LIBERTY — Surrounded by excitement and celebration, Liberty North coach Greg Jones made his way to the student section to let out a cry.
“E-A-G!” Jones yelled. The students replied with the typical “L-E-S!” before Jones finished out the chant with a gleaming smile.
In that moment, he was quite fond of his squad, 14-3 victors over the Liberty Blue Jays on Friday, Sept. 20 at Liberty Hospital Activity Center.
“They have to know that they do make a difference,” Jones said of the crowd. “It’s about the fans. They’re here, they’re juiced and they bring the excitement.”
Liberty North (4-0), the top-ranked Kansas City area Class 6 team at No. 4, allowed only three points for a third straight week to hand Liberty a loss for a second consecutive season.
“It’s a great feeling,” Eagles junior defensive back Bradyn Snider said. “I’m happy we did it.”
“Obviously the stakes are higher in a rivalry game; it’s always going to be close,” Liberty North senior quarterback Jake Van Dyne said. “We came into it with a great mentality. It was an amazing win.”
The Eagles, who remained ranked fourth in the state polls, defense kept the Blue Jays (2-2) out of the end zone and held them to 197 total yards of offense.
“We had three trips into the red zone and only got three points out of it,” Liberty coach Chad Frigon said. “Against good teams like that, you have to capitalize in the red zone.”
The Blue Jays, who hold a 3-2 lead in the series, hit the road next to tackle Lee’s Summit North (2-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26.
“I know it’s a tough loss for them,” Frigon said of his team. “It’s one that they have to work through, stay positive and get back on the other side of things. We just have to be able to convert and have to look at our play-calling and what we’re doing in executing, too.”
The Eagles, who travel to St. Joseph Central (0-4) next week for a 7 p.m. start on Thursday, Sept. 26, got on the board when Van Dyne scored on a one-yard run, stretching the ball over a crowded line of scrimmage. The touchdown was set up by a Zac Willingham-Davis 54-yard run that was stopped at the 3-yard line.
Liberty North kept the one-score lead through the third quarter before Kaden Rottjakob’s 36-yard field goal inched Liberty closer, 7-3, with 9:43 remaining.
The Eagles, however, responded with a Van Dyne-Luke Mathews connection. The senior duo teamed up for a 47-yard hook up over the top for the eventual dagger with 7:53 left.
“We were going to take a shot and we saw them keep biting so we took it,” Jones said.
“It was such a good feeling knowing that kind of put the game away after that long drive of working the clock,” said Van Dyne, who finished 13 of 17 for 175 yards and the passing TD. “It was the final punch and it felt good to get that.”
Warren Bennett caught seven of Van Dyne’s passes for 74 yards, while running backs Willingham-Davis and Keshawn Turner combined for a total of 113 rushing yards.
The sell-out crowd provided a playoff-caliber atmosphere just four weeks into the season for the five-year old rivalry, and it was one that the Eagles fed off of.
“I know all of my friends were here early,” Van Dyne said. “They had their tailgates down there. Everyone is buying into this program and it’s crazy to see it blow up like this. Whenever the defense was on the field and on third down, it was crazy loud. It had to be terrible for the other offense because we got a whole student body over here. It was just crazy.”
Crazy enough to inspire Jones to show his appreciation to the Liberty North crowd.
“We got a report that our student body was here at 2:30 today,” Jones said. “Our kids are lucky that they’re getting to play in playoff environments and we’re not even in the playoffs yet. I mean, this is state semifinals/state quarterfinal atmospheres.”
“They definitely brought the juice.”