ATHENA — Liberty Christian enacted its own Patriot Act here Friday night on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States, much to the chagrin of the Weston-McEwen Tigerscots in a non-league prep football game.
With a pounding run game and an accurate passing game, the undermanned Liberty Christian Patriots took home a narrow 22-14 victory.
Zach Simpkins carried the ball 26 times for 163 yards for the Patriots, including nine times on the final scoring drive that helped seal the win.
W-M coach Kenzie Hansell admitted the Patriots running game took its toll.
"We need to work on stopping the run, and keeping our defense off the field," Hansell said. "Our defense was on the field a long time tonight."
A difficult time stopping the run wasn’t the only thing that ailed the Tiger-Scots.
"Penalties hurt us real bad," Hansell said. "This was our first game. We’ve certainly got a lot to work on."
The pass-oriented TigerScots put the ball up a total of 24 times connecting on just nine. But the passes that connected racked up a healthy 15 yards per catch, including the game’s opening score on the second play from scrimmage, a 62-yard hookup from QB Kyle Watts to sophomore receiver Dallas Reich.
The two teams exchanged punts on the next three drives until Weston-McEwen turned it over on downs after going for it on fourth-and-six from its own 41. Given the great field position, Liberty Christian responded on a four-play drive highlighted by a 30-yard Simpkins run. Simpkins scored the touchdown two plays later on a 6-yard run at 11:50 of the second quarter.
The TigerScots got their next great scoring opportunity after blocking an LC punt and recovering it at the Patriot 23. But two sacks, three incomplete passes and an illegal procedure forced W-M to try for a field goal. On the try, 6-foot-5 Patriot Bryan Corrigan put two big mitts on the ball, blocking it at the line of scrimmage.
Liberty Christian went into halftime nursing an 8 to 7 lead.
Penalties killed another Weston-McEwen scoring opportunity at the beginning of the third quarter. On the TigerScots second play from scrimmage, running back Elliot Salter tore off a powerful, slashing 49-yard touchdown run. However, an illegal shift penalty negated the run.
Two delay-of-game penalties on the same drive resulted in Weston-McEwen turning over the ball on downs again deep in LC territory at the 24.
The Patriots took the ball from there to the house on a balanced nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive aided by a Tiger-Scot 15-yard personal foul penalty.
The TigerScots took the next drive all the way to the Patriot 17, before again turning the ball over on downs.
Hansell implemented a new strategy on the TigerScots’ last scoring drive. Temporarily giving up on the pass, the TigerScots ran five consecutive times for 59 yards. Watts capped the drive with a 15-yard quarterback keeper to make the score 16-14 Patriots with 6:08 remaining.
Liberty Christian started its final drive after the ensuing kickoff at its own 33. The crucial play of the game came on third-and-nine.
Quarterback Mike Olson underthrew his intended receiver, Tyler Koglin, who fell to the ground while adjusting to the ball. W-M cornerback Aaron Speed awaited the pick, but as Speed caught the ball he also fell. The ball bounced out of Speed’s hands and into lap of the surprised Koglin for a 21-yard gain.
Then the Patriots turned to running back Simpkins, who chewed up yards and the TigerScots remaining timeouts. Simpkins scored on an 18-yard sweep, but the important two-point conversion attempt failed and the TigerScots trailed 22-14 with 37 seconds to play.
The TigerScots hopes died when LC lineman Jimmy Brower took down a scrambling Watts at the LC 39 as time expired.
Before the game, assistant coach J.D. Lambert led the TigerScots onto the field carrying the American flag in memory of the thousands killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Lambert is a military veteran who served in Iraq from 2003-2008.
"He came back and wanted to get involved with the program," Hansell said of his assistant coach . "What a great role model. Someone who was a high school athlete, and then went and fought for his country."
The TigerScots play their next game Thursday night at Dayton.
Liberty Christian 0 8 8 6 — 22
Weston-McEwen 7 0 0 7 — 14
W-M — Reich 62 pass from Watts (Ceja kick).
LC — Simpkins 6 run (Corrigan pass from Olson).
LC — Crawford 3 run (Simkpkins run).
W-M — Watts 15 run (Ceja kick).
LC — Simpkins 18 run (run failed).
First downs 15 11
Rushes/yards 41-178 24-117
Passing yards 76 137
Passes (att-comp-int) 11-7-1 24-9-0
Punts 3-30 2-32.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 7-45 9-74
RUSHING — Liberty Christian: Crawford 9-22, Simpkins 26-163, Olson 4-(-7), Howard 2-0; W-M: Watts 14-52, Salter 8-46, Christopher 2-19.
PASSING — Liberty Christian: Olson 7-11-1, 76 yards. Weston-McEwen: Watts 8-20-0, 133 yards, 1 touchdown; Terjeson 1-4-0, 4 yards.
RECEIVING — Liberty Christian: Crawford 1-12-0, Morris 1-13-0, Coglin 2-30-0, Corrigan 1-13-0, Simpkins 2-8-0; Weston-McEwen: Reich 6-109-1, Speed 2-16-0, Babb 2-12-0.