Liberty defeats Heritage in Brentwood Bowl

Photo by Ken Boone

Liberty quarterback Nate Bell eludes a Heritage tackler during the 14th Brentwood Bowl. The Lions took home a 30-21 victory, their fifth consecutive win over the Patriots.

Liberty quarterback Nate Bell made sure his final play of the season against Heritage was also his best.

The sophomore signal-caller wiggled through the Heritage defense and into the open field for a 67-yard touchdown — his third rushing score of the game — with just over a minute to play, to ice the Lions’ 30-21 win over crosstown rival Heritage in the Brentwood Bowl.

The sensational run capped off Bell’s impressive performance that saw him account for all four Liberty scores — three on the ground and one through the air. He finished with 16 carries for 138 yards and completed 14 of 20 passes for 195 yards, helping Liberty defeat Heritage for the fifth consecutive time.

“He came out here and lit it up,” said Liberty head coach Matt Hoefs.

Liberty’s offense was efficient all night, racking up 517 total yards in the game, but the Lions (4-1) needed a couple of extra-special fourth-quarter efforts to squeak out the victory over the gutsy 4-2 Patriots.

Bell’s statement scamper came two plays after Lions running back Jaylin Thompson (14 carries for 86 yards in the game) rumbled forward to extend the drive on fourth-and-1, with the Lions clinging to a 23-21 lead. Just minutes earlier, Liberty sophomore Tashi Dorje’s 42-yard field goal — admittedly beyond his normal range — extended the Lions’ lead to 23-14 midway through the fourth quarter.

“It was lot of excitement,” Dorje said of the kick. “I just had a lot of confidence.”

The Patriots, who lost the last Brentwood Bowl 50-6 in 2019, did keep the pressure on and the score close throughout, thanks in large part to sophomore star Devon Rivers, who finished with 29 carries for 175 yards and two of Heritage’s three touchdowns.

The two teams played to 7-7 and 14-all scores before Liberty took the lead for good on Bell’s second touchdown of the game, a 3-yard scamper to put Liberty on top 20-14 midway through the third quarter.

Dorje’s 42-yard field goal extended the Liberty lead to 23-14, but the Patriots immediately responded with a 76-yard drive that culminated in Jayden Ennis’ 8-yard catch, to pull Heritage within 23-21 with about four minutes to play.

The Patriots would draw no closer.

The Lions turned almost exclusively to their running game on their next drive, using six consecutive running plays to reach their own 33-yard line, before Bell’s magical 67-yard run clinched the contest with just over a minute to play.

“It just felt like we capitalized on big moments tonight,” Hoefs said. “I am so proud of these guys. They have done so much in the last year.”