Three plays into the second quarter, Stockdale High found itself trailing Liberty 17-0 and Stockdale center Tyler Slayton called a quick meeting with his fellow offensive linemen.
"Most of us are seniors. Most of us played last year," Slayton said after the Mustangs shut out Liberty the rest of the way and rallied for a 35-17 Southwest Yosemite League win at Stockdale.
"I said, 'You've been in this game before. Liberty racked up points against us before. Last year we lost to them 42-0.'
"I said, 'You don't want to do this again. Go out and do your thing. Quit thinking about the crowd and everything around you and go out and play football."
Stockdale, plagued by numerous mistakes in the first quarter, drove 80 yards on its first possession of the second quarter, capped by D.J. Martin's 12-yard touchdown run.
Liberty turned over the ball on its next possession, giving Stockdale a first down at the Patriots' 13. Three plays later Anthony Wood scored on a 5-yard run and it was 17-14.
"When we scored two unanswered touchdowns going into halftime, I felt like that was the turning point in the game," said Stockdale noseguard and kicker Dean McBride, who had two fourth-quarter sacks and was 5-for-5 on extra-point kicks.
The win improved Stockdale to 5-3 overall and 3-0 in the SWYL, tied for first place with Frontier, which shocked Bakersfield 28-21 on Friday. Stockdale is at Frontier next Friday.
Liberty falls to 4-4 overall and 1-2 in the SWYL.
Martin added a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and finished with 130 yards on 20 carries. Wood had a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put Stockdale ahead for good, 21-17, and finished with 52 yards on 10 carries.
"We got ourselves in a hole, but our kids didn't panic," Stockdale coach Mike Snow said. "Once we got it to 17-7 and then got a turnover, it was anybody's ballgame. It was a great show of their character tonight."
Snow got a rousing cheer from his players when he noted that the five wins mean the Mustangs will be playoff-eligible. The school won't allow teams with losing records to participate in the playoffs.
"Now that monkey's off our back," Snow said. "And if we win next week we're league champs no matter what."
Liberty had a 10-yard touchdown pass from Josh Medina to Ross Puskarich and a 21-yard field goal by Zack Sullivan in the first quarter.
Stockdale lost a fumble on its own 23 to set up Medina's 2-yard touchdown run with 10:38 left in the second quarter that gave Liberty the 17-0 lead.
Liberty running back Corbin Jountti, who has 923 yards and 12 touchdowns, was in uniform but did not play because of an ankle injury.
Anthony Mariscal filled in and had a solid game: 18 carries for 105 yards.
Liberty had 96 yards rushing in the first half but was held to 39 net rushing yards after that.
Stockdale's other touchdown was a 24-yard pass from Drew Allen to Carver Tippitt with 10:19 left in the game.