Following a season of restrictions due to COVID-19 protocols, Liberty North High School began the 2021 football season with a road trip. Traveling to Bentonville, Arkansas on Friday, Aug. 27, the Eagles struggled in the first half, falling behind by three possessions before ultimately losing 43-30.

Junior quarterback Sam Van Dyne led the Eagles (0-1) with 143 yards on nine of 13 attempts through the air, two touchdowns and an interception. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Leonard also went nine of 13.

Justin Braden, the duo’s favorite target on the night, caught five balls for 76 yards and a score.

Micah Jo Barnett, a sophomore, went for 88 yards on the ground on only nine attempts.

The Eagles scored three of the game’s final four touchdowns.

“Offensively, we kind of found a rhythm. We were rolling a little bit,” Liberty North head coach Greg Jones said. “We made some adjustments. Both our quarterbacks played really, really well. We were pleased how our receivers played. Our sophomore running back ran the ball really well. There are a lot of positives that we can build on.”

Melvin Laster and Brandon Miller both had interceptions on defense.

Despite the loss, Jones said getting on the road as a team following last year’s restricted season was something his players will always remember.

“At this time last year we didn’t have a game because of COVID, and with restrictions we couldn’t travel out of state,” he said. “To be honest, for all that, it was great. A lot of our kids got to experience a college game day that 95% will never get to experience.

“They got to travel all day on the road and play a game. The environment down there was crazy. High school football in Arkansas is serious. There were a ton of people at the game. We just didn’t play very well. Hopefully that will be a wake up call for us.”

Liberty North’s trip this coming Friday will be much shorter as the Eagles travel to Liberty High School to face the Blue Jays (1-0) in Suburban Blue Conference play.

“It is our first conference game. It’s a crosstown rivalry. It’s going to be huge,” Jones said. “Our kids are going to have to be focused on the job at hand and understand all those things. We have to go over there, not get caught up in the moment, and execute.”

Kickoff against the Blue Jays is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3.

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