It took Liberty North all of two plays and 16 seconds to blow the lid off of its sparkling new football stadium with a quick-strike touchdown drive.
It was a haymaker, but Staley didn’t blink.
The Falcons responded by scoring four straight touchdowns, and cruised to a 50-27 victory in the first game at Crossley Family Activity Complex in Liberty.
Liberty North (0-1) had waited seven years to play its first home game. An additional 90 minutes were tacked on to that wait thanks to a thunderstorm that popped up over the campus an hour before kickoff.
Logan Gibson set up a touchdown with a 69-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Taylor Bayton scrambled to the end zone on the next play, and Liberty North seemed prime to pull the upset.
Staley, though, didn’t panic.
“We just had to shake it off and get back to what we do,” Staley coach Phil Lite said. “Our kids responded soon after. The offense came out and we were able to get going after that first series… and our defense settled in.”
The Falcons (1-0) offense is stocked with playmakers, and many of them had a part in taking control of the game after Liberty North’s opening fireworks.
Quarterback John Raybourn rushed for two touchdowns and over 100 yards. He threw for two more scores, both caught by Rod Criss II. Running back JD Benbow ran for two touchdowns, and was one of seven Staley ballcarriers.
“We knew they’d come out with energy — a new stadium, a new season and a new coach,” Raybourn said. “We knew if we kept pushing through that, we’d be fine.
“I know if they key on one player, we go to the next one. That’s how our mentality is. We don’t want to be a one-man crew.”
Every seat in the vast home stands was full, which was a pleasing sight for Liberty North coach Greg Jones, who made his debut after previously coaching at Kearney.
“We came out with a bang,” Jones said, just as a postgame fireworks show was starting. “We’ve had a lot of change around here: new offense, defense, special teams and 10 new coaches. Here’s the one thing I’m proud of: These kids could’ve ducked their head and took a tail kicking, but we didn’t.”