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Harder than a rockPhoto Credit: David Smith/Special to PrepsKC


Complete Box Score and Stats

In a hard-fought defensive slugfest between state-ranked heavyweights, Liberty North dodged a late comeback effort and outlasted a resilient Rockhurst squad, 10-7.

The Eagles (3-0) led from start to finish and ultimately staved off a fourth-quarter rally thanks to a ferocious defensive effort that helped the No. 1-ranked team in the state stay undefeated.

Liberty North forced a final turnover on downs with less than two minutes remaining to clinch the win, and first-year Eagles’ head coach Andy Lierman said the victory against the Hawklets, ranked 10th in Class 6, was “super satisfying.”

“We just kind of kept battling, and that’s what we’ve talked about all week long is staying humble and staying focused on the task at hand,” Lierman said. “We realize each and every week is going to be tough, and we’re going to get everybody’s best shot.

“We’re just going to keep plugging away.”

The Eagles wasted no time grabbing a lead on the game’s very first drive. Senior quarterback Sam Van Dyne connected with Xavier Horn on a couple of long passing plays, and junior MicahJo Barnett zipped in for Liberty North’s only touchdown of the game.

Lierman said grabbing the early allowed the Eagles to feel comfortable and play to their strengths.

“We knew that points were going to be tough to come by tonight, so getting on the board early (was important),” Lierman said. “We’ve had the opportunity to play from ahead the past few weeks, and that’s important to us.”

Following the early touchdown, both defenses stepped up their play and made it difficult for either team to gain momentum. The next 13 drives ended without points being scored, including a missed field goal for each team and a combined six punts.

The Hawklets (1-2) certainly put pressure on Liberty North, driving deep into Eagles territory on multiple occasions. But Dakota Hanna intercepted a Rockhurst pass in his own end zone right before halftime, and then Preston Denmark picked off another pass at his own goal line to end another scoring threat early in the fourth quarter.

Eagles’ senior defensive back Brandon Miller led the team in tackles and said the team’s strong start helped the entire team play with confidence.

“Going back to us scoring on the first drive, that really boosted our momentum,” Miller said. “As coach said, with our swagger, we play better and do our jobs.”

Even so, the Hawklets never backed down and gave themselves a chance to tie or win the game in the final minutes of regulation. Trailing 10-0, Rockhurst quarterback Ethan Hansen delivered a 52-yard scoring strike to Myles Carson that breathed new life into the traditional powerhouse.

The Rockhurst defense immediately forced a punt and drove into Eagles’ territory thanks to some tough running by Aidan Ryan, who racked up 62 rushing yards against a tough Liberty North front seven. But the comeback bid fell short on a fourth-down incompletion, allowing the Eagles to hold on.

“We knew our back was against the wall, but we play like a fist,” Miller said of stopping the Hawklets for the final time. “We play together as a team, and we came out with the win.”

In another standout showing, Barnett finished with 108 yards on 22 carries, almost scoring again in the final minute, while Van Dyne racked up 183 passing yards – including 75 to Horn and 55 to Keelan Smith.

For Rockhurst, Hanson threw for 124 yards and added another 25 on the ground, and Carson led the team with 85 receiving yards thanks to his highlight-reel touchdown catch. Conor Sexton was one of several key contributors on defense for the Hawklets, racking up 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.