It wasn’t exactly the start Liberty football coach Bryan Nixon had planned after a 16-month layoff, but his team’s finish more than made up for it.
After fumbling their first snap and trailing 6-0 to visiting Ridgeview early in the first quarter, the Patriots scored virtually every way imaginable in rolling to a 45-6 victory in a game played with a running clock for most of the second half.
“Man, what an exciting night just to be out here,” Nixon said. "I’m so happy for our kids. They played hard, and I don’t know, I’m just happy for our seniors and happy to be out here. I think they did a good job. For only having three weeks to prepare, I thought our kids played well. We need to minimize some of the mistakes, but overall it was a good outing for everybody.”
Senior running back Prentice Boone rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and defensive lineman Randon Reeder returned a Wolf Pack interception 15 yards for a score during a 28-point second quarter that resulted in a 35-6 halftime lead for Liberty.
“We competed a lot and I liked that,” Boone said. “A lot of perseverance. This is surreal. We’re back playing right now, so we’re going to get this one out of our system. We have another game on Thursday so we have to prepare and win it.”
After a 28-yard field goal by Grant Meadors padded the lead on Liberty’s opening drive of the second half, the Patriots' defense forced Ridgeview to punt. Senior Jojo Montecinos took the ball near midfield, headed across the field to his left, cut up field and sprinted past the Wolf Pack defense along the sidelines to cap the game’s scoring with 7:57 left in the third quarter. The remainder of the game was played with a running clock.
“It was a nice little butt-whooping that they gave us,” Ridgeview coach Rich Cornford said. “Their squad executes amazingly well. We have a lot of potential. We did a lot of things right, but we made a ton of mistakes. Unforced errors … and a lot of them were forced errors because they put a lot of pressure there.
“But we have to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. And I was just really impressed with Liberty, and you’re always impressed with Liberty and the job they do coaching and the athletes they have."
Ridgeview moved the ball early on the strength of senior running back Jaron Amos. Amos had a 34-yard run on the Wolf Pack’s opening possession, and then after a botched snap was recovered by Ridgeview on the Patriots opening play, he was at it again. He broke off a 39-yard run before being tackled on the Patriot 1-yard line, and then tip-toed his way into the end zone on the following play to give the Wolf Pack a 6-0 lead with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
Amos finished with 165 yards on 15 carries, with 162 of those yards coming in the first half. He played just one possession in the second half before leaving the game with a sore shoulder.
Trailing 6-0, Liberty marched the ball down the field with a nine-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in an 8-yard TD run by Boone. Liberty quarterback Haden Mann accounted for 46 of those yards either passing or running with the ball.
“Their execution here, without a scrimmage, I mean they looked like they were in midseason form,” Cornford said. “So my hats off to them. I think we’ve got a really good football team, which I think says a lot about their football team.”
Mann connected with junior wide receiver Jason Oliver for an 18-yard touchdown pass, coming on a third-and-15 play, to build the lead to 14-6 on the second play of the second quarter. Mann finished 9 of 15 for 111 yards passing, and also rushed for 59 yards on nine carries.
Sophomore Jalen Hankins scored on a two-yard run to build the lead to 21-6, and intercepted a pass on the Wolf Pack’s next possession to set up another Boone touchdown run, this time from one yard to make it 28-6 with 5:08 left in the first half.
“It was a great game,” said Liberty linebacker Brady Anderson. “Ridgeview is a good opponent. We went out there with the mentality, you know, just win the day, get better. And I’m just thankful for the win today.”
The win was nice, but Anderson said he was just happy to be back playing after the long layoff.
“It was crazy,” Anderson said. “Just the adrenaline pumping before the game, fans in the stands, it was just great being out here. It felt like normal again and I couldn’t be happier to be out here with my boys.”