Liberty rushes past Atholton, 41-20


The Liberty Lions' backfield was in a sharing mood last night against visiting Atholton.

Bill Shaffer (133 yards, two touchdowns), Justin Barnowski (137 yards, one touchdown) and Josh Denning (95 yards, two touchdowns) combined for 365 yards on the ground as the Lions ran past the Raiders, 41-20, in Eldersburg.

Liberty's opening possession of the second half told it all. The Lions pounded the ball down the field with a 10-play drive capped by Denning's 1-yard run. It took nearly five minutes and gave the Lions a 28-6 lead.

The win offset a fine performance from Atholton's Ricky Trott, who ran for 140 yards and returned a kickoff 73 yards.

Liberty (2-0) had more weapons offensively and got steady play from its defense and special teams.

The Liberty win ends a three-game losing streak to Atholton (1-1).

"I thought [Liberty] was very effective on offense and we just had a hard time stopping them," said Atholton coach Kevin Kelly. "They out-quicked us and ran well inside our tackles, and we couldn't close the gap on them."

Barnowski's 51-yard run along the left sideline in the fourth quarter capped the night for the Lions. With quarterback Ryan Pagels' score in the first half, the Lions' entire starting backfield scored at least one touchdown.

Liberty coach Ken Johnson was quick to praise his much-improved defense, which joined the special teams to give the Lions offense good field position the entire game.

"We have a lot more team speed and it also helps to have nine kids starting on defense that doesn't play offense," he said.

Liberty had a 21-6 lead at the half with three different players scoring touchdowns.

Shaffer opened the scoring on the Lions' second possession with a 28-yard run up the middle with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

Atholton answered with a seven-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Trott. Sean Williams' extra point was wide left to keep the Lions ahead, 7-6.

The rest of the half belonged to the Lions running game as Shaffer, Denning and Barnowski took turns finding holes in the Atholton defense. Pagels scored from 1 yard out to give the Lions a 14-6 lead early in the second half. Denning scored the Lions' third touchdown with 3:18 left to give them the 21-6 lead.

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