LEE’S SUMMIT — The Liberty Blue Jays were able to hold on for dear life against the Lee’s Summit Tigers.
After leading 17-0 after three quarters, Liberty held off a Lee’s Summit comeback attempt to pull out a critical 17-12 season-opening victory on Friday, Aug. 30, at Bud Hertzog Stadium.
“It was good for us,” Blue Jays coach Chad Frigon said in a phone interview on Saturday, Aug. 31. “With a team that we played last year and we led going into the fourth quarter and then lost our lead. I thought our kids lost our composure and it was a tight game going into the fourth quarter.”
The Tigers certainly made it interesting in the end, taking advantage of Liberty’s three-and-out with 1:48 left in the contest. After getting pinned at the 2-yard line, Lee’s Summit drove all the way to the Blue Jays’ 35 to set up a Darrias Pearsall pass that hit the hands of a pair of LSHS receivers before falling to the turf as time expired.
“We were able to get a stop when we needed it,” Frigon said. “It was big. They’re a really good offensive football team. They put together some long drives.”
Junior Luke Smith was 9 of 15 passing for 178 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as the Blue Jays’ starting quarterback.
Smith’s first TD pass stood as the lone score of the first half, a 53-yard connection with sophomore Wentric Williams III with four minutes left in the first quarter. His second passing score was a 48-yard touchdown to senior Blake Fordyce, putting the Blue Jays ahead 14-0 with 9:01 remaining in the third.
“We were real pleased with him,” Frigon said of Smith. “We thought he managed the game really well. He took care of the football, he didn’t have any turnovers, and we used a lot of different personnel groups, so we were pleased with his poise.”
Senior Kaden Rottjakob connected on a 27-yard field goal in the first moments of the third quarter, providing Liberty a three-score advantage.
But the rest of the contest was all about Lee’s Summit’s comeback attempt. Kaia Tupinio registered a short TD run to make it 17-6 midway through the quarter, and Pearsall found Nate Morse for a 20-yard score with 2:57 remaining, just minutes before the Blue Jays escaped.
Williams finished the contest with 129 rushing yards on 25 carries, in addition to his receiving touchdown. Fordyce had two catches for 88 yards.
Liberty will face off against Park Hill (1-0) in its home opener on Friday, Sept. 6.