Flames rushing attack overwhelms the Tornadoes in a 59-21 thumping
The clock struck zero and fireworks and flames erupted from the top of the Football Operation Center. Eighteen seniors headed off the field, some looking up at the scoreboard, others celebrating with fans and family before going through the tunnel in what could be their last game at Williams Stadium.
“It was definitely emotional when I came into the locker room,” linebacker Scott Hyland said. “I had a couple tears of joy. Football has been good to me, and it’s a blessing to go out with those guys with a win like that.”
Liberty (7-4, 3-1 Big South) scored on eight of nine possessions gaining 588 yards of total offense (288 rushing yards) en route to 59-21 victory against the Brevard College Tornadoes (3-8, 2-5 South Atlantic Conference).
The Flames were able to widen the gap late in the second quarter due to two atrocious punts of 29 yards and 27 yards by Tornadoes punter Garrett Nestor.
“It couldn’t get any better in a ballgame today,” Head Coach Turner Gill said. “We scored on just about every drive and had touchdowns on just about all of them expect a field goal (on one drive and on) the last drive. So that is as consistent you can be in a football game.”
On Brevard’s first possession of the game, quarterback Kevin Herbst fumbled an option keeper, which was recovered by linebacker Nick Sigmon. With the ball in the Tornadoes territory, quarterback Josh Woodrum handed the ball off to running back Desmond Rice, who picked up a first down after two runs. A few plays later, Woodrum threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dexter Herman.
After a Brevard punt, Woodrum would connect wide receiver Darrin Peterson three times for 37 yards. The offensive line also started to dominate the line of scrimmage, opening up huge holes for running back D.J. Abnar, who gashed the defense for a 20-yard gain. Abnar ended the nine-play, 72-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.
“We had more size than they did so we tried to capitalize on that,” Gill said. “Our guys did a great job in executing the game plan. Our running backs ran well. Our line did a good job in finishing blocks.”
Toward the end of the first quarter, the Flames were up 14-0, but the Tornadoes gained good field position with a 56-yard kick return by Andre Overholt. Two plays later, Herbst completed a pass to Overholt for 27 yards, putting Brevard in the red-zone.
Earlier in the second quarter, Herbst ended the drive with a four-yard, play-action pass to fullback Jordan Ollis cutting the deficit to seven.
The Flames brought in their third running back Clifton Richardson for their third possession. During the drive, Richardson carried the ball seven times for 43 yards and eventually scored on a seven-yard touchdown run.
On the first play of the drive, Brevard running back Kelvin Jeter took a sweep to the left for what appeared to be a five-yard gain. However, a near tackle by cornerback Kenny Scott turned into a 75-yard touchdown for Jeter, who rolled over Scott and cut the gap to seven once again.
“It’s a judgment call,” Gill said. “The referee said he rolled on top of our defender and he was not down. That is why he made the call he did. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any replay to get a chance to see that. But that’s the way it goes and why we need to play until the whistle blows to make sure the person is down.”
Midway through the second quarter, Liberty retained possession. Woodrum completed all three of his passes for 10 or more yards each, hitting wide receiver Dante Shells for 11 yards and Abnar on a 20-yard screen, ending the drive with a 28-yard touchdown strike to Peterson.
The Flames were able to score two touchdowns in 2:08 thanks to the defense causing three-and-out and poor punting by Brevard. Woodrum padded his stats with his third touchdown of the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Johnson, which gave the Flames a 35-14 lead.
After another three and out by the Tornadoes, Woodrum hit wide receiver Gabe Henderson on a slant for 38 yards. On the next play Woodrum completed another pass to Rice for 13 yards. Three plays later, Rice carried the ball for a five-yard touchdown. By halftime, Liberty had a 42-14 lead.
Quarterback Javan Shashaty relieved Woodrum of his duties at the start of the second half with the game pretty much wrapped up. However, with a new quarterback at the helm, the Flames continued to execute their offense.
On their first possession of the half, Shashaty led the Flames on a nine-play, 70-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock. During that drive, he completed two passes to wide receiver Brandon Francis and one to fullback Nick Fualaau, which set up a one-yard touchdown run for Rice.
Brevard’s first drive of the second half was halted when Herbst was intercepted by safety Jacob Hagen for his fourth interception of the year. The turnover set up kicker John Lunsford, who made a 37-yard field goal, adding on to a 52-14 Liberty lead.
By the fourth quarter, Liberty brought in its fourth running back of the game, Austin Kaigler, who took advantage of an exhausted Tornadoes defense. Kaigler ran for 73 yards on five carries and scored a touchdown in the final quarter.
With 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, Jeter ran in for his second touchdown from 35 yards out.
The Flames will play their final regular season game as they travel to take on the No. 12 Charleston Southern Buccaneers Saturday, Nov. 23 at 11 a.m.
“I’m proud of the way our seniors came out,” Gill said. “I said it in the beginning of the year and throughout the year and toward the end that they are a great class of leadership. They have been able to bring our football team together throughout the good and the not so good. I know they are going to represent the Lord as ambassadors for Christ as they continue the rest of their lives.”
Big South Update
The Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs defeated Charleston Southern 27-10 while the No. 9 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers beat the Presbyterian Blue Hose 46-13 Nov. 16. This eliminates the chance at a three-way tie for the Big South title and gives Coastal Carolina an automatic bid for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Liberty is still not eliminated from playoff contention and will have to beat Charleston Southern for a chance at an at-large bid.
“We have struggled in the past with early starts,” Hyland said. “But knowing the magnitude of the game, I know our coaching staff is going to have us ready. We are really excited. I know (Charleston Southern) is going to come out scratching and clawing, especially after their loss today, but we are confident.”