Two and a half months ago, the 2016 high school football season kicked off – Liberty at home against St. Joseph Central and Liberty North at Staley.
Ironically enough, the exact same matchups are lined up for tonight's semifinal round of Class 5 District 8 play. Will there be the same outcomes? We'll find out in a few hours.
Liberty (6-3) opened the season with a convincing 49-28 victory against the Indians in a game that turned out to be one-sided after an overnight rain delay. Momentum from that victory propelled the Blue Jays to a 5-0 start to the season, but they've gone 1-3 since then. Central (4-5) started 1-5 but closed out the regular season with three straight wins.
The rematch will be all about offense. Liberty hopes to reestablish their power running game with junior Robert Rawie, which has been slowed considerably in the past month, while still getting big plays from quarterback Thomas Henrichs and his favorite two targets Tanner Swenson and Josh Corf. Central counters with big-play back Izzy Smith and do-everything receiver Cade Musser.
If the defenses don't show up tonight at Greene Stadium, don't be surprised if the game turns into “first to 50.”
I'll be honest, I'm concerned about the Blue Jays' lack of momentum going into this one. But if they can wipe the slate clean and just play their game tonight, they should be able to send Central home with a season-ending loss – and advance to a district championship game for the first time since the MSHSAA football playoff format changed a few years ago.
PREDICTION: Liberty 47, St. Joseph Central 39
There will not be near as many offensive fireworks at the North Kansas City Schools District Activities Complex.
Liberty North and Staley have the same game plan tonight: run the football and play tough, hard-hitting defense. The Falcons did a better job of both the first time in a 31-13 victory back in Week 1.
A couple season-ending injuries aside, North (4-6) comes into tonight's game as healthy as it's been all season and looking to ride the legs of speedy tailback Jon Redmond. The Eagles have plenty of mojo on their side after winning back-to-back games in blowout fashion.
Staley (7-2) has no lack of confidence, winning three straight games, including a 28-10 victory a couple weeks ago at defending state champion Kearney. Senior running back Julian Ross has carried the team all season long, and he'll be asked to do it one more time.
There's no love loss between these two teams as this will be the fifth head-to-head meeting between the neighboring rivals in the past three seasons. Staley has won three of the past four meetings, but Liberty North's one win came in this same district semifinal round two years ago.
PREDICTION: Staley 27, Liberty North 14