Red Devils sputter in first loss of year

By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — Powdersville jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the first half and handed the Liberty Red Devils their first loss of the season, 33-14, on Friday night.

The key to the game was field position, as most of the game was played in Liberty territory. Field position by the Patriots was pivotal in putting pressure on the Liberty defense for the entire game. The average starting field position by Powdersville was its own 49-yard line, while the Red Devils’ starting field position was their own 23-yard line.

LHSStatsThe irony of the field position was that for the second week in a row, lighting was an issue on the field. The light pole on the home side nearest the scoreboard was the main culprit on Friday. It went out once, and the lights were re-set. The second time it went out, the decision was to continue play. Each time a team began to move the ball toward that side of the field, play would be stopped and teams would switch ends of the field so that the lighting would not be an issue.

Austin Miller intercepted an Emery Williams pass at the Liberty 26-yard line to halt the first Patriot drive, but a quick three-and-out ended the drive. A high snap sailed into the end zone, and Austin Huey batted the ball out of the end zone for a safety and a quick 2-0 Powdersville lead.

Coach Kyle Stewart didn’t think the bad punt snap affected the offensive rhythm nor set the tone for the game.

“The field position problems in the first half put us in a bad position, but it did not affect our game plan or approach,” he said. “We didn’t execute well.”

EJ Humphrey then broke a run good for 38 yards and a touchdown to put the Patriots up 9-0 moments later. The score was one of three touchdown runs for Humphrey on the evening.

Humphrey then had a 33-yard run early in the second quarter to put the Patriots up 16-0. The score capped a seven-play, 53-yard drive with 11:38 still remaining in the second quarter.

LHSInset2Liberty’s Victor Tetter jumped on a fumble by Keith Becknell at the Powdersville 48-yard line to ignite a drive and keep the Devils in the game midway through the second. Cole Murphy sacked Becknell and forced the fumble for the Red Devils.

Austin Huey found Murphy for 35 yards through the air down to the Patriot 5-yard line for the big play of the series. Cavaugio Butler then found the end zone from five yards out for Liberty’s first score of the game with 3:04 remaining until halftime.

Doug Tate/Photo
L.iberty’s Shaun Karr runs behind the blocking of Breck Dismukes (51) and Dylan Phillips during the Red Devils’ loss against Powdersville on Friday night.

The Red Devils were on the move again when Tay Cureton stepped in front of a Huey pass and returned it 64 yards for the dagger before halftime to put the Patriots up 23-6.

Stewart felt his offense was out of sync all night long.

“It was just one of those nights,” he said.

After having a good passing game the previous week against Blue Ridge, Reeves and the Liberty offense couldn’t get clicking against Powdersville. Reeves finished 4-of-16 for just 45 yards, one interception and two sacks.

LHSGlanceStewart called the offense’s performance “very frustrating.

“Mostly just to not execute what we had practiced,” he said.

Powdersville was tough to defend, as the Patriots presented a lot of speed and quickness.

Stewart said the problems the Devils faced were not that bad.

“Actually, they just hit a few big plays and had favorable field position,” he said. “Other than that, I thought the defense limited them.”

It did show on the overall stats for the game. The Red Devils held the advantage in total yards 265-199. The Patriots led the ground game 165-111, while the Red Devils held the advantage in the passing game 154-34. Huey led the Red Devils with 109 yards through the air, as he was 5-of-9 passing with one interception.

Humphrey led all rushers with 144 yards on 17 carries and the three scoring runs.

The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter as Butler scored his second touchdown of the game on a 51-yard run. The two-point try was good, and the Red Devils cut the lead to 23-14.

Humphrey scored from 51 yards out for his third touchdown run of the game to extend the Powdersville lead to 30-14 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.

Austin Snow completed the scoring with a 21-yard field goal with 3:42 remaining in the game.

LHSInsetThe Red Devils will now hit the road for three consecutive games, with a bye week included as well. They have fared well, going 4-1 through the first half of the season. The three consecutive road games will be to West-Oak, Crescent and Abbeville.

The Devils’ response this week leading up to Friday’s game against the Warriors will be a key to launching the second half of the season, Stewart said.

Brandy Karr/Photo
Liberty’s Austin Huey fights for yardage against Powdersville on Friday night.

“We’ll find out on Monday,” Stewart said. “This is a good group of guys, and I think they can refocus. Hoping we can heal up on some of the injuries.”