Nov 17, 2009

Flames football one win closer to Big South title

by Jeffery Scott

The Liberty Flames football team rolled into at least a share of the Big South Championship title by blasting Gardner-Webb 51-28 Saturday. Along with Stony Brook’s overtime loss to Charleston Southern, the Flames can finish the season with no less than a tie for the 2009 Big South Conference Title.

Coming into the game, Coach Danny Rocco was pleased with where his team is at this point in the season.

“I’m really excited about the position we find ourselves in here as we head into November, and into the back end of the season,” Rocco said. “I really felt three weeks ago Gardner-Webb would be the team to beat. Everything I was seeing and hearing said they might be the dark horse team in the league to win it. We expect to get their best shot.”

The game started with a bang when Gardner-Webb’s David Montgomery returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. The 100- yard score put the Bulldogs on top 7-0.

Liberty would answer quickly and put together a textbook nine-play 62-yard drive for a touchdown. The Flames used a perfect mix of run plays and passing plays and scored on a two-yard touchdown run by Mike Brown with 10:34 left in the first quarter.

The Liberty defense forced Gardner-Webb into a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. The offense took the field and put together an 11-play 72-yard drive for another touchdown. Gardner-Webb was called for pass interference, which set up the Flames offense inside the 10-yard line. Brown took a direct snap and ran into the end zone putting Liberty on top 14-7 with 2:31 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs were not to be outdone, led by the arm of quarterback Stan Doolittle. He completed five passes for 60 yards and set up a 4-yard touchdown for wide receiver James Perry. The score tied the teams up at 14-14, and the Bulldogs looked intent on going tit-for-tat with the Flames.

Liberty regrouped and showed poise, scoring on the next drive with a touchdown pass from Beecher to Tommy Shaver in the corner of the end zone. Liberty led 21-14 at the 10:56 mark of the second quarter. Gardner-Webb would answered again 19 seconds later. Running back Patrick Hall took a carry straight up the middle and outran the Liberty defenders for a 66-yard touchdown. The play was the longest rushing play allowed
this year by the Flames.

The teams offensive onslaught eventually cooled down and a Matt Bevins field goal gave Liberty the 24-21 advantage with three minutes left in the second quarter.

In the final seconds of the first half both teams found a way to score. Doolittle found Montgomery downfield and he cut back to the inside to find the end zone on a 43-yard pass play. The Flames drove down the field on the ensuing drive and knocked in another Matt Bevins field goal, leaving the score at 28-27 at halftime in favor of the Bulldogs.

In the second half the Flames turned up the intensity, and the Bulldogs would not score again. A Bevins field goal gave Liberty the 30-28 lead. After a couple of failed drives, Beecher found Mike Brown on a slant route and that he turned into an 80-yard touchdown. That pushed the score to
37-28 with 16 seconds left in the quarter.

The defense was not to be left out, as a forced fumble by KaJuan Lee was picked up by Demetrius Ward who ran it back 20 yards for the touchdown as Liberty led 44-28. The Flames added another touchdown at the 3:36 mark, when Beecher hit Chris Summers for a 25-yard touchdown to seal the victory.

The Flames gained a whopping 510 yards of offense, marking the third time this season they have eclipsed the 500-yard mark. Beecher completed 23 of 32 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Brown rushed 11 times for 52 yards and two touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Wes Cheek led the defense with 10 solo tackles, and Lee followed behind with six.

Liberty will end regular season play next Saturday at 1 p.m. against Stony Brook in New York. A win would give the Flames the Big South title outright, while a win for the Seawolves would give them a split of the Big South Championship.

Contact Jeffery Scott at

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