Tigers roar past Jays

Andy Meyer/PrepsKC

By Andy Meyer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: August 25, 2018 - 12:23 AM

Facing a one-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, Lee’s Summit roared back to life with one of the most well-rounded efforts imaginable.

The Tigers scored 25 unanswered points – including touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams – on the way to an emphatic, 43-19 victory against Liberty during the opening night of the season.

“It was really exciting, really exciting to see the kids playing the second half. They really played hard,” Lee’s Summit coach Eric Thomas said. “We scored in about every way, which is really good. Really good to see a lot of the situations we practiced during the week come through tonight.”

The Tigers (1-0) bounded out to a quick 10-0 lead before the game turned into a pinball match, including four lead changes. Liberty did most of its damage on the ground thanks to an electric catch-and-run from Jack Lowery that went for 71 yards and two short scoring runs from Nathan Gray.

Gray’s second touchdown of the game gave the Blue Jays (0-1) a 19-18 advantage late in the third quarter, but Lee’s Summit seemed to find a different gear once the fourth quarter arrived.

Jack-of-all-trades junior Ryan Belt withstood a big hit and threw a touchdown pass to Kaia Tupinio that gave the Tigers the lead for good. Belt, who also led the team with 84 receiving yards a touchdown, gave credit to the defense for making the rally possible.

“Defense and special teams is what wins games,” Belt said. “Really the defense was the MVP of the game.”

Sure enough, the Tigers’ defense pinned Liberty on its own goal line on the very next possession, and Landen Willis broke the game open with a dazzling, 42-yard punt return. Tyler Perry delivered yet another highlight-reel play when he picked off a pass and returned it down the sideline for a touchdown.

Lee’s Summit would add a safety and a field goal after that to seal the deal.

Three different quarterbacks rotated throughout the game for Lee’s Summit, including Belt, Tupinio and Darrias Pearsall. Each player brought a different style, and Thomas said that affords the Tigers the ability to consistently attack the defense with different looks.

“We have three guys that can play. They all have strengths, and they all do a great job,” Thomas said. “That gives us a great mix, and a great balance for our offense.”

Finishing on such a strong note helped the Tigers open the new season on a bright note and seek to maintain that momentum entering next week’s home opener against Belton.

“It’s a great start, and next week is our first home game. So we should have an electric atmosphere,” Belt said.

For Liberty, Lowery racked up 150 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries, while quarterback Alex Roush threw for 191 yards, spreading the ball around to six different targets. Even Streich led the team in receiving with 62 yards on six receptions.