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Andrew Louder, South Carroll run past Liberty in Class 2A West region final, 38-15

Midway through the fourth quarter of Friday night's Class 2A West region final against Liberty, South Carroll quarterback Andrew Louder burst through on a keeper from his own 15-yard line.

Seemingly everyone on the frozen field had had trouble with their footing all night, but not Louder. Not on this play. He broke into the open field, going 85 yards for the score.

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That touchdown was not a game-changing score, but it was a defining moment for the visitors, who went on to beat the Lions, 38-15.

"We've had big play-ability all year," said Louder, who finished with 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns. "When you can score from any place on the field, it definitely makes you that much more dangerous."

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The night was full of breakout runs for the Cavaliers (9-3). Louder, who has taken a back seat for much of the season to running back Chris Gavin, Carroll County's all-time single-season rusher, also had a 55-yard touchdown run to open the second half.

Still, Gavin did get plenty of chances throughout the night, adding three scores from four, 13 and 60 yards out.

His biggest decision in the second half, however, might have been a fashion choice. Joining a few other skill players during halftime, the powerful back switched to tennis shoes, a decision that benefitted the offense greatly.

"It was a slugfest; everybody was sliding all over the place, and it felt like concrete," Gavin said. "Coach [Steve Luette] compared it to a gym floor. Putting the shoes on made it more like a basketball game."

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Liberty (8-4) got things going in a hurry on its first possession, needing only four plays to march 85 yards downfield for the score. Before Liberty quarterback Austin Bode took it himself 10 yards for the score, the senior hit Max Kirin one play earlier for a 48-yard strike in Cavaliers territory.

South Carroll responded on its next possession, needing only four plays as well. This time, it was a swing pass from Louder to Steven Baca. A quick throw turned into a 48-yard footrace down the side of the field for the score.

"I think our offense, the way it's designed, we expect [big plays]. It's happened all season," said South Carroll's Luette, who earned his 50th career win at the school. "So we were hunting and pecking and waiting for that one to happen, and it just kept happening."

The Cavaliers got a little help on defense when Liberty got the ball back, forcing the hosts into a turnover on downs. With optimal field position in Lions territory, South Carroll took its time moving closer to the end zone. The drive was highlighted by throws from Louder to Silas Kelly for 9 yards and to Garrett Snell for 12.

Those set Gavin up at the 13-yardline, where he punched it in for the go-ahead score with 2:31 to go in the first quarter. Though the teams entered halftime at 13-7, the Cavaliers never relinquished their lead.

Sandwiched in between Louder's big score and Gavin's final touchdown of the night was Liberty's second touchdown of the night. In the fourth quarter, Bode tossed a 16-yard pass to Jarrett Pfiefer. Still, it was too little, too late.

With another 2A regional final set to be played Saturday, the Cavaliers don't know which team they will face in the state semifinals just yet.

According to Gavin, however, the opponent doesn't matter.

"It's going to be a great game," he added. "And I know our guys are going to be ready for it."

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