The polo shirt was royal blue with white trim. The baseball cap was a shade of navy, with an eagle plastered across the front of it.
A few hours before Liberty North and Liberty high schools were set to meet on the football field for the first time in history, city mayor Lyndell Brenton sifted through his wardrobe with a simple objective: Play it safe.
Thus, he opted for neutrality.
“Seven years ago, when these two schools split, I worried it might divide our town,” Brenton said.
“But this,” he added, scanning the stands at William Jewell College. “This looks pretty cool.”
On the inaugural night of a football rivalry seven years in the making, a packed stadium watched Liberty seize the initial bragging rights. And a conference victory, to boot.
Liberty defeated Liberty North 30-20 on Friday at William Jewell College.
Liberty tailback Robert Rawie ran for a pair of touchdowns — the highlight of a streak in which the Blue Jays turned a seven-point deficit into a 16-point lead. Rawie has scored 10 touchdowns in three weeks.
“It was crazy this week — everyone talking about it. I mean, you were dreaming about it every night,” Rawie said. “But you gotta block that stuff out until Friday night and use it on the field.”
The postgame celebration spilled onto the Liberty sideline, a mob of students swarming the victors.
They arrived early, too. The home site for both schools overflowed the existing bleachers. The fans spilled onto the hill behind the north end zone, which Liberty athletic director Jason Cahill said needed to be opened to the public for the first time in a decade. Two sets of bleachers were placed behind the south end zone.
The Liberty students stood outside the gates before they were unlocked at 6 p.m., igniting a stampede to claim front-row seats.
But the anticipation actually started much earlier.
“We tried to keep our kids preparing the same all week, but it was hard,” Liberty coach Chad Frigon said. “There were cheers in every passing period during school today. That’s maybe why we didn’t play real well that first half, but we got through it.”
The initial play of the second half flipped the momentum. After Liberty North claimed a 14-9 halftime lead, Liberty senior Kaiden Hulett returned the second-half kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.
Liberty, 3-0, never trailed again in a game pitting two teams ranked in the Missouri Class 5 state poll, despite Liberty North junior Brett DeMeyer intercepting three passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Before Friday, the two schools had met in every sport other than football. The basketball teams had provided the most high-profile matchups, playing for district championships each of the past two seasons. The first two hoops victories belonged to Liberty North.
On Friday, the initial football victory belonged to Liberty.
“I think this is big momentum going into every other one,” Rawie said. “We train harder than any other team and felt like we deserved to come out with the ‘W.’ ”