Liberty seemed to pick up right where it off from last season’s county contention.
The reigning county champions defeated Winters Mill 55-7 on Friday in the county opener for both teams. Junior running back Nick Henderson had three carries for 69 yards and two touchdowns and senior running back Blaine Roach had 10 carries for 58 yards and three touchdowns.
Four Lions found the end zone Friday, and Lions coach Larry Luthe said he hopes this game proves to be a “launching point” for an offense that is gradually coming together.
“We’ve been looking all season to try to come together as a team,” Luthe said. “We looked at film and just felt we were kind of misfiring a little bit. The big thing is that we scored early and I feel our confidence went up and it’s such a game of confidence. When you get confidence, you play a little faster, you hit a little harder and all of a sudden, cracks open up.
“All our running backs and quarterback did a great job finding the seams and moving the ball down the field. Nolan made some key throws when he had to and it was just an all-around offensive game, but I think we did pretty good.”
The Lions (3-1, 1-0 county) started their first drive from their own 47-yard line and avoided a three-and-out when senior quarterback Nolan Karfonta found junior wide receiver Jack Bulakites for an 11-yard gain. The Lions picked up a series of first downs and Roach ran in for a 3-yard score to get the Lions on the board just five minutes in.
The Falcons (2-2, 0-1) were forced to punt on another three-and-out and the Lions recovered at their own 28. Karfonta was intercepted with 4:20 left in the quarter and the ball was turned back over to the Falcons, but another three-and-out ensued.
Henderson’s 41-yard carry to the end zone gave the Lions a 14-0 lead. Henderson scored again early in the second quarter and the Lions boasted a 35-0 lead at half, thanks to a 25-yard connection between Karfonta and wide receiver Nick Loppatto and a one-yard dash from Roach.
“Our communication has been well, it’s just that we just need to find that chemistry and start clicking,” Lions defensive lineman Zach Morris said. “I think tonight we finally found it, which made it a lot easier for us, and them.”
Winters Mill junior quarterback Alex Barnes found senior tight end Casey Rowe for a big 43-yard gain with just under two minutes remaining in the third. Senior receiver Troy Blessing dashed into the end zone on a six-yard scamper to the left side for a Falcons touchdown. Sophomore Alex Carr’s kick was good as Liberty led 42-7.
The offensive surge continued for Liberty when junior quarterback Tyler Magruder scored with 7:54 left in the contest.
Lions senior wide receiver Kyle Sheetz picked off Barnes’ pass late in the fourth and four drives later, junior running back Wes Kirin ran in for a 49-yard score as time expired, his first varsity touchdown.
“We feel like we took a big step today,” Luthe said. “I was happy, we stayed focused in the second half and continued to run our offense even with other kids in so it all adds depth and continue to make plays. [Michael] Spitz had a could nice runs and Wes had one called back and another touchdown run so all those little things that keep going, we feel that’s what it’s going to take for us to get to the level we want to get to.”
Winters Mill 0 0 7 0 — 7
Liberty 14 21 7 13 — 55
L-Blaine Roach 3 carry (Sean Disbrow kick)
L-Nick Henderson 41 carry (Disbrow kick)
L-Henderson 16 run (Disbrow kick)
L-Nick Loppatto 25 pass from Nolan Karfonta (Disbrow kick)
L-Roach 1 run (Disbrow kick)
L-Roach 1 run (Disbrow kick)
WM-Troy Blessing 6 run (Alex Carr kick)
L-Tyler Magruder 12 run (Disbrow kick)
L-Wes Kirin 49 run