Liberty High School football coach Larry Luthe said Friday’s season-opening loss to Linganore was a “great test” for his reigning Carroll County Athletic League champion Lions.
The Lancers, last year’s Class 3A state runner-up, used their depth and speed to overcome the Lions 35-7 and prove why they’re one of the most prolific teams in the state.
“We could have executed our plays a little better and made less mistakes,” Lions sophomore running back Tommy Nelson said after Friday’s game. “It’s really about the mental game now. We were there physically, we hung on and we just have to be focused and mentally prepared next time.”
Nelson rushed for 12 carries on 63 yards, while senior quarterback Nate Kent had 73 passing yards to go with 61 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The Lancers recovered a Liberty fumble on the third play of the Lions’ opening drive and Lancers junior Brady Domroe answered with a 2-yard rush to put the Lancers on the board. Later in the same quarter, junior quarterback Ethan Thompson connected with Timmy Conner, who tossed a hook-and-lateral pass to Xander McClure for a 78-yard score to put the visitors up 14-0.
Liberty senior lineman Kyle Hutchinson deflected one of Thompson’s passes on fourth down late in the second quarter and the Lions used a 66-yard drive to find the end zone when Kent ran in for an 11-yard score to trim the deficit to 14-7.
McClure’s kickoff return on the team’s first play following Kent’s touchdown helped the Lancers lead 28-7 at the half and Domroe notched a 95-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“We had a lot of mental errors the whole game,” Hutchinson said. “I thought we did a better job in the second half with not as many stupid penalties or screw-ups. We just have to get better in practice.”
The Lions fumbled the ball twice and gave up two interceptions against the Lancers. They also recovered two Linganore fumbles.
“Unfortunately, Linganore got us not playing Liberty football, so we have to get back to doing the things that successful teams do,” Luthe said. “We have to clean up some things in practice … I thought they played very well and maybe I got out-coached a little bit. I thought giving up the kickoff return was huge … I thought the hook and lateral play was a beautiful call. They got a turnover, we were a little anxious and they got us jumping.”
The Lions have found success in recent years by avoiding costly turnovers, not giving up big plays and scoring with possession in the red zone, Luthe said. Friday’s contest tested some of these factors, and the team is prepared to work out the kinks before traveling to Walkersville this week.
They notched five shutouts of a combined 157 points last fall and one of those shutouts came against the Lions of Frederick County, the 2016 2A state champions. Linganore had speed and plenty of weapons, and Walkersville could provide a similar feel for Friday’s contest.
Josiah Jones, a junior running back, led Walkersville in rushing as a sophomore last fall and earned all-county second-team honors. The Lions defeated Tuscarora 21-16 in their opener, and Jones had nine carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s hard to simulate that [speed] in practice, you think you’re in the right spot in practice and all of a sudden it just happens faster than you expected,” Luthe said. “We face another great back [this] week, the kid is one of the best backs in Frederick County so we have six days to go and get ready and do those things all over again.”