With an outright league title still up for grabs, Liberty made sure to strengthen its stranglehold on the SWYL against an overmatched Bakersfield High team on Friday night.
The Patriots outgained the Drillers 276-26 in the first half and easily secured their 15th-consecutive SWYL win with a 37-7 takedown of the Drillers on Senior Night at Liberty.
Stepping in for injured starter Prentice Boone, Christian Muniz carried the load nicely, gaining 105 yards and starting the scoring with a bruising 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Muniz barreled over the first tackler and raced past the rest of the defense to the end zone.
After forcing a punt, the Patriots needed just one play to double their lead. Haden Mann, who completed his first six passes, connected with Ramon Henderson, who blew past two Driller defenders for a 59-yard touchdown catch.
“We talked about coming out fast," Liberty coach Bryan Nixon said. "I was really pleased with that. I thought out kids just did a great job tonight.”
Mann threw for 194 yards, rushed for 51 more and found the end zone on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter. Henderson led the receiving corps with 119 yards on four catches.
Dylan Tooker and Dylan Holmes also had touchdown runs, while Hunter Thorp provided two points when he blocked a punt through the end zone for a safety in the second quarter.
The production was more than enough for the Patriot defense, which set up the first score with a turnover on downs near midfield in the first quarter. That set the tone for a dominant first half, where they allowed negative-14 yards on the ground.
The Patriots now turn their attention to the playoffs, where they are in line for good seed following a 9-1 regular season.
“Phase two is over. We wanted to finish on a good note," Nixon said. "Now we go to phase three and go to the playoffs. They put themselves in good position to get a good seed and we’ll see what we can do.”
“It’s a great win," added Henderson. "It feels good tonight but we’ve got a lot left to work on. Hopefully we correct everything, get better every day. We’ve got some big things ahead of us.”
Things went from bad to worse for Bakersfield High late in the second quarter, when starting quarterback Richard Easterwood left the game after taking a hard landing on a sack. He didn't return and the Drillers used three different quarterbacks in the second half.
The Drillers avoided a shutout thanks to a 19-yard Cameron Bonner touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Liberty 37, Bakersfield 7
B 0 0 0 0 7 — 7
L 14 7 9 7 — 37
L - Muniz 26 run (Blevins kick)
L - Henderson 59 pass from Mann (Blevins kick)
L - Tooker 6 run (Blevins kick)
L - Thorp blocked put for safety
L - Holmes 2 run (Blevins kick)
L - Mann 4 run (Blevins kick)
B - C. Bonner 19 run (R. Bonner kick)
RUSHING — B: Wilson 10-32, Bonner 2-17, Moreno 2-(negative)18, Koumoutsakis 1-11, Easterwood 2-(negative)19 . L:Muniz 14-105, Mann 9-51, Tooker 9-37, Holmes 2-5, Marsical 1-10, Ballard 1-0
PASSING — B: Easterwood 5-109-40-0, Wilson 2-4-19-0, Lopez 1-2-(negative)3-0. L: Mann 10-18-194-0
RECEIVING — B: Wilson 4-18, Bonner 2-34, Taylor 1-11, Lee 1-15, Wilbon 1-4. L: Henderson 4-119, Oliver 3-31, Muniz 1-16, O'Connell 1-4, Tooker 1-24
RECORDS: F 5-5, 3-2. L 9-1, 5-0.