There are more than 5,300 square yards between the end zones of the sparkling new football stadium at Liberty High School. It was the little bit around the goal line of the north end zone that ultimately decided Friday night’s rivalry game between Liberty and Liberty North.
Liberty North quarterback Jake VanDyne extended the ball over that very goal line in the first quarter for a score. Liberty running back Wentric Williams III came up agonizingly short of it in the second quarter in his attempt to tie the game. That, as much as anything, told the story in North’s 14-3 victory over archrival Liberty.
Liberty North (4-0) improved upon one of the best early-season resumes in Kansas City, having previously logged wins over Lee’s Summit North and Park Hill. The Eagle defense has been central to that effort and came up big on Friday in what proved to be a pivotal moment.
“Our defense has played lights out all season. Tremendous effort, tremendous heart,” Liberty North Eagles coach Greg Jones said. “They truly swarm, they get it, they play like a fist and make each other better. A total team.”
Indeed, it was a group of Eagles that surrounded Williams III on that play and tripped him up short of pay dirt.
The Eagle offense, meanwhile, went quiet after that first-quarter scoring drive. At least until Liberty booted a field goal that put the outcome in question.
Liberty North had been biding its time in the second half, running the ball and waiting until it had the wind at its back in the fourth quarter. Jones promised VanDyne that they were going to take their shot.
The call finally came in midway through the fourth quarter, and VanDyne didn’t miss. He found Luke Mathews in stride for a 47-yard touchdown strike that emphatically put the game away.
“Reading the defense was fun, seeing them come down and getting all hyped about it, because I see the call come in and we’ve been planning it all week,” VanDyne said. “It’s just a great feeling to go and execute that perfectly.”
Jones couldn’t help but agree.
“He delivered the mail on perfect stride,” Jones said with a grin.
VanDyne finished the game with 188 passing yards and the key touchdown.
Liberty North might not have executed everything perfectly, but it is still perfect on the season. The season-opening win against Lee’s Summit North no doubt turned heads. Beating Park Hill and rival Liberty in consecutive weeks is sure to garner the full attention of the teams remaining on the schedule.
Jones’ message to his team after the game was one of congratulations … and pointing out that there are still plenty of games left to play.
“We’ve still just got to focus on us. I think we got so keyed up in ‘We think we’re good,’ but you’ve got to play one week at a time,” Jones said. “We’re 6A now. We’re the big boys. It isn’t a cakewalk anywhere.”
Jones experienced plenty of success in his time at Kearney. The Eagles are riding high, but also in unfamiliar territory.
“I think our leadership has taken over so much, showing everybody what we need to do to win,” VanDyne said. “I feel like we’re just going to keep rolling and have great leadership through the season.”
Nothing has slowed Liberty North thus far.