Liberty North coach Andy Lierman had a funny feeling his team would run into Rockhurst again this season.
He also knew this game would be completely different than the first time these two tangled on Sept. 8, and he was right.
Liberty North had to scratch and claw its way to a 28-27 win in overtime over the Hawklets.
“We knew they were a good ball club back then,” he said. “Everybody forgets that it was a close ball game there in the third quarter. I’m not surprised by this; I knew it was going to be hard.”
Trailing 21-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Rockhurst had the ball deep in Liberty North’s territory. Facing a ‘got to have it or go home’ 4th-and-1 at the Eagles 31-yard line, Rockhurst coach Kelly Donohoe called a timeout to assess the situation.
With the game hanging in the balance Donohoe called on senior running Aidan Ryan. Ryan took the pitch and knifed his way through the Liberty North defense and into the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-19, the Hawklets tied the game on a 2-point conversion as Ethan Hansen found a wide-open Mitch Forbes to tie the game at 21 all with 3:37 left in the game.
North had a chance to win the game on its ensuing drive, however, Bleu Renfrow missed the potential game-winning field goal as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
“We knew we were going to need him (Renfrow) again,” Lierman said. “That’s the same thing I tell all of our kids, when they make a mistake, they’ve to keep their head up and keep going.”
In overtime, it was Rockhurst who scored first as Ethan Hansen called his own number on 4th-and-goal to give Rockhurst the 27-21 lead.
Liberty North responded — and ultimately — ended the Hawklets dream of returning to state on its first possession in overtime as Micah Jo Barnett scored his second touchdown of the night with a 2-yard run.
Barnett’s touchdown gave Renfrow a chance at redemption. Renfrow lined up and drilled the ball through the uprights, which gave Liberty North the win and berth in the Class 6 state championship game.
“We still had faith he’d come in the clutch and make that kick,” Melvin Laster said of Renfrow’s game-winning extra point.
In the previous matchup, Rockhurst had a hard time containing Keelan Smith and Jay Ross.
On Friday, the Eagles found it tough to get those involved. Instead of forcing them the ball, Liberty North quarterback Tillman Martin got others involved, spreading the wealth.
“We had to be patient there,” Lierman said. “We took a couple shots and didn’t get it. We made some plays when we needed to. Theo Gibson had some huge catches in some zone areas. … we just kept working, and working, and working and (we) were able to move the ball when we needed to.”
Liberty North will play the winner of Christian Brothers Academy or De Smet on Dec. 2 in the Class 6 state championship at Missouri’s Faurot Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.