By the time halftime rolled around in Wednesday night’s Class 4 district playoff game between Liberty North and Smithville, frustration stalked the Eagles’ sideline.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
Out of its five first-half possessions, Liberty North had three punts, an interception and a touchdown. So when the Eagles went into the locker room down 10-7, Liberty North head coach Ken Clemons had a simple message for his team: Man up.
Apparently the message stuck. Liberty North dominated the second half on its way to a 31-10 victory. With the victory, the Eagles advanced to the district championship game, where they will face St. Joseph Lafayette on Monday night at William Jewell.
“We told them to man up and stop playing dumb plays,” Clemens said. “It was obvious from the opening snap that (Smithville is) a scrappy well-coached team, but they were undersized and couldn’t stand in there. We just kept giving them opportunities. We expressed to them that we are much more physical than Smithville, and we needed to come out and play like that in the second half.”
The result: The Eagles scored 24 second half points and held the Warriors scoreless while forcing three turnovers.
“He got us hyped up and got us ready to go win this game,” senior running back Marvin Shumate said. “We went out there with the mind-set that we were not going to go out there and give up, and we did what we were supposed to do.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Liberty North jumped out to 7-0 lead with a 3-yard touchdown run by Jaylend Simmons on its first drive of the second quarter.
Freshman kicker Sam Aviles put the Warriors on the board with a 39-yard field goal, and they followed that up with a 62-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Orr to Quintin Mueller to take the lead going into halftime.
Liberty North came out swinging in the second half, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run by Simmons and a 28-yard field goal by Raul Garcia on their first two possessions out of the break. The Eagles picked it up on defense too, with an interception and a fumble recovery by KiAndre Pugh.
Harrison Trinidad added a 32-yard touchdown run and Shumate extended the lead with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Shumate and Simmons offered a balanced attack for the Eagles, who finished with 396 rushing yards. Shumate led the group with 178 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries while Simmons was right behind him with 162 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
“I think it’s a real mean combo,” Schumate said. “Thunder and lightning. I bring the speed and he brings the power, and we just grind it out.”