Devil defense pitches shutout in first win

By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — The Liberty offense came up with three big touchdown runs from its ground-only attack on offense, and the Red Devil defense

Brandy Karr/Photo Liberty’s Tyler Renaud breaks free for a 70-yard touchdown run during the Red Devils’ win over Walhalla on Friday night.

Brandy Karr/Photo
Liberty’s Tyler Renaud breaks free for a 70-yard touchdown run during the Red Devils’ win over Walhalla on Friday night.

pitched a shutout in a 21-0 win over Walhalla on Friday night.[cointent_lockedcontent]

The victory was the first of the season for the Red Devils, who improved to 1-2 on the early season. The win over the Razorbacks completed the Devils’ non-conference schedule, and Liberty will now prepare for its region opener next week at Powdersville.

The Liberty offense struggled through its first two games against Crescent and Pickens, getting no points in regulation. The Devils had been held to only a field goal in overtime in the loss to Crescent.

Senior Eddy Mathis took care of the goose egg on the scoreboard with a 76-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter of Friday night’s win. Mathis busted through the right side and raced untouched for the first touchdown of the season for the Red Devils to make it 7-0 with 1:21 to go in the quarter. Dylan McCall tacked on the PAT.

“This was all about attitude tonight,” Liberty coach Kyle Stewart said. “We had a very physical week of practice, and we played hard tonight. We gained some momentum heading out of our short non-conference schedule.”

There are currently eight teams in the Devils’ Region I-AA, and seven region games are played on the season.

Neither team was able to score again before the half, as the Red Devils took the 7-0 lead into the locker room. The Razorbacks got a close as the Liberty 2-yard line before the Red Devil defense, led by Aaron Bates, stuffed Haden Moore on fourth and goal from the 4-yard line.

The Liberty defense stopped the Razorbacks on their first drive of the second half and took over following a 32-yard Seth Holcombe punt to the Liberty 13-yard line.

Tyler Renaud had runs of nine and seven yards to get the offense out of the hole up to the 30-yard line, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back deep to the 15-yard line. Two plays later, Renaud exploded for a 70-yard touchdown run up the middle to make it 14-0 Red Devils with 6:41 remaining in the third quarter.

The Razorbacks put together one more drive early in the fourth quarter and got deep into Liberty territory down to the 15-yard line before turning it over on downs. This time, Moore was stopped by Deandre Mansell for a one-yard gain to end the drive. The big play on the drive was a 26-yard pass from Tyler Abercrombie to Holcombe. Mathis had tight coverage on the play, but Abercrombie outjumped him for the reception.

The Red Devils’ last score came on a 28-yard touchdown run by Mathis. The drive covered 41 yards in six plays.

“We prepped all week for what we thought we were going to see from them defensively, and we stuck to our game plan,” Stewart said.

The big plays by the offense were the spark the Liberty defense needed to stand tough and shut out Walhalla. The Red Devil defense came up with seven tackles for loss, a sack, two fumbles and an interception. They were led by Bates, who had 10 tackles, and Trace Moore, who made six stops. Kris Murphy and Mansell followed with five tackles each.

“Our defense played well tonight,” Stewart said.

The Red Devils were paced on offense by the rushing of Renaud and Mathis, who both had huge nights. Renaud gained 185 yards on 18 carries, while Mathis tallied 151 yards on just eight carries. Neither had a negative-yard rush on the night. The Red Devils ended the game with 354 yards rushing on 42 attempts for an 8.4 per carry average in the game.

“Tyler is a bull when he gets going, and we know it,” Stewart said. “It is a positive when we can run him hard.”

Austin Hughey was 2-for-4 passing with one interception, but actually threw for negative yardage, as all the yards in the game came on the ground for the Red Devils.

The Liberty defense held the Razorbacks to just 170 yards in the game. Walhalla gained just 127 yards on the ground and 43 yards in the air. Moore led the Razorbacks with 90 yards rushing on 27 carries.

The Red Devils will travel to Powderville Friday to open region play. Liberty will have its hands full preparing for the Patriots, who have been an improving program each year and are now a force to be reckoned with in region play.