Red Devils drop opener in OT


By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — After a defensive struggle, Crescent’s Terry Hawkins darted around left

Brandy Karr/For The Courier Liberty senior Eddy Mathis looks for running room during the Red Devils’ overtime loss against Crescent on Friday night.

Brandy Karr/For The Courier
Liberty senior Eddy Mathis looks for running room during the Red Devils’ overtime loss against Crescent on Friday night.

[cointent_lockedcontent]end for a 10-yard touchdown on the Tigers’ first play to give his team a thrilling 6-3 win over the Liberty Red Devils in the season opener for both teams Friday night.

The Red Devils had taken a 3-0 lead on the strength of Dylan McCall’s 20-yard field goal when they had first crack in overtime after neither team was able to mount consistent offensive drives in a game that ended regulation in a scoreless tie.

“I was real proud of our effort tonight,” Liberty coach Kyle Stewart said after the game. “Our defense played their hearts out on the field tonight. It’s disappointing we couldn’t push it in at the end of the game.”

The Red Devils had their best drive of the night on their last possession of the fourth quarter as they marched marched 79 yards in 11 plays, only to have the drive stall at the Tigers’ 1-yard line. Liberty started from its own 20-yard line with 4:59 remaining in the game. Eddy Mathis broke off a huge 41-yard run around right end to move the ball to the Crescent 39-yard line. Crescent’s Carter Gates had the angle on Mathis to run him out of bounds and save the potential game-winning touchdown.

Four plays later, facing fourth and 12 at the Tigers’ 41-yard line, junior quarterback Austin Hughey connected with Cole Murphy for 18 yards to the 23-yard line. From there, the Red Devils kept it on the ground. Tyler Renaud gained 10 to give Liberty first and goal at the Tiger 10-yard line. Renaud then picked up a yard, Mathis added five more, then Renaud carried for three to the Crescent 1-yard line to set up the last play to give the Red Devils a chance for the win in regulation.

Renaud went off right tackle and appeared stopped for no gain on the play, but a late push carried him into the end zone for the apparent go-ahead touchdown. But the officials ruled the Red Devil touchdown was aided by helping the runner, and the ball was turned over to the Tigers at the 1-yard line with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Tigers were not able to move the ball at all and forced to punt from their own 3-yard line with only five seconds remaining.

Crescent actually had a touchdown called back in the third quarter. Hawkins went around right end and appeared to get the Tigers on the board, but a holding call at the Liberty 17-yard line nullified the touchdown run. Mathis intercepted an Austin Pruitt pass intended for Jamar Willingham in the end zone to end the Tiger threat. That was the closest Crescent came to scoring until the winning touchdown run in overtime.

The Tigers had two great opportunities in the first half to put points on the board as they started consecutive drives at the Liberty 31 and 27-yard line. The Liberty defense stiffened and forced a punt and took over on downs to stop the respective drives.

Crescent’s D.D. Hull led the game in rushing as he carried 16 times for 102 yards. His longest gain on the evening was 13 yards. Mathis led the Red Devils in rushing with 58 yards on 12 carries. Other than the explosive 41-yard run, Mathis found the going tough, gaining only 17 yards on his other 11 carries.

Renaud and Kris Murphy ran hard for the Red Devils up the middle. Renaud accounted for 49 yards on 14 carries, while Murphy gained 33 yards on nine touches.

Making his first start for the Red Devils at quarterback, Hughey was just 2-for-7 passing for 34 yards, but he did not throw an interception. His completions were good to Murphy for 18 yards and Derek Richmond for 16 yards.

“He was a little nervous his first time out, but I thought he played well for his first time under center,” Stewart said of his junior signal caller.

The Red Devils outgained Crescent slightly, 189-183, while both teams had a couple of turnovers. Liberty coughed the ball up on fumbles twice, while the Tigers lost a fumble in addition to Mathis’ interception.

The Devils also came away with a win in the time of possession battle, 29:36-19:24, and also ran 15 more plays than did the Tigers. The only number that matters, however, is the final score.

Liberty will be off this week, but the Devils will return the following week to meet county rival Pickens in their first road contest of the season. The week off will let the sting of Friday’s overtime loss heal before Liberty sees action again.