When the dust had settled, the Lions made the right moves and held on for a 30-17 win over Antioch.
Liberty (3-5, 1-2 Bay Valley Athletic League) jumped out to a 23-3 halftime lead over Antioch. In the second half, The Panthers (5-3, 0-3 BVAL) took advantage of two Lions’ fumbles when junior running back Elbert Hamilton scored twice to trim the lead to 23-17 with nearly all of the fourth quarter remaining.
From there, the Liberty defense stood firm against the high-powered Antioch offense. Lions’ junior quarterback Cody Suckow scored late on a three-yard keeper to put the game away.
“I’m really proud of the way that my guys fought back in the fourth quarter to seal the win,” Liberty head coach Nate Smith said. “They stacked the box, took away the running game. They’re bigger than us. But we had a quarterback who was in the zone and a receiver in Nick West who was in the zone of his life tonight.”
One of the game's most crucial plays came just after the Panthers cut the score to 23-17 in the fourth quarter. A mishandled kickoff gave the Lions poor field position. Suckow dropped back and found West deep at midfield. While attempting to cut, West lost the ball, but jumped on it to maintain possession. Liberty didn’t score on that drive, but that play gave them a dramatic edge in field position – an edge the Lions defense held for the remainder of the contest.
Suckow's performance was remarkable. He connected with West six times for 142 yards and a score. The QB also scored two TDs of his own, and hit senior running back Bobby Davis on a lateral pass early in the game. Davis took the ball, got free on the sideline and sprinted 62 yards for the score. That gave Liberty a lead it wouldn’t lose.
The 23-3 lead at the break allowed the Liberty student body to enjoy the halftime show and see newly crowned Homecoming King and Queen Lei Wei and Ben Custodio enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
Suckow was happy to put the memories of the last two league losses behind him and deliver a homecoming win for his team.
“Everybody had to fight,” Suckow said. “Everybody knew that we had to get off of that Heritage game, come back in this one and just execute.”
Despite the loss and three-game losing streak, Antioch head coach John Lucido kept a calm head at the end of the game.
“We were a little full of ourselves at 5-0,” Lucido said. “We had a good game against Heritage, but couldn’t stop them. Then we got a reality check against Freedom. In this one, we were flat at the beginning of the game. We just have to come out with the second half intensity next week against Deer Valley.”
The Panthers will host Deer Valley (4-4, 2-1) next week, while the Lions will stay at home to take on Pittsburg (5-3, 2-1).
The night wasn't a complete loss for Antioch. Its JV team delivered a fourth-quarter touchdown to seal a comeback victory over the Lions, 26-22.