Liberty gets defensive to beat SJ Central
By Bill Knust PrepsKC staff writer
Liberty’s defense stole the show in a matchup of two high-powered offenses, Friday night. The Blue Jays picked off St. Joseph Central quarterback Dawson Page three times in the second half, returning two for touchdowns, en route to a 34-7 victory at William Jewell College.
Defensive back Kaiden Hulett’s 30-yard interception return with 8 minutes, 36 seconds remaining dampened the Indians’ comeback hopes severely. Hulett grabbed a tipped pass and found nothing but green turf between himself and the end zone to make it 28-7.
“It was thrown to the receiver’s back shoulder,” Hulett said. “Instead of running up field to his front shoulder, I stayed back because I knew he was going to tip it. I just stayed behind him, caught it and took it to the house.”
Overall, the Blue Jays held the Indians to 278 total yards. Central’s duo of running back Izzy Smith and receiver Cade Musser were never allowed to get going thanks to a swarming Liberty defense. Smith finished with 176 yards on 23 carries. Musser hauled in two catches for 47 yards and also had one carry for a 5-yard score.
“We knew our defense was going to have to step up huge,” Hulett said. “Central has some studs over there. They have a good football team. They have some guys who can shed tackles, and we knew we were going to have to wrap up. At halftime, Coach (Chad) Frigon even said it was going to come down to who was going to tackle. I liked the way we played.”
The Blue Jays got their second pick-six of the night to put a big bow on the victory. Central drove down to the Liberty 15-yard line before linebacker Brennen Hicks stepped in front of Page’s pass and raced 90 yards up the Liberty sideline to make it 34-7.
Frigon said the interceptions weren’t the result of any different scheme in the second half, just good defense and being active in the trenches.
“I think what we did was got more pressure in the second half which caused them to hurry some throws that we got in the way of,” Frigon said.
Liberty led 14-7 at the half, but Musser’s 5-yard score midway through the second quarter gave the Indians some momentum. The defense added to it heading into halftime, holding Liberty scoreless inside Central’s redzone with less than a minute remaining.
Indians’ coach Phil Pitts said his team was confident going into halftime.
“We felt really good,” Pitts said. “The football team I have, I believe in with everything I’ve got. I still believe in them with everything I’ve got.”
But, that momentum never quite turned into points.
After holding the Blue Jays scoreless on their first two drives of the second half, a Page interception by Avery Stawicki set the Blue Jays up at Central’s 36-yard line. Liberty running back Robert Rawie scored six plays later to make it 21-7.
“They played a heck of a ballgame, and they had a heck of a plan,” Pitts said. “You have to give credit to them. Their defense came out and really played well. All the credit in the world goes to Liberty.”
Rawie finished the game with 45 carries for 276 yards and a pair of scores. That also put him over the 2,000-yard mark rushing for the season.
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