LIBERTY — An undefeated Liberty team hosted a one-loss Raymore-Peculiar team in a game expected to be a highly competitive showdown on Friday, Oct. 16 at Liberty High School.
That game never materialized.
The Blue Jays offense looked stagnant without injured running back Wentric Williams III while Raymore-Peculiar senior quarterback Conrad Hawley threw for 296 yards and five touchdowns as he powered the Panthers to a 35-7 win.
Hawley did most of the damage in the third quarter. He led four straight scoring drives and struck fast as three of the passing touchdowns were on single play drives: a 93-yarder to Rece Teale, a 21-yarder to Weston Ropp and a 63-yarder to Phillip Fager.
“We weren’t responding to adversity the way we should,” senior linebacker Jalen Weston said. “We made a lot of mistakes defensively and they capitalized on them with large gains or touchdowns.”
Liberty head coach Chad Frigon said the defense was put into a bad position too often as his team’s offense failed to pick up enough first downs.
“We were doing things you can’t do if you want to win the game,” Frigon said. “To compete with a team like that, we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”
Frigon said the team felt like it missed some opportunities in the first half that “came back to haunt them.”
One of those opportunities came after Hawley’s first score, a 9-yard pass to Weston Ropp, put the Panthers up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Sophomore running back Anthony Wenson picked up much more than the two yards needed on third down when he broke free for a 40-yard gain. With the ball on the 25-yard line, a snap over senior quarterback Luke Smith’s head on the next play stalled the drive.
Liberty’s only score came on a six-minute drive completed with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Wenson to tie the game heading into halftime.
Wenson stepped in for junior Wentric Williams III — the star running back left last week’s game against Park Hill with a leg injury — and did his best to look the part as Williams’ replacement as he gained 117 yards on the night.
“It hurt not having Wentric but Wenson is a capable running back and I think he did good tonight,” Smith said.
Smith, who returned to action after missing the last two games, accepted much of the responsibility for offense earning a season-low 183 yards in the game. He said he needs to see the field better to improve on his stat line of 73 yards on 12 of 26 passes.
“We collectively didn’t play very good. I didn’t play very good,” Smith said. “We’ll bounce back next week and be better.”
It will be tough to do so if Williams is still out. He scored four touchdowns in his last full game against Columbia Rock Bridge. The Blue Jays have only scored three touchdowns seven quarters since he exited the game against Park Hill.
Frigon said it’s hard playing without a player of Williams’ caliber, but he’s impressed with how Wenson has played so far in just his second game taking on the lead back responsibilities.
“It’s tough, but at the same time I know everybody in the city is facing those same challenges,” Frigon said. “We got to work through them and get better.”
Liberty (7-1, 6-1 Suburban Gold) will stumble down the Class 6 media poll after already losing the No. 1 spot when defending state champion De Smet (2-0) finally started their season with a win last week.
The Blue Jays will still earn at least a share of the conference crown and can deny the Panthers a share if Liberty beats North Kansas City (5-3, 3-2 SG) on the road Friday, Oct. 23 to close out the regular season.