when Legend Davis caught a pass from Alex Conrad, found room and then weaved his way for a 71-yard score.

Three plays later, the Bulldogs countered with a big play through the air as Beck found Reiker Welling for a 58-yard scoring toss.

Freedom stretched its lead to 14-7 after Beck connected with Valles for a 20-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2 in the early stages of the second.

The lead was short-lived for the home team, as Davis electrified the crowd with an 82-yard return touchdown on the ensuing kick. A successful PAT by Joey Caruso knotted the game up at 14-14 with 11 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first half.

Beck finished with 115 yards on 8 of 13 passing, while Conrad compiled 105 yards through the air on 10 of 15 passing. Davis ended his night with five receptions and 98 yards for the Cougars.

Despite the postseason setback, Getsy is proud of his group.

“I love what our kids did the whole year,” Getsy said. “Even though we lost a lot to graduation coming into the season, I always believed in them. This is a special group of seniors. From Week 1, I thought this team could make a playoff run. Unfortunately, we played a tough team in the first round.”

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