Devils down Patriots in first-ever meeting

By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — Liberty scored three touchdowns in the second half to break open a close game in its first-ever meeting with the Powdersville Patriots to secure its first region win of the season by a 37-14 score Friday.

There is no history or rivalry for the two teams, as Powdersville is in the midst of its first varsity season, so every game on the varsity level is against a new opponent.

Last season the Patriots only played a junior varsity schedule with 9th and 10th grade classes. It is a team that has no senior class this year in only their second year of existence, and therefore no senior football players. Powdersville added a junior class this year, and will be at full strength next season when their first senior class will participate.

The final score, along with the statistics, would indicate that the Red Devils (3-1, 1-0) had little trouble in securing their first region victory, but anyone watching would probably give a different opinion.

Quarterback Brandon Alexander scored on runs of two and three yards in the second half to go along with a 15-yard pass completion to freshman receiver Eddy Mathis, who made a spectacular catch, to help the Red Devils pull away from the pesky Patriots.

Leading only 17-14 at the half thanks to a 29-yard Eric Sanchez field goal with a minute remaining in the second quarter, the Red Devils found themselves in a tight game, needing precise execution to earn some breathing room.

Liberty got on the board on its opening drive in the first quarter after holding Powdersville to a three and out following the opening kickoff. Running back Dalton James scored from one yard out to put the Red Devils out in front 7-0 with 5:09 to play in the opening quarter. The touchdown run capped a 10-play, 56-yard drive. Alexander had a big 26-yard gain on the possession, while James had a gain of 14 yards around right end to get to the 1-yard line before scoring on the next play.

James scored again on the Red Devils’ next possession as he punched it in from five yards out for the score to make it 14-0 with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.

The momentum shifted quickly in the second quarter, as the Patriots got back in the game on a Red Devil fumble.

Liberty was on the move again when Sanchez bolted for a 26-yard gain to the Powdersville 40-yard line, but a poor exchange from Alexander to a running back on the next play resulted in a fumble, which Powdersville’s Jim Bob Hayes recovered and returned to the Liberty 37-yard line.

The play ignited the Patriot offense and quickly turned a potential blowout into a close game.

Powdersville took only two plays to get on the scoreboard and cut the Red Devil lead in half. Jordan Smith gained 15 yards on the first play following the turnover, and David Stanley scored on the next play from 22 yards out for Powdersville.

After a defensive stand by the Patriots, Alexander boomed a 40-yard punt to the Powdersville 15-yard line to back the Patriots up in their own territory to start their next drive.

The Liberty defense held, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Patriots new life on the drive. Three plays later, Smith found Stanley behind the Red Devil secondary for a 60-yard touchdown pass that knotted the score at 14-14.

The Red Devils managed to march 70 yards in nine plays to set up Sanchez’s field goal and grab the lead for good.

The Red Devil defense stiffened in the second half, allowing the Patriot offense just 75 total yards of offense.

Powdersville finished the game with 208 total yards of offense, 90 on the ground and 118 through the air.

The Red Devils finished the game with 381 yards of total offense, with 300 on the ground.

Alexander led all rushers in the game with 154 yards on 24 carries. Tanner Chambers added 49 yards for Liberty, while Sanchez contributed 42. James followed with 40 yards.

Smith led the Powdersville ground game with 58 yards on 13 carries, while Stanley gained 42 yards on 11 carries. They were the only Powdersville players to carry the ball.

Smith was 9-for-24 passing for 118 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked twice by the Liberty defense.

Alexander had a good night passing, as he was 6-for-9 for 81 yards and two touchdowns, and tossed just one interception.

Linebackers Parker Ford and Andrew King led the Liberty defense with eight and five tackles, respectively. King came up with a huge fourth-quarter interception and returned it 59 yards down to the Powdersville 1-yard line, but an illegal block on the play netted King with 16 yards on the play.

Liberty will travel to Landrum this Friday night to take on the Cardinals. This is the second year in a row that the Red Devils will hit the road to Landrum. Last season the Red Devils won a thrilling 27-24 non-region game that was settled in the final seconds on an Alexander interception to seal the win.

The Cardinals will not have forgotten that game and will be looking for revenge after a tough loss.

Landrum enters the game with a 1-3 record on the season. The Cardinals lost 42-0 against Broome in week one, and then lost close games against Walhalla (28-27) and Polk County, N.C. (28-21) before gaining their first win of the season against Carolina last week by a 28-18 score.