The Liberty football team finished the regular season with a strong win over crosstown rival Heritage, beating the Patriots 50-6 in a game that got out of hand early.
The Lions started quickly, with a four-play drive on their first possession, ending with a 53-yard touchdown pitch to wide receiver Cody Muth. They kept their foot on the gas after that, holding the Patriots to a total of -7 yards on their ensuing drive.
Heritage had a brief glimpse of hope when they recovered a Liberty fumble, but the Lions defense responded quickly, sacking quarterback Christian Conley in the end zone for a safety.
By halftime, Liberty held a 36-0 lead and had the game well in hand.
Lions quarterback Jay Butterfield had a huge game, throwing for 368 yards with 5 touchdowns and one interception. After the game, he said his team was heading into the playoffs on a good note but still had room to improve.
“We came out and executed the game plan,” Butterfield said. “Today, we had a couple sloppy penalties, a couple personal fouls, a couple false starts; if we clean all that up, we’ll be a pretty good team.”
With the win all but guaranteed, Butterfield gave way to freshman Jaden Rashada, who completed two of three passes for 11 yards and guided the Lions to their final scoring drive.
Along with Butterfield, Liberty was led by a trio of receivers who each had 80 or more yards. Junior Auki-Kapuha Flores broke out with seven catches for 90 yards. Senior Justice Jackson also caught seven passes for 92 yards, including three touchdowns. Muth finished with five catches and 84 yards. Senior Darrion Bartley rushed five times for 45 yards, including the game’s only rushing touchdown. Defensively, senior Payton Zdroik led the team with six tackles and two sacks, including the safety.
In the final seconds of the game, Heritage freshman Devon Rivers took a 3-yard pass from Conley into the end zone for the Patriots’ lone score. Head coach Don Sanders was proud of the way his team battled to the end, despite being on the losing end of a lopsided game.
“Our kids responded, and they played tough,” Sanders said. “They never gave up, which I’m proud of. Liberty’s a good team: very big, very physical. But it was the heart of our team, wanting to continue to drive and push toward that goal. I’m glad we were able to push that in.”
Liberty retains the Brentwood Bowl, the annual trophy given to the winner between these two teams. Head coach Ryan Partridge said this game always means a lot to his team.
“You don’t have to get our guys up for this game,” he noted. “They grew up with those guys, and they want to beat them good. I didn’t have to tell them much. It doesn’t matter if you’re 0-9 or 9-0, you’ve got to win this game.”
He also noted that in the upcoming playoffs, his team will need to eliminate penalties in order to defend their state championship.
With the loss, Heritage finishes the year with a 2-8 record, and 1-4 in the Bay Valley Athletic League. The Lions improved to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in BVAL play.