I can’t remember a more impressive season-opening salvo than the beating Liberty administered Friday against Winnetonka at North Kansas City District Stadium.
The Blue Jays were in control all night in a 35-0 rout against a Griffins team that I suspect has six or seven wins in it, if not more.
Both teams got off to nervy starts, but Liberty’s defensive line was in control throughout the game and only permitted six runs longer than five yards in the game.
Defensively, the Jays only allowed eight first downs, including two before halftime, and limited Winnetonka to 142 yards from scrimmage.
“The defense was great and gave up a short field all night long,” junior quarterback A.J. Cambric said. “It was amazing and it’s a lot easier going 30 yards to score than 80, knowing you’re not pinned against your end zone.”
It took a quarter for Liberty’s offense to find its legs.
Cambric started the game 1-for-7, although the completion did go for 54 yards, but the run game stalled as well in the early going with senior David Graves managing only 11 yards on his first seven carries.
“My first varsity start, there was a little bit of nerves there, but we got them out and when the second quarter came around we knew what we needed to do,” Cambric said.
Again, the Jays took control in the trenches and as the offensive line began to assert its dominance, things went downhill in a hurry for the Griffins.
On the first second-quarter drive, Cambric strung together three chain-moving passes with two runs of 10-plus yards from Graves sprinkled in, including a 10-yard burst to the end zone.
Next, Liberty’s special teams blocked a punt and shifty junior Devon Bryant housed it again for the Jays on a 17-yard run.
The Jays’ defense then forced a three-and-out before the offense closed the half with a 10-play, 83-yard march capped by Cambric’s 32-yard touchdown to senior Jakoby Swanson with 16.2 seconds remaining before halftime.
“It’s a huge difference to know that it’s three touchdowns instead of two touchdowns,” Graves said of that back-breaking score and the effect it had in the locker room.
Graves finished with 20 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard touchdown with 3:53 to put Liberty’s lead at five touchdowns.
Liberty was a big undersized and might run into trouble against bigger teams that can match the Jays’ physicality, but coach Chad Frigon’s squad also served notice that it’s not going to be pushed around in 2013.
“People probably underestimated us, but we wanted to come out this week and show those preseason rankings don’t mean anything,” Cambric said. “It’s all about how your family comes together and the heart we show.”
Cambric shook off the slow start and a third-quarter interception to finish 10-for-21 for 175 yards, while Bryant had 62 yards on nine carries.
“We’re excited about the playmaking ability of Devon Bryant,” Frigon said.
Senior wide receiver Brady Newland added four catches for 94 yards.