Spring Game Recap
The Liberty Flames officially kicked off the 2015 football season Saturday, April 11 at Williams Stadium in front of the Flames faithful ready to see what is in store for the fall.
The game featured a unique scoring system that rewarded both the offense and defense for different facets of the game. The offense gained points for things like explosive plays, third-down conversions and, of course, touchdowns. The defense, on the other hand, gained points for things like blocked passes, minimal explosive plays allowed and forcing three-and-out series.
The final score was 71-67 in favor of the defense after John Lunsford nailed his only made field goal of the game from 40 yards. He missed one earlier wide right from 32 yards out.
After sitting out last season with an injury, running back Desmond Rice was a star in the game with a couple of explosive plays, including a touchdown. Backup quarterback Stephon Masha threw a screen pass to Rice, who broke two tackles and beat one more man to the end zone for the first touchdown of the day.
“Just to get the ball in my hands and make a play felt great today, “ Rice said. “I feel (I am) back to where I was before. This whole process has been a mental one for me.”
The Flames main running backs from last year, D.J. Abnar and Todd Macon, as well as quite a few other starters, were sitting out because the coaches did not want them to get hurt, according to Liberty Head Coach Turner Gill. Gill said all the players would be ready in the fall.
With Rice now healthy, Gill will have to make a tough decision when it comes time to choose a starter at the running back position. Starting quarterback Josh Woodrum said Rice was stronger than ever and Woodrum never thought the knee injury would be a long term one.
“I think the No. 1 running back spot is up for grabs for anybody,” Rice said. “It’s an open race, but I fully expect to be starting when the time comes.”
Masha, who won the Samkon Gado Award for the most improved offensive player of the spring, led the Flames second team on a few solid drives that included Rice’s touchdown. Gill said they could use Masha in many different ways other than at quarterback and that he will always be in their repertoire.
Woodrum had a couple nice throws, including a 50-yard pass to Ryan McCarter that set up the only other touchdown of the day from Carrington Mosley. Woodrum said he did not feel they were out of sync, but they were just looking for the right pieces at receiver to fit the puzzle.
“I’m glad we aren’t playing a game today, because we aren’t there yet as far as that chemistry with the new receivers being together with our quarterbacks,” Gill said. “We will be there when the time comes.”
Woodrum said the goal of this season is to win the conference and make it even further in the playoffs than last year, and anything short of that “isn’t going to be a success for us.”
“Ultimately, the goal is the national championship, but we just got to take each game at a time,” Woodrum said. “I (think) spring ball has been pretty productive. We didn’t have a lot of people move on from the offense, but a lot of crucial people moved on.”
According to Woodrum, the offensive players were not worried about the score at the end of the game. However, the defensive players were not so quick to dismiss the score.
“It was good to finally beat the offense,” linebacker Jimmy O’Grady said. “I think they won the past couple of years, so it’s definitely a great feeling.”
At halftime, Gerald Holt was awarded the Samkon Gado Award for most improved defensive player during the spring, along with Masha on the offense. The 2014 seniors were also honored and given commemorative framed jerseys. Javan Shashaty won the Luke 2:52 Award for the best graduated senior with whole person development.
Schmieg is a sports reporter.