By Neal Thornton
The Liberty Panthers racked up their first district win of the season and moved to 4 and 4 on the year by defeating the Bridge City Cardinals 15-12. The game was billed as a close match-up and didn’t disappoint. Both teams scored 2 touchdowns each during the game. The difference was Liberty’s ability to score extra points after touchdowns while the Cardinals failed on all their point-after attempts.
Liberty’s offense came to life in the second half putting up 177 of their total 270 offensive yards. They ran 55 plays on the night, 51 of them on the ground for 247 yards. The quarterback tandem of Kaden Nolan and Austin Walker threw 4 passes. Walker completed one for 23 yards. Nolan threw an interception which was the only turnover on either side. Senior Panther Fullback Terrick Peterson carried the ball 26 times gaining 138 yards and scoring a touchdown. Liberty’s leading receiver was Kieron Joiner with 1 catch of 23 yards. Liberty fumbled once but recovered it. They were penalized 7 times for 57 1/2 yards.
Bridge City ran 32 plays, gaining 178 offensive yards. Twenty-nine of these were running plays totaling 77 yards. All the positive ground yardage from the Cardinals came from workhorse Sophomore JimSharon Bearden. He gained those 77 yards on 21 carries, scoring 1 touchdown. Junior Quarterback Ethan Oceguera was 3 for 7 passing for 101 yards and 1 touchdown. The leading Cardinal receiver was Austin Richardson with 2 catches for 70 yards, one of which being a 36-yard scoring strike. Bridge City never fumbled, was never intercepted, and was penalized only twice for 15 yards.
Bridge City took the opening kickoff and put together a 10-play, 59-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Bearden. The next set of events were the difference in the game. Bridge City’s PAT snap went over the holder’s head and broke up the play. As the holder attempted to salvage something, he threw into the endzone in an attempt to get 2 points. Liberty’s special teams defense was called for pass interference so the Cardinals got another chance, this time from the 1 1/2-yard line. They then tried a 2-point conversion but were stopped shy of the goal line.
The Cardinals led by a score of 6-0 with 5:50 left in the 1st quarter. After the teams traded punts, the Panthers put together a classic 14-play, 61-yard scoring drive. Terrick Peterson did the honors from the 3, Freshman Kicker Brian “Senor Hielo” Montes split the uprights and Liberty led 7-6 at the 7:10 mark of the 3rd quarter. Liberty received the kickoff to start the 2nd half but stalled and were forced to punt. The Cardinals took the ball and marched 87 yards in 10 plays scoring on a 36-yard pass from Oceguera to Senior Austin Richardson. Again, the Cardinal PAT was no good and the score stood at 12-7 in favor of Bridge City with 4:27 left in the 3rd quarter.
Liberty took possession and went down the field 76 yards in 10 plays, taking precious time off the clock and forcing Bridge City to use time-outs. Liberty scored from the one-yard line with Austin Walker taking it in. Liberty then went for 2 and made it, bringing the score to 15-12 with 11:55 left in the game. Liberty’s vaunted defense then held the Cardinals and forced a punt. The Panthers then put together a long, slow 15-play drive. Bridge City used up all their time-outs and the Panthers ran out the clock in the victory formation. Final score; Liberty 15, Bridge City 12.
Next week, the Liberty Panthers take on the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns in their final game of the regular season. Kickoff is at 7:30 in Liberty’s Memorial Stadium.